Islamabad - Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar yesterday asked political parties to agree on a minimum charter of human rights in 2016 just as the ‘Charter of Democracy’ was agreed to a decade back in 2006.

Addressing a seminar on human rights in the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services in Islamabad organized by the Young Parliamentarians forum - a group of over 80 cross party and young parliamentarians on the human rights challenges and the way forward – he said, the absence of democracy in political parties diminishes their ability to establish democratic governance that was crucial to upholding human rights.

“To begin with the national political charter should be focused, along with the right to life, liberty and security, four basic freedoms: namely freedom of expression, freedom of information, right to assembly and the right to association,” he added.

He added, “Topped by the freedom of expression, these freedoms are critical to citizens to record their concerns, voice their aspirations and offer alternatives to national issues, he said and lamented that these freedoms are under constant threat.”

Behind the façade of loosely defined ‘national security’ these rights have consistently been ignored and denied, he said and urged the political parties to work for balancing the national security interests with public interests. In order to credibly advance human rights’ agendas nationwide, the political parties will also have to reform themselves, he said.

He urged the cross party young parliamentarians to join hands for this purpose. He asked the political parties to form human rights cells to keep an eye on the human rights situation the country adding that the PPP had already set up such cells. He said that the frontiers of human rights were expanding; what was a privilege yesterday has become a right today.

“Education was a privilege in the past. Now it is a fundamental right. Freedom of information was a luxury in the past it is now a fundamental right,” he said.

He said gender equality and women empowerment were a taboo in the past; “Today they are in the forefront of human rights. Indeed human rights transcend national boundaries and prevail over the state and are irreversible.”

He called upon the young members of the national Assembly to get anti-torture bill passed from the national assembly the was already passed unanimously by the senate and transmitted to the National Assembly in January 2015 as a human rights gift to the nation.

He also called for the implementation of the report of senate committee on addressing the issue of enforced disappearances. Babar stressed the need for reviewing death penalty because of possibility of wrong convictions and its irreversibility and quoted the recent example of two convict having been hanged even before their conviction had been set aside by the Supreme Court and ordered free. “There are 27 offences that carry death penalty in Pakistan and asked whether Islam provides death penalty for 27 offences? We should ensure that after the sunset clause the military courts are disbanded,” he said. Ordinary criminals, instead of black jet terrorists as promised at the time, have also been hanged, he said.

Regarding the missing persons, he called for ending the impunity with which some organizations still work and to bring the state agencies under the ambit of the law, the lawmaker said.