KARACHI - Civil society has expressed grave concern over the deteriorated situation of the freedom of expression with reference to attacks on journalists and ever increasing restrictions on social media, they said that the freedom of expression is the basic fundamental right guaranteed by constitution and under the international commitments.

At a meeting, organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at the office of National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) here on Friday afternoon in connection with Pakistan’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the civil society representatives urged the government to focus on improving the human rights situation in the country.

Pakistan’s human rights record will be reviewed at a major happening at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in the second week of November, in which the UPR will be held after four and a half years at Geneva.

The participants raised issues of adverse situation of freedom of expression, persecution of religious minorities and discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, increasing incidents of enforced disappearances, declining labour rights and right of association and collective bargaining etc.

They expressed concern over that in 2012 UPR Pakistan had made many commitments regarding human rights, but no major step has been taken on many of commitments.

Speaking on the occasion, Anis Haroon, Member of NCHR from Sindh said that despite the fact Pakistan has provided almost all fundamental rights in the Constitution, but there are many laws in Pakistan, which are contradictory to these basic rights.

She pointed out that the civil society as well as government institutions usually become active when some reviews like UPR are held. No mid-term review is made and for the rest of period, civil society is not active.

Haroon said the civil society should be active in protection of human rights in Pakistan and for this a coordination mechanism among civil society organizations and they should also establish linkages with the state institutions as well.

Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER said information about important decisions is not shared on regular basis. For example, he pointed out that there was major news in newspaper today that the government has already allowed students unions in Pakistan and law was passed a year back. Even the government institutions did not know about making a law about lifting a ban on students unions.

Senior civil society activists Iqbal Detho, Owais Aslam Ali of Pakistan Press Foundation and Jamil Junejo of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Zulfiqar Shah of PILER, Habibuddin Junaidi, Convener of Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee, and Pirbhu Satyani of PILER gave their presentations on mechanism of UPR. Jamil Junejo said there is no political will in Pakistan to protect human rights.

Iqbal Detho said that after constitution of the Human Rights Council in 2006, it had decided to hold periodic review about human rights situation in all the member countries. Pakistan’s first review was held in 2008 and the second was held in 2012. On Novemebr13, the UPR review of Pakistan will be held at Geneva.

At the end of the meeting it was decided to hold a screening web-broadcast of the UPR of Pakistan on November 13 at the time Pakistan’s UPR.