Whither Pakistan 70 years after UNDHR

Seven decades after the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR) where does the land of Muhammad Ali Jinnah stand. That is the question asked at a public lecture hosted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

 

In a statement issued the HRCP expressed its gravel “concern at the exponential rise in the number of recommendations Pakistan has received from its peers with respect to human rights concerns in the country. In 2008, it received 51 recommendations, of which it accepted 43 and rejected eight. At its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations, of which it accepted 126, “noted” 34 and rejected seven. ‘It is encouraging to note that many of the recommendations “supported” in principle under the third UPR relate, among others, to the reduction of poverty and inequality; to making enforced disappearance a criminal offence and ensuring that all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions are thoroughly investigated; to ensuring that all perpetrators of torture are brought to justice; to ensuring the right to a fair trial for all; and to preventing impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers.”

 

The theme of the lecture organized at the Dorab Patel Auditorium “was to assess Pakistan’s performance during its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2017. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, all member states are given the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to meet their human rights obligations.”

 

Attended by civil society, including students, lawyers, human rights activists and media persons, the HRCP noted with concern “that Pakistan has chosen to “note”, rather than “support” key human rights principles such as reporting the investigation and prosecution of security forces that commit human rights violations and abuses; amending discriminatory laws against marginalised groups, including women and girls and ethnic and religious minorities; protecting the rights of the child more effectively, particularly during counter-terrorism activities; desisting from issuing death sentences and executing juveniles; and taking effective measures to prevent the abuse of blasphemy legislation and the use of violence against religious minorities.”

 

The HRCP urged the state of Pakistan “to commit to its willingness to continue cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanism, and to apply both in principle and practice the UPR recommendations it has “noted” as well as “supported”. By 2022, the country’s human rights record must be seen to improve substantially – not merely to uphold an international image, but because these principles are part of the state’s moral and responsibility to its citizens and residents under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory.’”

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