- Posted October 23, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
UN review of Pakistan: Urgent protection needed for minorities
When Pakistan’s human rights record comes up for review at the UN on 30 October, there must be a strong focus on the rights of religious minorities and other marginalised groups, whose human rights situation has deteriorated over the past few years, NGOs said today in a joint statement.
Minority Rights Group International (MRG), International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), Franciscans International (FI) and Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN) called on states to recommend the Government of Pakistan to repeal discriminatory laws and adopt new anti-discrimination laws to protect the most vulnerable and excluded.
When the Government of Pakistan (GoP) was first reviewed by the Universal Human Rights (UPR) mechanism in 2008, it accepted some of the UPR recommendations on the protection of minorities, including Scheduled Castes (SCs) – also known as Dalits. A welcome first step was the country’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite these commitments, little progress has been made since then. In fact, the situation for minorities has worsened over the past few years.
“Dalits are still socially and physically excluded from the mainstream, as they are compelled to live in segregated housing and are denied fundamental social, political and economic rights”, said Mr. Zulfiqar Shah of PDSN. As a religious minority, Dalits fall victim to double discrimination, because they suffer discrimination as non-Muslims and because of their caste status.
Cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls from the lower caste communities and discrimination against Dalits in disaster relief work have drawn media attention to this community. The GoP is recommended to adopt a law prohibiting caste-based discrimination and ‘untouchability’; ensure representation of SCs in provincial and national assemblies; and establish a commission to look into the situation of SCs, including the problem of forced and bonded labour which is heavily affecting landless rural workers from the SCs.
“The lives of religious minorities, are under persistent threat in Pakistan”, said Shobha Das, Director of Programmes at MRG. “Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is rife; perpetrators enjoy impunity; and repressive legislation is still in place, and is applied disproportionately against minority communities,” she explained.
Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws remain a crucial issue. Although religious minorities constitute less than 5% of the population, around 50% of the blasphemy cases brought to court are against them. They require no proof of intent nor penalty for false allegation and so are easily manipulated or abused, leaving many minority members vulnerable.
“The blasphemy law serves as a basis for institutionalized religious and caste-based discrimination, as well as violence and oppression carried out by both state and non-state actors”, said Francesca Restifo, International Advocacy Director of FI. The NGOs called upon Pakistan to repeal these laws, and take steps to replace them with laws against incitement to hatred.
The Pakistan national report submitted for the 2012 UPR is silent on many critical matters, including the institutional discrimination faced by the Ahmadi community. “This clearly indicates that the GoP is yet to take heed of continued calls by international bodies to use legislation and social measures to address the entrenched discrimination faced by this community”, said Shobha Das of MRG.
The UPR review offers an opportunity for states to recommend to the GoP to implement concrete, timebound action to eliminate these problems. “It is essential that explicit references to eliminate discrimination against minorities and excluded groups like the Dalits are included in the UPR
recommendations. Otherwise, there is a high risk that the situation for some of Pakistan’s most marginalised people will deteriorate even further,” said IDSN coordinator Rikke Nöhrlind.
This press statement is jointly released by Minority Rights Group International (www.minorityrights.org), International Dalit Solidarity Network (www.idsn.org), Franciscans International (www.franciscansinternational.org) and the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network.
Dr. Shobha Das, Director of Programmes, Minority Rights Group International, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +44 (0)7968 800 563
Ms. Rikke Nöhrlind, Coordinator, International Dalit Solidarity Network, email@example.com, Tel. +45 2970 0630