HRCP concerned over forced conversions in Sindh


KARACHI: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has issued the following statement on the conclusion of its 33rd Annual General Meeting:

“HRCP notes with concern the state’s amendment of the requisites of participatory democracy and reversal to the concept of a majoritarian state. This trend must be arrested as it runs counter to the dictates of pluralism. HRCP has no quarrel with attempts to improve the scheme ushered in by the 18th Amendment, but any attempt to curtail the rights and interests of the federating units will undermine the integrity of the state.

“HRCP is alarmed at the rapidly closing space for civil society organisations in Pakistan. Given that they have played a key role in delivering services where and when the state could not, it is a matter of great concern that they should now be pushed out of operation through registration refusals and undue restrictions. More broadly, any restrictions imposed on freedom of association, which is a constitutional right, are not acceptable.

“The media has come under intense pressure in the form of job terminations and an escalation in the harassment of journalists – both online and otherwise – who express diverse or anti-establishment opinions. Increasingly, PEMRA has placed undue restrictions on the media, which do not appear to serve any concrete purpose. This has stifled key voices of dissent, with serious implications for Pakistan’s democratic development.

“HRCP is greatly concerned at the rise in the number of forced conversions being reported, especially in Sindh. This appears to be a systematic, organised trend and needs to be seen in the broader context of the coercion of vulnerable girls and young women from communities that are already marginalised by their faith, class and socioeconomic status.

“Worryingly, HRCP notes that new areas of conflict have opened up in Balochistan and spread to Pashtun areas. The recent attacks on the Balochistan Levies indicate that pockets of militancy remain a serious problem for the province. HRCP also calls on the state to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Cases of enforced disappearance must not be allowed to fade away once a victim has returned home. The impunity with which people continue to be forcibly disappeared is cause for serious concern and must be addressed if this problem is to be curbed.

“HRCP urges the state to take concrete steps to ensure that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan enjoy the same fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution as for other citizens of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional status needs to be established as soon as possible. The enforcement of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 remains controversial and the sentiments of the region’s people need to be given due weight. The vacant judicial positions in Gilgit-Baltistan’s courts must also be filled as soon as possible,” the statement concluded.