Human rights, labour rights and civil society activists on Tuesday called upon the government to make serious efforts for the provision of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially the freedoms of association and expression, enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club to mark International Human Rights Day, PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, human rights activists Naghma Shaikh and Saeed Baloch representing the Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network said the government should ensure the restoration of the freedom of expression and the freedom to association. They demanded that the government should bring in a law to protect the rights of human rights defenders as they stood up for the voiceless people.
They also expressed serious concern over the violation of the human rights in Indian-held Kashmir where, they said, citizens were facing coercion by the state, and where a curfew-like situation had been prevailed since early August this year.
There is a complete ban on the use of the Internet and social media in Indian-held Kashmir and this must be lifted immediately, they said and demanded of the UN to pay special attention to restoring the fundamental freedoms in Kashmir.
They said rights activists in Pakistan were also facing a number of problems, an enabling environment should be created for human rights defenders so they could work independently, and special laws should be made to protect human rights defenders in Pakistan.
They said that it was a positive aspect that Pakistan had ratified almost all UN conventions regarding human and labour rights. It was important that the federal and provincial governments put in place a mechanism to fully comply with the UN conventions and international commitments, and this would help improve the country’s image at international level, they added.
They also demand fully restoring the freedom of expression, as it was a constitutional right of the people to express their thought. Access to the information right must be ensured, they said.
The right to association is under threat in Pakistan and there is growing attention to compliance with human rights and labour rights and one such example is the European Union’s (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences-plus scheme under which Pakistan is getting trade incentives, they said. It is important that the human and labour rights situation has significantly improved so this scheme can be continued, they added.