LAHORE   -   The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Sunday that role of the parliament must not be diminished and expressed concern at the lockdown in the Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK). 

“We are deeply alarmed by the lockdown in Kashmir by the Indian government – which has created a human rights crisis – and the subsequent war rhetoric emanating from both sides of the border. Both India and Pakistan must recognise immediately that people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination and that both countries have a duty to protect and promote regional peace,” reads a statement released by the rights watchdog on the last day of its biannual meeting in the city.

The HRCP stated, “We are seriously concerned at the government’s recent attempts to undermine the political opposition. There are alarming signs that the role of parliament is receding: this is evident from the government’s attempts to rule by ordinance.”

The meeting was followed by a seminar on “Reclaiming Pakistan’s civic space” at Durap Patel Auditorium moderated by HRCP Council Member Ghazi Salahuddin. HRCP Secretary General Harris Khalique, Herald former editor Badar Alam, Bolo Bhi co-founder Farieha Aziz, Hina Jilani, Dr Ali Usman Qasmi, Muhammad Tahseen and IA Rehman also spoke. The speakers urged civil society and universities to start debate on the issues pertaining to freedom of association and freedom of expression at civic spaces including digital platforms in the country.

The statement further said the recent surge in cases of child abuse pointed out increasing brutalisation of society. Children are among the most vulnerable groups and both the state and the society must take responsibility for protecting them.

“We condemn any measures by the state to curtail freedom of expression or to fragment the media through the introduction of media tribunals,” the statement reads.  “Rather than investing more in healthcare and education, the government appears to be diverting resources away from these sectors. We remind the government that the state has a constitutional duty to provide its citizens with access to education and a moral duty to take all possible steps to provide acceptable levels of healthcare across the country,” HRCP said.