Human Rights group slams KP govt over ordinance!

On Tuesday September 17, 2019, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government promulgated an ordinance extending certain powers of the armed forces, which were available in the erstwhile Fata and Pata while acting in aid of civil power, to the entire province. According to news reports “The KP Actions (in aid of civil power) Ordinance, 2019, which was issued by the provincial governor on Aug 5, is almost a reproduction of two regulations promulgated by the president in 2011 for Fata and Pata through which legal cover was given to several detention centres set up during the military operations in different regions. The ordinance assigns wide-ranging powers to the authorised officers and armed forces besides giving an interning authority to detain a suspect until the continuation of action in aid of civil power by the armed forces.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has just issued a statement stating that it is “appalled to learn that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has promulgated an ordinance that extends certain powers of the armed forces that were applicable to erstwhile FATA and PATA under the 2011 regulations ‘in aid of civil power’ to the entire province. HRCP is gravely concerned that serious violations of human rights may be given legal cover under this ordinance. The merger of former FATA and KP was intended to provide FATA’s residents with the basic rights and access to justice they had been denied for decades. Ironically, the ordinance may now compromise the rights of citizens across the entire province.”

A recent fact-finding report of the HRCP revealed “a strong trust deficit between the state and citizens of KP: the local communities that HRCP consulted are already wary of what shape law enforcement and access to justice will take. They have already voiced concerns to HRCP over the fairness of the recent elections amid the continued presence of the armed forces, and are unhappy with the lack of transparency surrounding the Kharqamar incident. The promulgated ordinance does nothing to allay these fears.”

As HRCP states, “Responsibility for maintaining law and order in KP lies squarely on the shoulders of the KP government, and should not be outsourced in this manner. HRCP strongly urges the KP government to heed the aspirations of KP’s people and focus instead on strengthening civilian authority and capacity in the province.”

Yet again, No country for minorities!

Irrespective of what PM Khan may say about Naya Pakistan being all inclusive and caring for its minorities, the latest blasphemy incident in Ghokti, Sindh, has demonstrated once again why most human rights watch dogs call Pakistan one of the worst human rights offenders.

On Saturday September 14, 2019, protests began in Ghotki when an FIR (first information report) was filed against a principal, who is a Hindu, of Sindh Public School based on the complaints of Abdul Aziz Rajput – the father of a student – who claimed that the Hindu principal had committed blasphemy. This led to protests by local residents demanding the policy arrest the principal, calling for a shutter-down strike and massive street protests.

As Dawn reported, “Videos of stick-wielding protesters were shared on social media on Sunday, in which they were seen vandalising a Hindu temple and damaging the school where the alleged incident took place. Ghotki Senior Superintendent of Police Farrukh Lanjar, while talking to local reporters, said that police were controlling the law and order situation in the area.”

PTI MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said that “the case has been handed over to Hyderabad Deputy Inspector General Naeem Shaikh who will further investigate the matter. He added that the principal was at an undisclosed location for safety reasons and will be handed over to Shaikh. “I have talked to Sindh Inspector General of Police Kaleem Imam who has assured me the police will fully protect the accused, therefore, I am going to hand [the principal] over to police either in Karachi or in Hyderabad today,” he said. The MNA said that the protesters had vandalised three temples, a private school and multiple houses belonging to the Hindu community and added that he had asked police to register an FIR against people involved in the riots.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also shared a video of protesters breaking the infrastructure of the school and expressed concern over the situation.

Where we really stand in the world: Only 1 Pakistani University in Top 500 in world

In the recently released Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2020, there is only one Pakistani university in the top 500 — Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) is in the 401-500 bracket of this ranking.

Of the 1400 universities across 92 countries that form part of this ranking, there are 14 Pakistani universities. There are 56 Indian universities in the rankings with 6 Indian universities in the top 500 and 1 in the top 350. China and Japan form 45 percent of the Asian entries, and even Iran has 40 universities.

As a Dawn report stated Pakistani universities need to take international rankings seriously because “participation in rankings brings a positive competition; it raises participants’ international standing and improves job market for graduates of those universities. And the main contending points in the ranking race are research, teaching, international outlook, industry income and recognition through citations in recognised journals. Unfortunately, these important areas are not our mind, hence there are no world-class elite institutions in Pakistan.”

In a country with the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) — an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school – and where the majority of the state’s resources go into the military, it is no surprise that education is not given its due.

Pakistani Human Rights activist rendered stateless by Deep State

The citizen of every country has a fundamental right to a passport and no one should be deprived of this right simply because the state does not agree or like his / her actions or work. Baseer Naveed, a highly respected human rights defender, has been rendered stateless by the government of Pakistan which has deprived him of his passport, freedom of movement and the right to adopt a nationality of his choice.

In a recent plea the International Human Rights Council, Hong Kong (IHRC-HK) stated concern “about the malicious and unlawful actions of government of Pakistan against its Executive Director, Mr. Abdul Baseer Naveed who has become the Stateless—neither is he citizen of Pakistan nor of Hong Kong, where he has been residing since 2006.  The Pakistani government has deprived him of his passport, freedom of Movement and right to adopt nationality of his choice.”

Baseer has been a “permanent resident of Hong Kong since 2013, he applied for naturalization of SAR in 2017 which was approved by department of Immigration of Hong Kong on February 12, 2018 he was asked to provide renunciation of his Pakistani nationality and Passport. Mr. Baseer duly applied for renunciation through Pakistan Consulate in Hong Kong, on February 21, 2018. He received the cancellation of his national identity card from NADRA on 29.06.2018. His renunciation was approved in May 2017 by the Immigration and Passport office of Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan. However, in the meantime, some intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Consulate general of Pakistan, Hong Kong submitted adverse reports against him and the same department has cancelled his Renunciation on August 27, 2019, saying “Renunciation Certificate of Pakistan Citizenship cannot be issued as your credentials have not been verified/ recommended by concerned security agency.” Meanwhile Mr. Baseer’s passport expired on August 11, 2019 and as the Consulate of Pakistan has kept his passport, Mr. Baseer was also deprived of his passport. The situation has become precarious for Mr. Baseer who has been  rendered stateless which is unethical and illegal as provided by international norms and conventions. He will not be able to go outside Hong Kong nor will he be able to return to Pakistan.”

As an elected member of United Nations Human Rights Commission, Pakistan must abide by its Conventions and Covenants. “The Universal Declaration Human Rights (UDHR)  Article 15 of the UDHR provides that “everyone has the right to a nationality” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. citizenship and the right to be free from arbitrary deprivation of citizenship is a human rights requiring  all states  to respect the human rights of all individuals without distinction. Article 12 of the ICCPR prohibits arbitrarily deprivation of the right to enter his own country. The General Assembly, in its resolution 50/152, also recognized the fundamental nature of the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality. International conventions require States to introduce safeguards to prevent statelessness caused due to loss or deprivation of nationality.”

In its appeal IHRC-HK said “The government of Pakistan should stop the arbitrative actions against the human rights defenders. The concerned officials must be instructed to immediately issue the renunciation certificate to Mr. Baseer which has been pending before the Pakistani Mission Hong Kong and take action against the concerned officers of Pakistan Mission, Hong Kong for keeping his case in limbo for more than a year and three months. We hope that the issue be amiably resolved without causing any further undue delays and hardship to our Executive Director.”

Rise in custodial deaths troublesome, say activists

A steady rise in deaths in police custody has led to public outrage which may help force reforms in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. As New Pakistan recently reported, there have been several recent cases related to custodial deaths: A man’s death in custody was attributed to a heart attack and a woman’s death to hemorrhage. As human rights activists note, these explanations are unacceptable.

In a recent oped titled ‘Roots of Custodial deaths,’ leading human rights activist I.A. Rahman wrote “Death caused by fear of torture cannot be accepted as natural. A police comment on Salahuddin’s death by torture was that he was making big money, ie torturing him was justified. Now the use of smartphones at police stations has been banned across Punjab; this will not end torture in custody. In fact, people will be deprived of a source of information about police excesses. Obviously, police officers, at least many of them, are surprised at the outcry over a routine practice that has always been known to the top police echelons and the government — in fact, has often been encouraged by both.”

Rahman discusses two issues, that of deaths in police stations and torture at unauthorised detention centres. “Deaths in police custody occur when suspects succumb to torture, which is all that investigation and interrogation mean. All suspects are tortured to extract confession. No article of the Constitution is abused more than Article 14 (2) which, unfortunately, bars torture only if it is used to extract evidence. There is evidence to establish that there have been alliances between politicians and policemen to kill citizens. The way the law enforcement agencies have been kept unaware of modern, non-violent means of investigation betrays a streak of sadism in the state’s mindset. Deaths at police stations will continue so long as the archaic, torture-based methods of investigation remain in vogue. That suspects are often tortured at unauthorised places of detention has been known to the government and citizens for decades. These torture dens have been found in police functionaries’ official quarters, rented premises and even in a mosque.”

According to Rahman, “the roots of custodial death, however, lie outside the police domain. For about a decade, the state has been lowering its respect for citizens’ rights to life, liberty and security. Laws have been made to provide for long periods of detention without trial. The killing of journalists and other human rights defenders, as well as enforced disappearances, are glossed over without remorse. The state is not ­bothered about a moral justification for its system of rule, and relies more on force than reason. It has also become more vengeful than ever. As a result, people are becoming more and more violent and brutalised. They cannot settle even petty differences through peaceful exchanges, and reason has been replaced with firepower. Children are beaten to death by parents and teachers. Besides, protesters against custodial deaths are limited to the victims’ families. No death in custody has bought the people out into the streets in thousands, as happens in many other parts of the world.”

Finally Rahman notes that Pakistan “needs a new people-friendly police law that will offer citizens firm protection against custodial death.” To this end, he states, a “bill to ban corporal punishment has been pending in the Senate for years for want of clearance by the Council of Islamic Ideology and the relevant Senate committee’s approval. What will the world say about a country where corporal punishment is defended as part of the people’s (or some senators’) culture? Death in custody, killing of children by parents and teachers, and pumping of bullets into the corpses of missing persons are symptoms of a terribly sick society and a state that has lost its way. Nothing short of radical changes in the system of governance and social structures will enable the people of Pakistan to redeem themselves as a civilised community.”