Pakistan ratifies conventions on elimination of racial discrimination and victimization of women

Convention Freedom

Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights, Senator Pervaiz Rashid informed the Parliament on Monday (1st December) that Pakistan has ratified eight International Human Rights conventions to streamline the government’s efforts in order to improve overall human rights situation in the country.

Among others the conventions ratified also included International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Exploring them individually, a lot of material could be spotted detailing the forms and manifestations of violations taking place against women and on the basis of race and creed in the country.

Both the conventions are of immense significance in the context of Pakistani society where women have inhumanly been discriminated, as well as in identifying those gray areas which need to be brought into the lime light for open debate.

Frontiers Crimes Regulations (FCR) is among other areas where crime of one person is generalized to all family members or tribe, and where woman are particularly made victims of this draconian law.

FCR laws were officially enacted in 1901 by the British Raj in the tribal areas (FATA). The main objective of the FCR was to protect the interests of the British Empire and counter the opposition of the Pashtuns to British rule.

Under the laws, suspects are tried by tribal Jirga, which submits its recommendations, however, they are not binding on the political agent who is the sole authority to decide the fate of the suspects. Moreover, as per some clauses, the victims are denied the provision to appeal against decision of political agent, which further makes the law a critical and highly discriminatory.

Particularly talking about the FATA women, they have been denied for representation in the FCR judicial system. As per Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s report on FCR (2005), the law is completely silent on crimes against women.

Women activist, Mariam Bibi was quoted in the report that women and minors were as much victim of FCR laws in FATA as men were. She stated, “Minor girls and women are still given in Badal (exchange) to the rival groups for settling disputes and the inhuman custom of Sawara is still being practiced in most of the tribal areas.” And there are no provisions in FCR to restrict them from such inhuman customs, she added.

It is awful that despite all these injustices and discriminatory conducts, the federal government, directly responsible for ensuring equal rights for all FATA people, has had done nothing since 1947.

The situation for women all together in Pakistani society is not encouraging where they are harassed everywhere, deprived of right to express freely and get themselves associated with free will. Every now and then they fall prey of tabooed customs and traditions in the name of honor. The marginalized woman of Pakistan is also facing issues like kidnapping and forced conversions, a clear violation of constitution’s article 20 which talks about freedom to profess religion.

In a statement, the Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights Pervaiz Rashid told National Assembly that around Rs. 722 million ($7.22 million) had been spent during the last three years for the protection of human rights in Pakistan, which seemed quite shocking when analyzing the ground realities. Protection of ordinary citizen’s human rights in Pakistan by the government looks like an out of the book question, where the government even failed in providing security to activists, journalists and lawyers who raise voice for citizen’s rights. A long list of such individual’s incidents is available when prominent personalities, including but not limited to Governor Salman Taseer, ex-Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, lawyer Rashid Rehman, etc. were silenced due to intolerance of the society.

Coming back to the convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ratified by Pakistan recently will at least make the government binding to follow international laws and take part in the legislation accordingly. Will the government abide by its international commitments and how will it cope with the monster of religious intolerance now would be the challenges in future.


Haroon Baloch’s blog

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