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September 10, 2020

Call for specific laws and policies to protect human rights defenders

Karachi

September 10, 2020

Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network (SHRDN) leaders said on Wednesday Pakistan did not have specific laws, policies or practices that protect human rights defenders and laws were therefore used to restrict the rights of defenders and criminalise their activities.

Speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, SHRDN coordinator Ali Palh expressed serious concerns over grave violations of human rights in Sindh, and said people were deprived of their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial.

Human rights activists Sorath Lohar, Inam Abbasi and Naghma Shaikh also accompanied him. Palh said people’s fundamental rights of the citizens must be respected.

The human rights activists said the defenders operated in a hostile environment, with threats and attacks by state and non-state actors, including abductions, disappearances and killings. Space for civil society continued to shrink as the government continued to place restrictions on the activities of international and domestic civil society organisations.

Sharing the statistics compiled by the SHRDN, Palh said that since 2017, 378 people had become victims of enforced disappearances, but only 176 of them had returned home. Among those missing, 84 had disappeared from Karachi and 33 of them had come back, he noted.

Palh said the statistics had been compiled from media reports and court proceedings, and most of the people were members of various ethno-political and sect-based groups. He demanded ending impunity for those who were supposed to protect the citizens but violated the laws.

He pointed out that in the recent months, the abductions of human rights defenders and political workers in Sindh had increased. Palh and other speakers had also shown their concerns over how the blasphemy law was made use of, and in the recent weeks, a surge had been noticed in the registration of cases against members of a particular community. The government should take serious measures to end the misuse of the law, he demanded.