LAHORE - Like others parts of the world, Human Rights Day was also observed in Pakistan on Sunday.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for human rights in the country this year. On October 16, 2017, Pakistan and 11 other countries became members of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Pakistan secured more than two-thirds of votes.

On the other hand, seven days before the Human Rights Day, peace activist Raza Khan went missing in Lahore. He was lead campaigner for the Pakistan-India youth interaction for promotion of peace. He was convener for the Pakistan chapter of the Aghaz-e-Dosti organisation.

According to an HRCP report, issuance of the first gender neutral passport in June this year was a positive development with regard to rights in Pakistan. The first Pakistani passport with the ‘third-gender’ option was issued to Farzana Riaz, a transgender activist and president of rights organization, TransAction.  The Human Rights Day was observed worldwide with the commitment that member states will respect individual rights. On Human Rights Day, Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Khalil Tahir Sandhu said all human beings had equal rights and respect and they were born equal. They have conscience and wisdom, so they should promote brotherhood. He said every person who lives in Pakistan deserves all freedom and rights that are significantly important in Islam.

The minister said that Christians are two percent of the population in Pakistan and minorities in Pakistan have full independence. They have equal religions and basic rights.

He said Christian prisoners were released after six months on completion of religious courses. He said every year the government of Punjab provides a special grant for religious festivals like Christmas, Holi and Divali.

The minister said the government of Punjab had established a taskforce to ensure the action plan for human rights is implemented.

The Civil Society Network Pakistan and Parents Action Committee also observed the day at Liberty Roundabout. They demanded that the government ensure fundamental rights to all citizens without any discrimination and provide free and compulsory education to all children. The participants also raised their voice against high fee in private schools.

Civil Society Network President Abdullah Malik said under Article 25-A of the Constitution the state will provide free and quality education to all children from the age of 5years to 16 years.

Malik said that human rights violations were still there, especially “honour killings”. Participants also condemned serious human rights violations in Indian-Occupied Kashmir, Burma and Palestine.

President of Action Committee Muhammad Ayub, Sharjeel, Amna Malik and Advocate Waseem also addressed the gathering.  The participants paid rich tributes to all those who sacrificed their lives while performing their duties. They said they were real heroes. A candle-lit vigil was also held to pay tribute to Major Ishaq, KP Police Additional Inspector General Ashraf Noor and many others.

The participants demand that the National Action Plan must be implemented in letter and spirit. They demanded facilities of health, education, energy, environment, employment and clean drinking water and asked the government to respect and focus on human development. They also saluted the electronic and print media for raising voice against human rights violations.