PESHAWAR: In a joint presser, civil society and several non-government organisations (NGOs) urged the government, on Saturday, to adopt a coherent national policy for the protection of human rights activists.
“There can be no guarantee of fundamental freedoms or human rights in a country where human rights defenders continue to be persecuted for their work,” said Taimur Kamal, coordinator Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) while speaking at Peshawar Press Club.
The demand for the defence of such activists was put forward by a number of civil rights organisations including PCSN, Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC), FATA Commission for Human Rights, Civil Society Joint Working Group, Partners for Prevention and Response (p4RR), EVAWG Alliance Members, TransAction, National Action Coordination Group and Pakistan National Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN).
The speakers said that human rights defenders play a vital role in democratic societies. The active involvement of people, groups, organisations and institutions is essential to ensure continuous progress towards the fulfillment of international human rights, the added.
The speakers emphasised that the state should respect that dissenting views may be expressed peacefully in democratic societies and should publicly acknowledge the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders.
Qamar Naseem a human rights activist said, “National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) should effectively use their promotion and protection mandates to protect the legitimate and lawful interests of HRDs, and to intervene in the interest of defenders who may fall victim to human rights violations.”
He demanded the NHRIs to establish focal points on human rights defenders and ensure that they are adequately resourced and actively collaborate with all human rights defenders.
Zar Ali Khan, chairman of FATA Commission of Human Rights in a statement said, “Pakistan’s civil society is committed to continue the struggle for defending and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, empowered citizenship and strengthening of a democratic space based on the premises of participation, inclusivity and accountability.”
Another transgender rights activist, Farzana Jan, spoke about how discourse and discussion on the matter can solve many issues pertaining to human rights.
“Government, both at provincial and national level must engage in dialogue and consultation with human rights defenders and publicly recognise and support their work through communication and information campaigns,” Jan said.
The civil society alliance reaffirmed that they will continue to collaborate with national, regional and UN human rights mechanisms to prevent and respond to human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders.
The organisers look forward to developing innovative approaches in order to involve the general public, all branches of government and other opinion leaders, including the media, in the work of human rights defenders.