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GENEVA, Switzerland — Here at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the two most talked-about countries are Iran and Pakistan.
My particular interest is in Pakistan, the troubled country of my birth.
If there was ever any question about problems there, a side-session on human rights violations in Pakistan just about covered everything.
This was sponsored by two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have “observer status” at the UN.
The panel of experts was convened because for decades there has been lack of co-operation by the Pakistan government about the breadth and scope of its human rights violations to the extent that Pakistan has contravened almost every resolution that it has signed on human rights.
The chair of the panel recommended an independent inquiry and urged NGOs to pressure the Pakistani government to acknowledge their problems.
He mentioned that at the October 2012 session at the UN, Pakistan rejected the suggestion that there were executions taking place in Baluchistan.
The panel presented reports starting with Imam Al-Salman from Bahrain, who highlighted the persecution of shias in Pakistan.
He said, “Unless the international community takes a strong stance and supports human rights in Pakistan, there will be no change. Change is linked not only to the government but to civil society — Pakistani masses need to be educated about how to treat minorities.”
Dr. Rubina Greenwood from the world Sindhi Congress presented a report on the terrible plight of indigenous Sindhi Hindus in Pakistan, who have been systematically targeted because they are lower class; their women raped, abducted and forced to convert.
Police, judiciary and government are part of the problem that is growing by the day, forcing thousands to leave their homes and take refuge in India.
A Baluchi spoke about ongoing atrocities against his people, saying that these are state-sponsored because the state is based on an ideology of religious fundamentalism that is also taught in schools.
Dr. Iftikhar Ayaz presented the case for the Ahmadiyyas who have been treated as sub-humans in Pakistan. It was horrifying to hear that they can’t even practise Islam as their faith and are not allowed to vote unless they revoke their allegiance to their leader.
A speaker from the floor mentioned how specific items like acid burnings of women had been brought up at the last Universal Periodic Review and Pakistan agreed to implement laws to prevent such crimes.
Later it was found that the law was only good in one province!
A Pakistani in the audience responded by saying that the extremists are imported by the U.S.A. and the West.
He said Pakistan is going through a difficult stage, that you can’t blame the state for non-state actors and that the terrorism against Baluchis and other minorities is not the responsibility of the state.
A positive aspect of this panel is that they identified the problems and now are looking at the international community and the UNHRC to ensure that Pakistan stops contravening international law and revises the legal system to protect women and minorities, while also abrogating the dreaded Blasphemy and Apostasy laws.
— Raza is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow