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Human Rights Commission asks security forces to vacate school, college buildings in Swat

Human Rights Commission asks security forces to vacate school, college buildings in Swat

SWAT: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Hina Jilani has asked the security forces to vacate the buildings of schools and colleges in Swat immediately and also shut the ‘illegal prisons’ in the district.

Addressing a news conference at the Swat Press Club on Saturday, she pointed out that no information was being given to the relatives of those, who had died in the ‘illegal prisons’.

The presser was arranged at the conclusion of a high-profile fact-finding mission to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The mission comprised Hina Jilani, the commission’s vice-chairman for KP Akbar Khan, and HRCP members Jamila Gillani and Prof Ijaz Khan. The team spoke to a range of civil society members, journalists, lawyers, and district administration officials in Bannu, Peshawar, Khyber and Swat, according to a statement.

HRCP chairperson also calls for immediate closure of ‘illegal’ jails in district

HRCP members Prof Ijaz, Barrister Sher Mohammad Khan, Ms Gillani, Akbar Khan and Maryam Rao were also present at the press conference.

At the presser, Ms Jilani said the current political situation in Pakistan was very alarming, where common people were suffering from severe problems and institutions were not fulfilling their role.

Ms Jilani said HRCP team visited Swat to collect information about human rights situation there.

Commenting on Pakistan’s current political situation, she said institutions had become so weak that everyone challenged them openly. “It is responsibility of the civil institutions to improve the political situation. Even the Supreme Court never gave such a weak impression which it gives these days,” she said, adding the civil institutions should play their role according to the Constitution.

Ms Jilani said economy was on the verge of destruction, where common people were faced with multiple difficulties. She said political leaders dissolved assemblies at their whims without any solid reason, adding Rs35 billion were required for holding elections in Punjab, which could best be spent on people’s welfare. She said presently there were no assemblies in two provinces, while the National Assembly was incomplete.

Ms Jilani said HRCP appreciated the resolve of Swat people against the new wave of militancy. She said HRCP was deeply concerned about the forced disappearance of people and demanded the missing persons be shown and presented in courts if they were guilty of any crime.

She also showed concern over the ‘extrajudicial killings’ and said HRCP strongly condemned the illegal act. She reiterated the commission would continue to play its role in safeguarding human rights in the country.

Meanwhile, the HRCP fact-finding report observed widespread frustration among residents of the merged districts with the state for its ‘failure’ to honour the pledge to integrate these areas with the rest of the province by securing people’s civil, political, social and economic rights under the Constitution.

The report said the mission was concerned over undue delays in the transfer of power to the civil administrations and elected representatives in western KP following the 25th Constitutional Amendment in 2018.

While the report acknowledged some progress made on making basic facilities and fundamental rights available to the merged region the progress had been slow.

The report said the HRCP was concerned about resurgence of militancy in KP, compounded by reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. “The continued presence and control of security forces in the newly-merged districts appear to have undermined the authority of the local government and civil administration,” it said, highlighting continued restrictions on freedom of movement and speech. The mission was also troubled by continued reports of enforced disappearances, custodial deaths and persons going ‘missing’ from internment centres.

“HRCP welcomes the recent local government elections, but observes that the effectiveness of this system has been compromised by lack of funds released to elected representatives, many of whom have complained they lack even a workspace. HRCP is alarmed by allegations that the funds that should have been transferred to the local authorities for the merger and subsequent development schemes have either been siphoned off as a result of corruption or diverted to other regions,” the report said.

The mission was particularly moved by the spirit of resistance that residents of the region have continued to display in the shape of Ulasi Pasoon [the people’s uprising], making it clear they are not willing to tolerate militancy any longer.

The process of restoring law and order in the newly-merged districts, albeit slow, is visible in the form of robust policies for police reforms and capacity building. Above all, HRCP was pleased to observe a robust political mobilisation among the youth of the newly-merged districts, who have no qualms in exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by making legitimate demands of the state, the report highlighted.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023


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