The Asia Foundation Celebrates International Human Rights Day in Pakistan

Islamabad, December 15, 2014 — On December 10, The Asia Foundation celebrated International Human Rights Day and the second REAT Awards in Islamabad with an event jointly organized by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights and REAT Network. Government officials, human rights experts, and Foundation staff were in attendance.

Zafarullah Khan, special assistant to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs spoke at the occasion: “The government has taken concrete steps to ensure protection of human rights in the country in line with the national and international commitments.” Khan said that it was a national duty to ensure the well-being of vulnerable segments of the society including women and minorities, and pledged to provide them equal opportunities without any discrimination. He went on to say that the government is fully cognizant of the human rights situation in the country and is continuously undertaking legal and administrative reforms to cope with the challenges ahead.

The Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights is pushing for the protection and promotion of human rights through effective coordination mechanism with provincial governments and other stakeholders.

The Asia Foundation’s Executive Vice President, Suzanne Siskel highlighted in her remarks the critical importance of promoting and protecting religious minorities in Pakistan. She also acknowledged the efforts of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights to tackle human rights issues, especially in the protection of the rights of minorities. Gareth Aicken, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation in Pakistan, distributed awards to notable human rights defenders within the REAT Network.

Chairperson of REAT Network, Krishan Sharma highlighted the role played by the network in the protection and promotion of human rights and rights of the minorities in the country. He informed the audience of the initiatives taken by the REAT Network in improving human rights and asked the government to expedite steps to further improve the situation. Sharma informed the audience that the network has established an Early Warning System in 10 districts of Pakistan by engaging approximately around 500 human rights defenders for mitigating the conflict before it actually happens. “So far we have averted 19 such cases that could have been led to major conflicts leading to the loss of life and property of religious minorities,” he added.

Secretary Law, Justice and Human Rights Justice (R) Raza Khan at the awards event said: “In line with our religious, moral, national and international commitments, we are committed to undertaking a number of steps for protection and promotion of human rights in the country.” He also urged NGOs, volunteers, philanthropists, national & international development partners, media, and the corporate sector to come forward and play a significant role to ameliorate the human rights situation.

Also speaking at the occasion was Dr. Rawwida Baksh, acting country representative UN Women, who called for steps to end violence against women. She said that Violence against Women (VAW) and the fear of violence are formidable barriers to women and girls’ realization of their full potential, fulfillment of their aspirations, and attainment of general well-being. Despite laws and policies, violence continues unabated, she said, while claiming that VAW can be eliminated – by treating women as equals, ending impunity, ensuring justice and security. First Secretary of the Embassy of Netherlands Nana Stolze also spoke at the occasion.

Read more about the Foundation and its work in Pakistan.

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