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State agencies must give honest answers to questions of UN Human Rights Committee

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NCHR asked to pursue it as its strategic plan

Islamabad December 20, 2016: State agencies must provide honest answers to the questions asked last week by the UN Human Rights Committee and the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) should adopt it as its strategic agenda for the year 2017.

This was stated by Senator Farhatullah Babar while addressing a seminar on human rights and the launch of strategic plan of the NCHR jointly organized with Asia Foundation in Islamabad Tuesday.

As signatory of international covenant state authorities have to respond by mid-2017 to the questions asked by UN. It was befitting that on eve of the New Year the Commission made the oversight of state’s reporting its strategic objective.

Right to life and right to freedom of expression are the most critical rights he said and added, “Right to life had been threatened by extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrariness in the application of death sentences”.

“The right to life is gravely undermined when people continue to disappear mysteriously, in Balochistan, KPK, FATA and Sindh , with alarming impunity and when not a single perpetrator is held to account”.

When the Supreme Court identifies those involved in the disappearance of 28 persons from an internment centre and nothing happens it is a dangerous erosion of the right to life. It is a wakeup call.

When relatives of the disappeared and later found dead do not even file FIRs it should be dreaded as a lull before the storm if the issue is not addressed.

Right to life has also been undermined by the arbitrariness in application of death sentence, he said.

When two brothers are acquitted of murder charges by the highest court only after they had already been hanged it is hugely frightening.

Executions are announced thru tweets without a word about their identity of criminals or the charges against them. It sends shivers down the spine how dangerously arbitrary is the process leading to
conviction and death sentences, he said.

When mentally ill or juveniles are sentenced to death it must raise alarm bells about the ever expanding frontiers of death penalty.

Out of 425 executions since December 2014, more than 360 were un-related to terror crimes he said and added that it is a manifestation of the fast expanding scope of death penalty.

Right to life is undermined when as many as 27 offences carry death penalty even when religion prescribes death penalty only in two cases.

Right to life is undermined when faith based offences carry mandatory death penalty but the offence itself is not clearly defined.

It is further undermined when people calling for preventing misuse of the law and clearly defining the offence are threatened with summary executions and the state unable to do anything.

About the right to freedom of expression he said that it had come under attack from the state and non-state actors alike.

Ideology and the undefined ‘national security interest’ were increasingly employed to silence free expression of ideas, opinions and dissent.

The ideology brigade has prevented free discussion on misapplication of faith related laws and threatened members of Parliament for progressive legislation.

Arbitrarily defined ‘national security’ has also undermined free expression.

The media may appear free but this freedom is illusory. “Prolonged curbs on free expression in name of national security has also resulted in self-censorship and undermined free expression”.

Giving example he said that despite the availability of visuals of Mulla Mansoor’s assassination in May last the media kept saying that Mulla Mansoor was killed in Zabul because the deep state so desired. It was only after President Obama’s announcement and admission by the Taliban that media came out of its mode of self-censorship.

The arbitrary frontiers of ‘national security interest’ have been so dangerously enlarged that a Senate Committee recently did not allow media to witness discussion on the National Command Authority Bill 2016.

Two federal Ministers have lost their jobs in a span of one year in the name of ‘national security’, he said.

Senator Mushahidullh Khan lost his job while on an official visit abroad after being accused and pronounced guilty of speaking to media. Senator Pervez Rashid accused and found guilty for not stopping a newspaper from publishing report that was considered against ‘national security interest’, he said.

He said that the frontiers of human rights were expanding and we have to prepare ourselves to meet its growing challenges. The NCHR is faced with dual challenge of defending human rights of the people as well as protecting itself from the onslaught of the executive bent upon undermining its autonomy.

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