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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday presented Pakistan’s human rights progress report at the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, outlining legislative, policy and institutional measures taken by the country to safeguard and advance basic rights.

Pakistan’s 4th national report under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was presented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to the UNHRC in Geneva where she is leading the country’s delegation, according to Foreign Office.

Presenting the report at the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights Council in Geneva, Khar said that Pakistan has remained steadfast in promoting respect for human rights at home and abroad.

As an ardent supporter of multilateralism, she said that Pakistan has consistently advocated dialogue, consensus, cooperation, and mutual respect as preferred vehicles to advance the global human rights agenda.

“We have always endeavoured to build bridges across diverse perspectives and varied interests. As a member of the Human Rights Council and the OIC Coordinator for Human Rights in Geneva, we have played a vital role in forging political consensus on several human rights issues and situations of common concern. We will continue to do so in advancing shared human rights causes,” she added.

About Pakistan’s 4th national UPR report, she said that the report is an outcome of our extensive efforts during the last five years to implement the recommendations emanating from our 2017 UPR.

To implement these recommendations, she added that the federal government closely consulted with all provincial stakeholders, civil society, and academia. She said that Pakistan’s human rights progress is overall on an upward trajectory.

“We continue to aspire for a progressive and pluralistic society, which puts a high premium on respect for the human rights of everyone, in the words of our founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah and I quote “as equal citizens of one State” unquote,” she added.

“In line with our constitutional framework, our democratic governance structures, as protectors of human rights, have grown from strength to strength. This is visible in the shape of an independent judiciary, robust parliamentary traditions and free media,” she further stated.

She stated that the government has made utmost efforts to advance human rights through institutional, legal, and policy measures.

Highlighting some of the critical areas of this progress that align with several recommendations emanating from Pakistan last UPR, she said that to strengthen institutional support, the government has enhanced the capacity of existing structures on human rights and established new ones.

She said that the Ministry of Human Rights has upgraded its Regional Human Rights Directorates for effective coordination with provincial stakeholders. Complaint cells have been established at the Federal and Provincial Directorates under the Human Rights Ministry for redressal and referral of human rights complaints, she said.

She said that the government has further strengthened the domestic mechanisms to enhance the implementation of the international human rights conventions to which Pakistan is a State Party.

In addition to the existing Treaty Implementation Cells (TIC) at the Federal and Provincial levels, she said that the government has launched the “National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up” project based on the United Nations guidelines and good practices.

She said that the Human Rights Ministry has established a Human Rights Information Management System, which has institutionalised data collection and analysis about human rights trends in the country. This system has helped us craft evidence-based policy and administrative measures and prepare Pakistan’s periodic treaty bodies reports, she added.

Additionally, she added that the government has established Child Protection Institute, Transgender Protection Centre, and a Council for Senior Citizens. These institutions have been fully equipped to provide shelter, medical care, and psycho-social support to children, transgender persons, and elderly individuals in vulnerable situations, she added.

She stated that Pakistan has enacted several progressive legislations in line with its international human rights obligations, focusing on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the vulnerable and the marginalized.

She said that Pakistan has taken several steps for women’s empowerment, adding that last year we amended the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 to broaden the definition of employees to include non-conventional workplaces and expand the definition of workplace harassment.

She said that the Parliament also enacted the Anti-Rape Act 2021 and the Enforcement of Women's Property Rights Act 2020 to build legal deterrence against the menace of rape and deprivation of women of their property rights.

“In a landmark move, all provincial High Courts have established Gender Based Violence Courts; helplines and women’s police stations have been set up across Pakistan. We have also conducted special training sessions for lawyers and judges in all provinces on inheritance, birth registration, and early and forced marriage laws,” she said.

She also referred to the passage of laws on transgender rights in 2018 to protect their fundamental rights like inheritance, education, decent work, property ownership, and participation in public affairs, besides the passage of a law in 2020 to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, in 2022, the ICT Senior Citizen Act to prevent discrimination against elderly citizens.

“The protection of child rights has also remained high on our national agenda. In 2020, the Zainab Alert, Response, and Recovery Act were legislated. An alert system for reporting missing children has been launched in its follow-up,” she added.

She said that legislation prohibiting child labour is already in force in the country, adding that the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development has notified a Child Labour Cell to coordinate and devise a consensus-based National Action Plan with ILO’s technical assistance.

She added that Pakistan has recently ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime on trafficking in persons (in November 2022). In line with best practices, we passed two separate laws on trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants in 2018. Since the enactment of these laws, there have been more than 1,000 human trafficking investigations and 161 convictions, she added.

“We fully subscribe to the view that States are primarily responsible for promoting and protecting human rights. We also understand that advancing human rights is not a one-time exercise but a long-term commitment that entails sustained institution-building, legal reforms, and policy revamping,” she added.

She said that Pakistan will continue to endeavour to build bridges and promote consensus, constructive engagement, and dialogue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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