ISLAMABAD - South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) has demanded of the government to honour its international commitments guaranteeing religious freedom and other fundamental rights.

The organisation specifically referred to state’s obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The convention which Pakistan ratified in 2010 obliges the state to take necessary steps for the protection of the rights contained therein including right to expression, association, assembly and thought.

The organisation expressed deep concern over the government’s failure in submitting its initial report to the UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty monitoring body, on the state of civil and political rights in Pakistan. The report was due in September 2011.

READ MORE: The true north

SAP-PK’s National Coordinator for Human Rights Fund-III (HRF-III) Hameed Gondal during a press briefing on Saturday demanded of the government to submit its initial report to UN Human Rights Committee and also share with UN Human Rights Council the steps it has taken on the recommendations which it has accepted during Universal Periodic Review in October 2012.

He said that the government was supposed to share and disseminate the outcome of the review by translating it into national and local languages but no step had been taken in that direction. The government was also responsible for initiating the consultation process with civil society organizations and other stakeholders for developing initial and subsequent reports on the human rights treaties it has ratified. Referring to the statistics of the UPR, he shared that during the 2nd cycle international community made 164 recommendations to Pakistan and more than 30 of those were directly related to rights of religious minorities.

The National Coordinator shared that by engaging with UN Human Rights Mechanisms, Pakistan would be better able to promote, protect and fulfil human rights of its citizens and particularly of vulnerable sections of the society like religious minorities. “Religious minorities are living in the state of fear and persecution in most part of the country. They are not able to exercise their right to expression, assembly, association and thought which are also guaranteed by the constitution of the country”, he said. 

He added that absence of personal laws of Hindus, forced conversions especially of younger Hindu girls in Sindh, kidnapping for ransom of Hindu traders and discriminatory laws were some of the major problems the religious minorities in Pakistan were facing. SAP-PK appreciated the unanimously passed Senate resolution calling for the protection of religious minorities and women rights during the negotiation with Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The SAP-PK representatives also sought the establishment of commissions on minority rights at national and provincial levels with financial and administrative powers.