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Universal Periodic Review



Second session meeting highlights

8 May 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Pakistan this morning, during which 70 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of Pakistan FAUZIA WAHAB, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, while noting that the preparatory process for the UPR had helped Pakistan create more awareness about the promotion and protection of human rights, stated that the Constitution of Pakistan was built on the principle of equal rights and equal treatment of all citizens and persons without any distinction. It guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms, including social, economic and political justice, freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, and independence of the judiciary. Pakistan was a state party to several human rights instruments including those covering elimination of racial discrimination, elimination of discrimination against women, rights of the child, minimum age for employment, elimination of the worst forms of child labor, and combating trafficking of women and girls.

Consistent with its pledges made during the lection to the Human Rights Council in 2006, and its longstanding commitment to promote and protect human rights, the Government of Pakistan on 17 April 2008 ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she said. Pakistan had a separate Ministry of Human Rights which monitored and addressed human rights violations and trends, with special reference to women, minorities and vulnerable segments of society. Elaborate groundwork had been done for the establishment of an independent Human Rights Commission and will establish this national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles and ensure that its composition reflected diversity of opinion. Pakistan had recently completed its transition to full democracy. While this transition was underway, Mohatma Benazir Bhutto became victim of a cowardly and barbaric act of terrorism, Ms. Wahab stated. All her life, Mohatma Benazir Bhutto upheld human rights and struggled against the forces of extremism and terrorism.

Over the past five years, terrorism and extremism had endangered national security and created disaffection within the society of Pak, Ms. Wahab noted. Terrorist and extremists were violating the hr of ordinary citizens in the country. As a nation, Pak paid a heavy price for resolutely waging the war on terrorism. In the recent past, 97 suicide attacks have been mounted and only four days ago four innocent people died in a suicide attack in Bannu. Since 2002, these attacks have claimed 942 lives and left 3,207 seriously injured. At the same time, Pak was creating a political, educational and economic space for some segments of the youth who were most vulnerable to extremism. Pak was also pursuing Madrassah reform and was planning a national conference on Madrassah education in the near future which will seek to resolve all issues in a democratic way. The security forces of Pakistan were trained in international humanitarian law and in accordance with national laws; Pakistan investigated and provided remedies for alleged human rights violations in pursuit of the war on terrorism. The Pakistan People’s Party was determined to provide food, clothing and shelter to the people of Pakistan. Pakistan was determined to work for good governance, rid Pakistan of violence and terror, generate productive employment for youth, provide education, health care, and clean drinking water, and bring progress to the doorstep of workers, farmers and small businesses.

Poverty reduction was an absolute priority for the Government of Pakistan, she added. In recent years, there had been considerable decrease in poverty, but still 25% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. In this regard, major interventions would be made into the sectors of health and education. Pakistan’s macroeconomic indicators were promising and its overall economic performance will be good in the near future. The challenge now was to translate these gains to alleviate poverty, improve health and education standards, and create jobs and businesses for ordinary citizens. For its part, the Government will build one million housing units every year. An Employment Commission will plan for the creation of jobs in private and public sectors, and a Literacy and Health Corporation will be established under this Commission to provide employment to youth for two years after graduation, among other things. As a means towards dealing comprehensively with the gender issue Pakistan has endeavored to mainstream political and economic empowerment of women; to put an end to the murderous killings done under the pretext of "honor killings" to remove abuses of the Hadood Laws that violated women’s rights; to take drastic and credible legal and administrative measures to attack domestic violence; and to build the capacity of the Ministry of Women’s Development and make it part of the inner core of decision making at the highest level.

The head of delegation noted that over the decades, Pakistan has been focusing on the protection of children’s rights, the development of the child, especially the girl child, and the elimination of child labor and exploitation. Since 1994, the Government has been working successfully with the ILO for the progressive elimination of child labor. As to minorities, the Prime Minister of Pakistan announced that under the present government minorities will have representation in all national institutions. Concerning labor, the new government had already announced the termination of the Industrial Relation Order-2002 that had curbed trade union activities. Regarding the media, it was noted that some restrictions imposed on the media in the aftermath of the November 2007 emergency orders had now been removed. With regard to refugees, the head of delegation note that since 1979, Pakistan had hosted more than five million documented Afghan refugees and today there were more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Despite being party to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, Pakistan had abided by all the provisions of the Convention related to their rights.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the State’s efforts to combat extremism and terrorism; the collaboration with NGOs in the preparation of the Universal Periodic Review report; the positive results of the State’s poverty reduction programmes; increasing levels of literacy; the advancement of women’s rights in Pakistan; the enactment of the Women’s Protection Act; the gender reform plan of 2005; Pakistan’s accession to the CEDAW; the State’s accession to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the successful democratic process in Pakistan; the elaboration of the Child’s Protection Bill; the rise in the GDP growth rate; policies to promote and protect the rights of disabled persons; steps taken to provide adequate health and to improve education in the country; Pakistan’s role as host to one of the largest group of refugees in the world; and progress in restoring democratic governance in Pakistan.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to major challenges faced in terms of hosting refugees; further information of IDPs in Pakistan; lessons learned while tackling refugee issues; information conveyed through media reports that Pakistan was considering the deportation or repatriation of some Afghan refugees; cases of forced disappearances as a result of the State’s war on terrorism; information on illegal and arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture; efforts to protect the rights of minorities and to prevent the discrimination of minorities; to promote awareness that minorities in Pakistan had the same civil rights as all Pakistanis; efforts to ending caste-based discrimination; steps taken to organized education in the Madrassahs; efforts to stop the crimes of honor killings; main steps taken in combating racism and discrimination, including against women; and steps to align its policies of discrimination in line with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Other issues pertained to plans to adjust the blasphemy law to bring them in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); efforts to ensure the freedom of worship and practice; the role of the district inter-faith harmony committees; information on the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Criminal Law Bill of 2007; measures envisaged to bring and end to the inequality between men and women, in particular with regard to land possession; efforts undertaken to harmonize national legislation with international labor rights; intention of ratifying the two Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; best practices on combating child labor; measures to prohibit trafficking in children; measures taken under the agues of the National Plan of Action to provide education for all under the Madrassah plan; specific measures to overcome illiteracy; information on technical and vocational education under Pakistan’s National Education Policy; and the extent of human rights education for law enforcement officials.

Additional information was sought on the steps taken to ensure that the creation of a national human rights institution was in accordance wit the Paris Principles; steps to monitor and investigate human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces; plans to sign the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; the intention of the State to ratify the Rome International Criminal Court; steps intended to abolish the death penalty; measures intended to improve prison conditions; measures taken to facilitate access to justice; steps to assure the independence of the judiciary; measures to combat impunity against security forces; measures taken to protect the rights of prisoners;; efforts to enhance freedom of expression and freedom of the media; the intention of the State to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Worker and Members of Their Families; efforts to secure freedom of expression and freedom of association; any steps envisaged to improve the access to water; and how Pakistan’s geography posed a challenge to meeting critical infrastructure needs of the Pakistani people and how the international community could support such efforts.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to continue its efforts in combating terrorism and for the international community to provide the State with adequate support in that regard; to ratify the ICCPR; to ratify the Convention against Torture; to ratify the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; to continue on its route of democracy in the pursuit of human rights; to remove restrictions on freedom of religions or belief and amend legislation that discriminated against persons belonging to minorities, including Quadiana, Lhaori and Ahmadi religions; to reinstate the dismissed members of the judiciary and take measures to re-establish an independent judiciary; to decriminalize defamation and review all relevant laws and measures to ensure that any restrictions imposed in freedom of expression were in conformity with the ICCPR; and to establish a national commission in line with the Paris Principles.

Other recommendations included: To continue to spearhead progress towards gender equality in the area of employment and education; to follow up on CEDAW’s recommendations; to continue international solidarity steps to eliminate violence against women, especially domestic violence and to investigate such crimes; to repeal the provisions of the Hudood Ordinances that criminalized non-marital consensual sex and fail to recognize marital rape; to adopt as a matter of priority further legislative as well as practical measures to fight violence against women and to ensure punishment for perpetrators of all violence against women; to bring an end to inequality between men and women, including on access to property; to take effective measures to allow women to have access to heath care, clean water and sanitation, in particular in rural areas; to combat forced marriages and to recognized marital rape in its legislation; and that further measures be taken to oversee stereotypes and to reinforce the implementation of constitutional and legal guarantees with a view of ensuring that all human rights of women were safeguarded throughout its territory.

Additional recommendations posed by States included: To review the legislation on blasphemy to bring it in line with relevant international obligations; to move towards abolishing the death penalty; to allow the Special Rapporteurs who have requested to visit the country to do so; to ratify the Rome Statute the International Criminal Court; to incorporate the international treaties it was party to into domestic legislation; to take measures to combat impunity of members of the security forces; to combat impunity on attacks against human rights defenders; to invite the Special Representative on human rights defenders to conduct an independent visit to Pakistan; to adopt specific measures to safeguard the promotion and protection of human rights of IDPs; to restore all fundamental freedoms that were suspended at the imposition of the state of emergency in November and December last year.

Other recommendations included: To adopt its labor legislation and bring it in line with ILO Convention; to address the issue of children trafficking with strict enforcement of legislation and through the adoption of a national action plan and through training of law enforcement and the judiciary; to consider to raise the legal age of criminal responsibility; to enhance efforts to guarantee the right to adequate housing; to ensure that laws discriminating non-Muslims were repealed; to effectively address the respective effect of civil society monitoring procedures and anti-terrorism legislation on the operation of human rights defenders; to guarantee the independence of the judiciary; to share its experiences in poverty reduction and mitigation of effects of food inflation; and to investigate and prosecute both Government officials and other perpetrators against members of the media.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Qatar, France, Senegal, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Cuba, Jordan, Azerbaijan, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Romania, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Italy, Egypt and Mauritius.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Chile, Belgium, the Holy See, Portugal, Kuwait, Oman, Luxembourg, Turkey, Belarus, Norway, Austria, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, the Czech Republic, Panama, Nepal, Denmark, Sweden, Morocco, Ireland, Venezuela, Singapore, Latvia, Sudan, Syria, Finland, Greece, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Iran, Australia, Albania, Colombia and New Zealand.

The 10-person delegation of Pakistan consisted of representatives of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Pakistan are Saudi Arabia, Ghana and Azerbaijan.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Pakistan can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Pakistan on Tuesday, 13 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Zambia after which it is scheduled to adopt the reports of Guatemala and Benin.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp

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