AUG 28, 2018: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Tuesday issued a strong rebuke to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for writing to Prime Minister Imran Khan and asking him to address “serious human rights challenges” faced by Pakistan.
In a letter made public on Monday, HRW Asia Director Brad Adams had asked PM Khan to make human rights a “key focus” of his government.
The letter urged the PTI-led coalition government to begin by reversing “abusive laws and policies” and demonstrating “genuine commitment to the rule of law and equal justice”.
The HRW wants the government to focus on six key areas: “These are freedom of expression and attacks on civil society; freedom of religion and belief; violence against women and girls; access to education; restoring moratorium on death penalty; and terrorism and counter-terrorism abuses.”
In response to the letter, Dr Mazari stated that “the prime minister and the government are committed to ensuring the human rights guaranteed to all Pakistani citizens under the Constitution,” and therefore does not need to be informed or reminded of the government’s human rights agenda.
“[…] We are well aware of the need to effectively enforce the laws regarding the enforcement of the human rights of all our citizens as well as the need to bring our national laws in alignment with our international legal commitments through the international treaties we have ratified. Our government is committed to ensuring the fulfillment of all our international obligations,” the minister wrote.
The human rights minister said the government, therefore, does “not need to be informed or reminded of our human rights agenda.”
She went on to ask that since the HRW claims to monitor human rights violations in over 90 countries, “I hope that would include the massive human rights violations being carried out as a matter of state policy by India in Indian Occupied Kashmir and by Israel in Palestine.”
“I may have missed your monitoring reports on these, so would appreciate if you could refresh my memory,” she retorted.
She added that she hoped the HRW will also take up the matter of human rights violations “by some European states against their Muslim citizens in the form of curtailing their rights to practice their religion freely and in the form of abuse of Islam and its Prophet [Muhammad] (Peace be upon him), in direct contravention of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
The human rights minister also said that she would like to be informed on how the NGO is “ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states”, which have seen an upsurge of xenophobia in recent years.
Dr Mazari signed off by saying that the government would always welcome positive suggestions, but “an NGO’s institutional credibility will rest on its commitment to ensure human rights across the globe and not just in selective states.”
(Originally reported in Dawn)