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Rights defenders demand Pakistan to immediately criminalize practice of enforced disappearances in the country

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations

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Representational Image (Lawyers Movement in Pakistan). Image source: Wikimedia Commons

ISLAMABAD, August 31, 2016: Rights defenders in Pakistan demand the Government to immediately criminalize the practice of enforced disappearances in the country which have caused years of agony to thousands of families across the nation.

Pakistani security forces have been battling extremist and militant groups since the country joined the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001. Critics allege the anti-terrorism operations have resulted in thousands of Pakistanis being detained by state security institutions, without their whereabouts and health conditions being made available to family members or attorneys.

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“In Pakistan, the practice of enforced disappearance has in recent years become a nationwide problem. … To date, not a single perpetrator has been held to account,” said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations.

Protesters demanded the Pakistan government immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Without signing the document, they say, the country would not feel the pressure to criminalize the practice of illegal detentions by making laws to protect constitutional rights of Pakistani citizens.

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A rally organizer, Tahira Abdullah, said human rights defenders in Pakistan recognize the threat of terrorism and extremism facing the country.

Call for openness

“If you want to arrest someone whom you suspect of being a terrorist, an extremist, a militant, a jihadi, anything, arrest them,” Abdullah said. “But the laws of Pakistan, the constitution of Pakistan must be upheld and the case must be produced in an open court so that we know what the charges against them are.

“You can’t keep people disappeared and in internment camps like Guantanamo Bay. We have Pakistani Guantanamo Bays. This is unconstitutional, it is illegal and it must not be allowed to continue,” she said.

Pakistani security agencies have repeatedly denied they have forcibly sequestered, tortured and killed people in the name of counterterrorism.

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Despite the official denials, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acknowledged, and human rights groups have documented, evidence of the involvement of state institutions in the abuses in the name of counterterrorism.

A government-appointed inquiry commission has been investigating the complaints since March 2011.

Of the more than 3,500 cases it had received as of July this year, around 2,100 have been disposed of. The remaining nearly 1,400 include 500 cases the commission has received in the past seven months, according to officials.

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But critics question the independence and autonomy of the state panel, saying it does not disclose details about where those people were during the period they could not be traced by their families.

Rights activists also allege those who have returned to their families remain under pressure from security agencies not to discuss what happened to them. (VOA)

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Women of Pakistan Protest Against Workplace Harassment, Child Marriage

Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif lauded "the incredible work our women are doing to strengthen their families, communities and the country"

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Following this, a National Security Committee was also held to discuss Sharif's
Pakistan Flag, wikimedia commons

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, women took to the streets across Pakistan on Friday to protest against sexual harassment in the workplace, child marriage ‘honour killings, wage inequalities and limited political representation.

Organisers hope that the “aurat march” (women’s march) and “aurat azadi march” (women’s liberation march) will draw attention to the struggle for reproductive, economic, and social justice across in Pakistan, reports the Guardian.

The first “Aurat March” was held last year in Karachi; this time, the rally has been extended to more cities, including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Larkana and Hyderabad.

The aim is to reach ordinary women in factories, homes and offices, says Nighat Dad, an “aurat march” organiser in Lahore.

“We want an organic movement by women demanding equal access to justice and ending discrimination of all kinds.”

Speakers at the Lahore march ranged from a woman fighting to reform marriage laws to the women who worked on the landmark Punjab Domestic Workers’ Act — a legislation that outlaws child labour in homes and provides maternity benefits to workers.

Another activist, Leena Ghani, noted that Pakistani women have a history of taking to the streets, famously during military dictator Zia ul-Haq’s martial law in the 1980s.

Krishna Kumari works in her office in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Feb. 12, 2018. VOA

While Pakistan has made major strides towards gender equality, poorer, marginalised women and transgender citizens continue to struggle, Ghani added.

Designer Shehzil Malik created a series of striking posters for the “aurat march” that counter typical representations of Pakistani women as docile and subservient.

Women are also protesting against discriminatory policies in universities, where male and female students are afforded different levels of freedom, the Guardian said.

A Pakistani university recently caused a furore on social media by banning women from wearing skinny jeans and sleeveless shirts.

Also Read- Originality is a Dichotomous Terminology, Says Megastar Amitabh Bachchan

In his message on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirmed his government’s commitment to providing women a safe environment so that they could contribute to the country’s development, Dawn news reported.

“We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring women a secure and enabling environment to play their rightful role in our nation’s development.”

Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif lauded “the incredible work our women are doing to strengthen their families, communities and the country”. (IANS)