SIALKOT

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) organised a training workshop with the aim to raising awareness and building knowledge on the rights of vulnerable groups including women, children, workers and minorities.

While addressing the participants, HRCP Lahore resident Director Mehboob Ahmed Khan urged the government to ensure early provision of basic rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan to people in general and vulnerable segments in particular.

He revealed that unless all citizens in state were treated even-handedly, the sense of deprivation could not be mitigated in the common man at grass-root level. There must be institutional arrangements in place to ensure rule of law, civil liberties and easy access to justice. The state organs should let the people realize that that they are equal citizens of the country having constitutional guarantees to live as esteemed entities. They should have equal spaces and options to become part of the mainstream development process, he elaborated.

Addressing the workshop participants, NGO Baidarie Executive Director Arshad Mehmood Mirza revealed that the workers in the informal sector provide substantial input for the national development so they must be legally recognized as "Workers" and all those rights, privileges and social protection coverage should be provided to them as were legally admissible for the workers in the formal sector of economy. He said that govt should take immediate steps for demographic and socioeconomic census of the workers in the informal sector. Unless gender wise data of the workers engaged with the different disciplines of the economy becomes available, workable policies and strategies to change their lot cannot be developed.

Arshad Mirza also asked for using well defined objectively verifiable indicators to do regular and rigorous assessment of the employment and working condition of the workers in the formal and informal sectors so that the compliance to national and international labour standards may be ensured in industry and businesses. He emphasized that government functionaries should put such operational arrangements in place to ensure that no workers "take home wages/salary" remain less than the legal minimum wage fixed by the government. All the workers must be held legally entitled to old age pension, and the benefits promised by the social security and workers welfare fund.

Speaking on the occasion, Baidarie President Ms Hina Noureen said that the parliament and govt should take practical steps to legislate for protecting the rights of women. The government should also make strenuous efforts to implement the statues which have already been promulgated to safeguard the rights of women. She said that efforts should be made to put an end to gender based discriminations, violence and torture so that women may proceed in life like equally esteemed citizens of the state. Pakistan cannot compete honourably in the comity of nations unless it enables its women to potentially contribute towards economic, social, political and cultural developmental phenomenon. This would tantamount to harnessing all the potential resources towards national development.

Speaking on the issue of minority rights, Nadeem Anthony Advocate said that non-Muslims are equal citizens of this county.  The constitution of the country promises them to lead their lives in accordance with the teachings of their respective religions. Quoting references from August 11, 1947 speech of the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he said that "we all are equal citizens of the state therefore should be discriminated to be inferior. Not only the Non-Muslims have always worked hard for the development of the nation but whenever the need arose they have as well sacrificed their lives for the defence of the motherland. They must therefore treated with honour and let to live as respectable citizens of this country."

Imran Javaid Qureshi Advocate speaking on the child rights said that the children are the future of the nation. If we want to see the future of our nation bright and safe, then we must ensure that each and every of the children must have unobstructed access to the vital rights of education, health, good environment and healthy recreation. He said that Pakistan is not only a signatory to the convention on the rights of the children (CRC) but has also ratified it.