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State Must End Appeasement Of Religious Fundamentalists And Protect The Hazara: Lawmakers, Legal Fraternity Resolve

The legal fraternity and parliamentarians on Friday resolved that the state’s alleged appeasement of religious fundamentalism must end and all minorities, especially the Hazara community in Balochistan, be protected in the face of new threats.

The resolution also demanded the Commission of Missing Persons to prosecute the 153 identified officials responsible for enforced disappearances and asked the government to take steps against harassment of human rights defenders.

“Pakistan must implement legislation to criminalise enforced disappearances. The Government must prevent torture by adopting the 2014 bill passed by the Senate. The Commission of Missing Persons must prosecute the 153 identified officials responsible for enforced disappearances,” the resolution reads.

The resolution also stressed the need to protect freedom of the press and concluded that any attempt against provincial autonomy and 18th Amendment must be resisted and that tenure of military courts should not be extended.

The resolution was passed with consensus during a discussion between the legal fraternity and parliamentarians on the core issues the country is facing, relating to fundamental rights and for implementation of legislation protecting them.

The legal fraternity was represented by Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) office bearers and Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell executive members.

The PBC office bearers that were present during the discussion include PBC’s Vice Chairman Syed Amjad Shah, PBC Executive Committee Chairman Hafiz Mohammad Idris and PBC Human Rights Committee Abid Saqi.

Meanwhile, Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell was represented by its executive director Nida Aly, Afrasiab Khattak and Munizae Jahangir member of the board.

Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also attended the meeting along with Senator Mushaidullah Khan, Senator Sherry Rehman, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Senator Usman Kakar, Farhatullah Babar, Mohsin Dawar, Shaista Pervaiz, Nafeesa Shah and Chaudhry Manzoor.

The participants resolved that the challenges to the 18th Amendment and the desire to roll back provincial autonomy and entitlements granted by it and by the National Finance Commission Award, must be resisted.

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The participants said that there should be effective implementation of merger and reforms in western districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly FATA) as approved by the parliament.

The participants also resolved that women from these areas should be given representation in the National Commission for the Status of Women (NCSW) and be included in the reform process.

The lawyers and parliamentarians emphasised on effective legislation and its enforcement against enforced conversions.

“Freedom of expression must not be curtailed by the state and unannounced censorship in print and electronic media must be lifted. Parliament must approve a new bill for the independence of PEMRA according to the recommendation of the media commission report. Parliament must approve a Journalist Safety Bill which was moved in the previous parliament,” the resolution read.

“The 19th amendment related to Article 175-A (appointment of judges in superior judiciary) must be repealed,” the participants resolved, emphasising that the role of the Parliamentary Committee in judicial appointments to the superior courts must be revived.

The participants of the meeting also agreed that the Military Courts, a parallel justice system, impede access to justice and do not meet standards of fair trial.

“They should not be extended as they are given jurisdiction over civilians and used against them. The criminal justice system should be strengthened instead,” the resolution states, adding: “They should not be extended as they are given jurisdiction over civilians and used against them. The criminal justice system should be strengthened instead.”

The participants expressed their concerns on non-implementation of law against sexual harassment of women in the workplace and said that the parliament (both federal and provincial) have not constituted committees on sexual harassment as mandated.

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The federation and the provinces must collectively ensure that the curriculum is devoid of hate material and derogatory material with respect to minorities. The Transgender Act 2018 must be implemented in letter and spirit. It was recommended that a monitoring body for the implementation of current protection laws for the transgender community be established.

The Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell and the PBC has formed a committee and pledged to work in coordination with parliamentarians to formulate pro people legislation protecting human rights and legal reforms.

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