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2001 | 57th Regular Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (19 March - 27 April 2001)

The human rights situation in Pakistan

March 19 – April 27, 2001
Palais des Nations, Geneva

Franciscans International in collaboration with Dominicans for Justice and Peace, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Major Superiors Leadership Conference of Pakistan and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan wish to raise the human rights situation in Pakistan.

The situation of human rights in the country is very serious at all levels of society. There are more and more examples of curtailment of freedom of expression and of speech. Political leadership and martial law regimes have used Islam to legitimize their rule to the disadvantage of religious minorities. In recent years, this has led to ethnic and sectarian violence among Muslims and the imposition of discriminatory and repressive laws against religious minorities.

In August 2000, the present regime introduced a new structure of local government which further discriminates against religious minorities. The new structure of local government now includes discrimination against religious minorities on the basis of gender and class. Thus, the new structure contravenes the Penal Code of Pakistan and various articles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. (Articles 2.2; 2.3; 4.1).

While recognising that the new structure of local government reserves seats specifically for women, minority women are not eligible for these seats. Moreover, in Pakistan, cultural pressure is so strong that women cannot realistically participate in the election process.  For example, in the first phase of the election, many of the seats reserved for women remained vacant.

In Pakistan, discrimination against women, who represent 50% of the population, is rampant. Furthermore, minority women are not considered equal to Muslim women as evidenced in the new structure of local government. Violence against women is prevalent and so is the practice of honour killings.

Mr. Chairman, the new structure of the local government also discriminates on the basis of class and occupations. A number of seats are reserved for Muslim peasants and labourers, but not for religious minorities. This new structure, which is a systematic manipulation of democracy, will enable the landlords to have more control and will enhance the feudal system. Due to the high rate of corruption at all levels, there is a break down of civil society and violence and sectarianism are deep-rooted. The illiteracy rate is high, which creates a bleak future for young people. We urge the government to take corrective measures to ensure more accountability, transparency, good governance and respect for the rule of law in the country.

Additionally, we regret that Pakistan did not ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol, nor the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nor the Convention against Torture, nor the second Optional Protocol aimed at the abolition of death penalty, nor the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Since 1985, members of the two Justice and Peace Commissions of Pakistan have been struggling against separate electorates and blasphemy laws. Minorities have always played a vital role in promoting the development and prosperity of Pakistan, especially in the field of education and health. They will continue to play a positive role by building bridges between Christians and Muslims and working for a culture of peace and tolerance. They will pursue dialogue and reconciliation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Despite all their work, there can be no justice and equality among the citizens of Pakistan without major changes in the discriminatory policies of the government.

Therefore, Franciscans International recommends the following:

  1. That the government of Pakistan abolish the system of Separate Electorates and restore the joint-Electorate System in the country.
  2. That the government repeal all discriminatory laws, including the Blasphemy Laws section 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code
  3. That the government adopt policies towards a more modern, liberal and secular Pakistan as deemed by Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation.
  4. That the government ratify the human rights treaties, which it has not yet ratified.
  5. That the government implement the provisions contained in those it has already ratified as a sign of its intention to cooperate internationally with the existing Treaty Bodies and other UN mechanisms and special procedures
  6. That the government invite the Special Rapporteur on the question of religious intolerance to make a second visit to Pakistan.
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