Political parties endorse idea to include human rights in election campaigns

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LAHORE: The political parties of Pakistan on Wednesday endorsed the Civil Society Working Group’s demand to include human rights in party manifestos for the general elections 2018.

The Civil Society Working Group organised an All-Parties Conference (APC) at a local hotel and discussed the Charter of Demands (CoD) suggested by political parties in connection with promoting human rights during electioneering for 2018 with the support of Democracy Reporting International.

The CoD had been endorsed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), Balochistan National Party (BNP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Jamiat-e-Uema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI),  Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F).

Civil society orgnaisations, including Women In Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), Blue Veins, Pakistan Coalition for Education, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), Aurat Foundation, Centre for Social Justice, NOW Communities, Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Legal Aid and Awareness Services (LAAS), Khwendo Kor, Noor Education Trust, SPARC, Takra Qabailee Khwienday, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), National Council for Minority Rights, and the Human Rights Committee of Pakistan endorsed the demand for including human rights in the agenda for general elections 2018.

Members of the civil society urged the political parties to respect and ensure the protection of human rights. They urged the parties to make this issue a part of future campaigns, as well as their respective manifestos.

The speakers said, “The political parties should ensure the establishment of provincial women commissions and protection mechanisms for vulnerable women with adequate budgetary allocations. The government should increase the representation of women party workers and promote their role in the decision-making process,” they said.

“Women should make up at least 30 per cent of all party offices. The government should develop and implement an effective gender policy to counter discrimination and violence against women, as well as, empower women with financial resources and livelihood programmes; review and revise the allocation of reserved seats for women parliamentarians; introduce a gender policy and code of conduct within political parties along with creating women wings and women harassment committees within party structures;  ensuring women participation in the peace process at the national and international level,” they said.

The political parties were urged to recognise and devise policies to ensure social protection for women workers in the informal sector, with emphasis on women and girls who were domestic workers. The speakers demanded the government to introduce and implement the legal requirements to ensure equal wages for both the men and women. Gender equality should be institutionalised within the party structures, processes and practices, they said, adding that a gender audit on a yearly basis should be implemented for self-assessment of parties.

In addition, the speakers stressed upon the government to support and adopt laws providing a holistic framework of protection and development of children with clear definitions and punishments for child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Taking about countering the youth bulge, the speakers stressed upon the government to develop specific national and provincial youth policies. They urged the government to build a partnership with the youth through education, employment and engagement (EEE) programmes, adding that the details of these programmes should be made a compulsory part of the manifestos of political parties.

Furthermore, the speakers said the government supported a substantial increase in domestic financing for education by fulfilling the National Education Policy plan of spending six per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) share and at least 20 per cent of provincial budgets going towards education.

The speakers also hoped that the government would ensure workers’ rights and work towards a consistent provincial and national labour policy which was in uniformity with the fundamental international labour conventions. The development and completion of such a policy would also help clarify and reinforce the required institutional policies, they said.

“Parties should publicly declare that they would not award tickets to anyone guilty of maintaining bonded and child labour, or being guilty of any gross violations of labour laws and standards directly or indirectly,” they added.

The speakers further urged the government to ensure the rights of religious minorities and set up national and provincial implementation committees to implement the directives of the Supreme Court judgment of June 19, 2014. “Repeal all laws that discriminate against any persons on the basis of faith, race or ethnicity, and develop strong procedures to ensure effective prosecution of those criminals who misuse the blasphemy laws to settle personal grievances,” the speakers stressed.

Talking about the rights of transgender persons, the speakers urged the government to demonstrate the political commitment for the empowerment of the transgender community and by ensuring their participation in the electoral process. The speakers further said that the civil society in Pakistan had been brought under severe stress by the state and non-state elements .

The speakers included, renowned human rights activist I A Rehman, Andleeb Abbas, Busra Khaliq, Tanvir Jehan, Peter Jacob, Irfan Mufti, Mazhar Arif, Farooq Tariq, Mumtaz Mughal, Nabila Shaheen, Asif Chahar, Rana Nadeem, Amna Ulfat, Mehar Safdar Ali, Sara Imtiazul Haq, Sajid Ali Baloch, Nasir Iqbal, Muhammad Yousaf, Muhammad Khalid, Faiza Malik, Sohail Mailk, Naveed Chaudhry, Muhammad Amjad Shahzad, Asma Amir, Sadia Waseem, Samia Yousaf, Najma Nazeer, Dr Farzana, Nabeela Fiaz, Dr Nosheen, Advocate Razia Mughal, Advocate Syeda Rabia Shah, Advocate Sheikh Tauqir, Ahmad Fraz Khan and Syed Bilal Sherazi. In conclusion, I A Rehman urged the government to fulfill its promises on safeguarding human rights according to a decided time frame.