KARACHI - The civil society of Pakistan on Friday expressed disappointment on the government’s version of the state of human rights in Pakistan, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The civil society called on the members of the Council to take serious note of the state’s failure to respect the global human rights mechanisms. “The State report overlooks fundamental rights violations in the everyday lives of the citizens. There needs to be stronger commitment for protection of human rights in Pakistan accompanied with measureable action plan to address the existing gaps in legislative and law enforcement order of the country and in the political will of the state itself.”In a joint statement over a dozen civil society organisations and networks including National Commission for Peace and Justice, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, South Asia Partnership and Sungi Development Foundation stated: “There is hardly any evidence that the recommendations of the last UPR review were ever implemented by Pakistan. In the last four years, the condition of human rights has degenerated as the state has adopted an increasingly withdrawn posture with regards to its constitutional obligations towards the citizens, compromising right to life, security and livelihood; people’s access to basic necessities; and fundamental rights and freedoms.”Terming it a “glossy document” the civil society said it does not reflect the ground realities at all. Instead of presenting the true picture of the status of human rights in the country and sharing an action plan to face the challenges, the government has relied on the old bureaucracy rhetoric of ‘all is well’ and ‘we remain committed’. This may never help to address the blatant violation of human rights taking place in everyday life in the country.The civil society statement outlined a number of areas that reflected wide gaps in the implementation of necessary laws and protection to ensure the security and provision of citizens’ rights and entitlements. Whereas the concerned section in the official report highlights the fundamental rights, granted equally to all citizens by the Constitution of Pakistan (Articles 8 to 28), the official report does not mention Article 2 (Islam is a state religion); Article 2A (that made Objective Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution); Article 31 that seeks to foster Islamic way of life; and Article 41 and 91 (3) (disqualifying non-Muslim for the position of President and Prime Minister). In 1974 the Qadiani sect was constitutionally declared non-Muslim (Article 260, 3b). These Articles in the Constitution lay the ideological ground for inequality and discrimination between the Muslims and the non-Muslims, and also between the majority Muslim sects and the minority Muslim sect.Discrimination against religious minorities has been further institutionalized through the insertion of sections in certain laws with problematic/vague text thus paving the way for the abuse of the law. Religious minorities are frequently victimized through fake charges of blasphemy under Section 295 B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. At least 292 cases were registered under blasphemy laws, 18 persons were killed after with blasphemy accusations during 2008-12. Religious minorities though just over 3 per cent of population remained 50 per cent of victims of blasphemy laws.The CSOs group also expressed concern over the progressive erosion of labour rights in the country. They termed it ironic that the government, in its report, has attempted to mislead the world community by referring to certain actions which, even if implemented in letter and spirit, would benefit only a fraction of Pakistan’s 57 million labour force.The recent fire at the Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, killing about 300 workers including women is enough evidence to show the level of compliance with the health and safety regulations. This accident happened at a time when labour inspections remained suspended for over eight years in two biggest industrial provinces of the country, the Punjab and Sindh. This is in total violation of the Constitution that binds the state to make provisions for secure and humane work conditions (Article 37(e).There is a total chaos as provinces have failed to make necessary legislations or have violated the basic rights in adopting new laws. The Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2011 allows the formation of unions in establishments with 50 or more workers which is in violation of the Article 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan and also the ILO Convention 87 and 98 on the Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining.Official claim of having lifted the ban on trade union is also far from reality as only 3-5 per cent of the country’s workforce is unionized. Of the 57 million labour force 45 per cent is engaged in the agriculture sector where no labour laws and rights including the fundamental right to freedom of association are applicable. Pakistan’s agriculture sector is also infected with bonded and forced labour where poor workers, especially those coming from the marginalised and caste affected communities such as dalits or scheduled castes are compelled to work in conditions no less than slavery.A sizeable majority of labour force in Pakistan, including a large number of female home-based workers, works under informal arrangements. Their working terms and conditions incorporate no formal contracts. The wages and piece rate payments are extremely poor for the lengthy working hours and inhuman conditions that are forced on them. Violence against women is also prevalent while the state stands silent claiming the passage of a disputed domestic violence bill as a victory for women’s rights. The practice of honour killings continue unabated with 436 women falling victim to the heinous crime this year alone. Access to education for girls is extremely compromised with 63 percent girls out of 5.1 million children excluded from the education system. Apart from the deteriorating state of security in the militancy- infected areas of the country where girls schools are frequently bombed by the militants, the government’s own inadequate measures with regards to making education accessible for girls by establishing institutions, providing means of transport, and ensuring quality services, lie at the root of denial of education to girls. The civil society also deplores the acute state of human rights violations in Balochistan which is fast becoming a no-go-zone due to the state’s reluctance to seek a non-violent, political solution to the existing crisis. In its report, the government bluntly claims the return of missing persons from the custody of the intelligence agencies, while refusing to accept that it is the state apparatus itself that is responsible for enforced disappearances. The target killing of the Shia Hazara community and the Punjabi settlers in the province also speaks volumes of the government’s criminal apathy towards protect its own citizens despite the deployment of the controversial FC forces in the province.The spate of target killings in Karachi, carried out on political, ethnic and sectarian grounds, has intensified in the past one year. The average rate of killing in the city is 6-10 per day. In the month of August 2010, over 100 people were killed on a single day while the state silently stood at a side. According to an HRCP report, in the first eight months of 2012, 1,345 people have been killed on account of target killings. In all these years, the state has neither deployed enough resources to address the growing lawlessness in the state’s biggest city nor has it made an effort to reach to the bottom of the existing ethnic and sectarian divide and take political, social and economic measures to protect the citizens.