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December 31, 2018

President Alvi asked to ensure provision of fundamental rights


December 31, 2018

Rights activists have asked President Dr Arif Alvi to play his due role in ensuring fundamental rights to the people of Pakistan.

Sharing on Sunday details of their meeting with President Alvi that took place a day earlier, representatives of rights organisations and civil society bodies said they had asked the president to ensure provision of fundamental rights to all the citizens enshrined in the Constitution of the country.

A delegation of representatives of various civil society and labour rights bodies had met President Alvi on Saturday at Governor House during his visit to Karachi. During the meeting, the president was presented a memorandum regarding violations of human rights in the country and various issues being faced by rights activists.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s IA Rehman, South Asia Partnership Pakistan’s Mohammad Tahseen, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research’s (Piler) Karamat Ali, Aurat Foundation’s Mahnaz Rehman, Sindh Human Rights Defender Network’s Ali Palh, National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor and Strengthening Participatory Organisation’s Saleem Malik were prominent among the delegation’s members.

On Sunday afternoon, some of the meeting’s participants addressed a press conference at the Karachi Press Club and explained that they had highlighted rampant violations of various constitutional rights in the country, including rights to freedom of association, freedom of press and free trial, in the memorandum presented to President Alvi. The president was also informed about sorry state of affairs regarding rights of minorities, women and children.

“We have proposed to set up a task force comprising senior government officials, experts from private sector and civil society representatives to find a workable solution,” said Ali, the Piler executive director.

Mentioning the issues being faced by religious minorities, Ali said the delegation had requested President Alvi to play his role to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision regarding minorities’ rights and set up the ‘Minority Rights Commission’.

The civil society organisations informed media persons that they had also discussed the increase in the cases of enforced disappearances with the president.

Picking up people without showing their whereabouts was no solution to combat the issues of terrorism or anti state activities, Ali remarked. “Those involved in any criminal cases must be brought to courts and dealt in accordance with the law,” he said.

The civil society’s delegation also expressed concern over curbs on freedom of expression and freedom of media. Lay-offs of employees in media industry, drastic reduction in government advertisements to newspapers and television channels, unannounced sanctions against some media houses, and surveillance and harassment of those using social media as a platform of expression are examples of increased hindrances in the way of the right to freedom of speech, the rights activists said.

“The recent raid on the Karachi Press Club by armed men in plainclothes is an example of harassment of journalists,” Ali said. “As civil society, we believe that it is important to put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure the freedom of expression and free media in accordance with the Constitution and international best practices,” he added.

Discussing labour issues, the Piler executive director said the delegation had requested the president to ask the federal government to conduct an immediate review of all the laws concerning the labour and human rights to bring them in conformity with the international commitments and constitutional provisions. “This may be followed by making appropriate institutional arrangements to implement these laws and policies. Civil society should be consulted in all such processes,” Ali said.

“We also urged the government to consider the guidelines issued by the National Commission for Human Rights for adoption at all levels and take necessary measures including required legislation for recognition and protection of human rights defenders,” said another civil society activist, who was a part of the delegation.

Praising the federal government’s initiative of a housing programme for shelterless and unprivileged people, the civil society’s delegation had urged the president to start with the distribution of state land among landless peasants as a first step. “Various studies suggest that the state possesses enough land to provide a piece of five to seven acres of land to each landless family,” a rights activist said.