Lahore: The international community has yet again asked Pakistan to abolish death penalty and repeal or amend blasphemy laws to uphold its commitments under United Nations treaties and covenants ratified by the country.
In its third Universal Periodic Review, the country has also been asked to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and to ensure effective protection of the rights of religious minorities, human rights defenders, journalists and other vulnerable groups.
The UPR also features suggestions for strengthening of the National Commission for Human Rights and measures to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations of rights violations.
The country has been urged to set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage, besides the need to make effective implementation of laws on violence against women.
The UPR Working Group of the UN’s Human Rights Council adopted a draft UPR outcome report for Pakistan on November 16. The country received 289 recommendations – up from 167 in its 2nd UPR in 2012 and 51 in the first UPR in 2008.
In its statement on the occasion, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that Pakistan’s third UPR had drawn global attention to a number of serious human rights failures in the country. “That well over a hundred delegations participated in the review indicates the global community’s interest in Pakistan’s human rights situation,” ICJ’s Asia Director Frederick Rawski was quoted as saying.
“The states’ recommendations echo the concerns of dozens of civil society organisations and even Pakistan’s National Commission of Human Rights. All of these organisations agree that the Pakistani government must take urgent measures to address the downward spiral of rights in the country,” he said.
Pakistan will now examine the recommendations and respond to the Human Rights Council by its next session in March 2018.
The ICJ said that Pakistan’s review had come at a time of serious concern about the rights situation in the country. “The government lifted the informal moratorium on the death penalty and carried out nearly 500 executions in less than three years – among the highest execution rates in the world; Parliament enacted laws allowing military courts to try civilians for certain terrorism-related offences in secret trials; and the authorities started a new wave of crackdowns on NGOs, journalists and human rights defenders, including subjecting them to enforced disappearance,” it said.
“Persecution of religious minority communities also continues despite the government’s claims that religious minorities enjoy equal rights as equal citizens of Pakistan. Last month, three Ahmadi men were sentenced to death for blasphemy for allegedly scratching anti-Ahmadi pamphlets. And earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court directed the Government to respond to a petition demanding a separate database for Ahmadis in the civil service to ensure they are not posted in offices involving sensitive matters.
“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan is expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, something it has clearly failed to do,” it said, “Pakistan should make use of this process by accepting the recommendations made during the review and adopting a concrete, action-based national human rights plan to ensure their effective implementation.”