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Friday, 1 April 2011

Foreign Office Report on Democracy and Human Rights - some issues....

The Foreign Office report on Pakistan at the paper launch for Human Rights and Democracy was a strong and detailed report on the actions Pakistan was taking to improve it's overall culture and practices, and Britain's commitment to see through positive change.

The fact that Pakistan has dropped form 112th to 125th in the UN Development index does not surprise me. The fact is that lobby groups have worked hard to make more visible the terrible inequalities in Pakistan.

We are pleased to see that minority persecution has been recognised in particular the marginalisation of our Christian community.

I note that the salaries of Police in Punjab have increased and that fortunately the process has been recognised as piecemeal Police reform. The Interior Minister had made it seem such salary increases were a more global reform across Pakistan when I questioned him at the Pakistan Embassy? At least we can detect a strong influence from the Foreign Office for more wholesale changes and that they are working to train Pakistan's police on Human Rights operational practice.

Some pressing matter's for the BPCA as a consequence of the Human Rights and Democracy paper launched yesterday include:

No comment was made on reform of the constitution of Pakistan that was formed on the 23rd March 1956 after the partition. The original name for Pakistan was the "Dominion of Pakistan" till this date it, when the nation became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Non-Muslims were barred from election as President, and Islam became the state religion.

No comment on faith labelling within Pakistani Passports a process that has created a much used discriminatory tool for Conservative and extremist Muslims.

No real drive for grassroots programmes to create a less conservative culture in Pakistan such as, Interfaith debates and multicultural celebrations, removal of Islamic studies as core subject in Pakistan's educational curriculum for replacement of broad based religious studies lessons, or a fairer and more accurate less islamicised history course, in which Gandhi is not anathema and prominent Christians and minorities are recognised.

In the report on Law and order no mention was made of the 300 lawyers who boycotted the Lahore High Court preventing the Judicial decision for the case of Shazia Bashir Masih by threatening the family, solicitors and supporter for justice. Images of the Solicitors smashing Police Cars and ransacking the court were never used to disbar any of the perpetrators. A stronger legal system will also need sanctions such as disbarment to reign the power legal practitioners have over life and death and lower classes in general.

The Blasphemy Law was mentioned but there seems to be a lack of drive to get any reform made despite the misuse that had a sharp incline since its islamification in 1986. A return to the Original British Public Order Act 295 and 295a protected all faiths and which only saw 10 cases brought to court would seem to be a favourable outcome and would remove the inequality. The FOC seem intent on reductions in abuse rather than reform and you may find the ambiguity of the existing law does not help matters.

Why has a survey not been undertaken on what Minorities and the Muslim Majority feel about the blasphemy Law and its misuse?

The Quota system for Public sector and parliament does not seem to have had much affect - has any monitoring been undertaken?

If the Electoral System is to be improved we need to operate a 1 person 1 vote system the 2 votes for minorities system in disingenuous and disempowers our Political figures. Political parties should be encouraged to positively discriminate in favour of minority candidates for some seats like we have women only seats in the UK - rather than the existing scheme.

When Pakistan signed the Convention against torture what reservations did they have?

We have already sent a request to the Foreign Office for a response to these matters and we will of course relay a response back to you.

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