KARACHI: Civil society and human rights activists on Sunday called upon all the major political parties to respect and ensure minimum human rights standards and recommendations/ demands set forth in the Civil Society’s Charter of Demands concerning Human Rights for 2018 Elections.

Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club, the representatives of the civil society organizations, particularly rights based groups, trade unions, business groups, intellectuals and professional organizations such as bar councils, medical staff, journalist unions especially those representing the interests and rights of youth, women and minorities’ released the Charter.

They pointed out that the state of Pakistan is committed and responsible for the well being, progress of its people to be achieved through and in regard to the promises made in the constitution of Pakistan as well as its international obligations including UN treaties, SDGS, GSP+ and similar other international obligations.

“We are committed to addressing and upholding the supremacy of law, fundamental rights and dignity of all citizens,” they stated. The civil society groups present this charter of demands reiterating their resolve to support the political processes and systems as pre-requisites for democratic and accountable and inclusive governance responsive enough towards recognizing, respecting, protecting and fulfilling the universally acknowledged rights of the people of Pakistan.

The Charter chalks out the demands of various groups of the society for empowering women; ensuring protection and safety of children; countering the youth bulge; providing accessible and quality education; ensuring workers rights, ensuring the rights of religious minorities; ensuring the rights of transgender persons and enabling spaces for civic actions.

The Charter asked the political parties to pledge that local laws will be amended according to UN obligations Pakistan has agreed to; in consonance with the UN Declaration of Human rights Defenders, implement measures to ensure the safety and security of defenders in the country.

They underlined the need to ensure active dialogue with civil society and citizens at large to ensure policy formulation at all levels is participatory and governance is effective; while progress regarding developments for the FATA reforms are welcomed the process of reforms and policy implementation should be based in accordance with the feedback of the people of FATA.

Given the increasing number of enforced disappearances and the lack of action by the existing Commission a new independent Commission should be formed to tackle enforced disappearances, or the existing Commission should be revamped to include investigation experts.

Political parties and the State at large should view civil society members as counterparts in the struggle to overcome the shared challenges faced by the country. The current policy of opposition towards the civil society members and branding members as foreign agents is counterproductive for the country as a whole.

The country has a large number of population in the IDP status, the government should have the National Policy for IDPs and recognised UN Guiding Principles for IDPs including Pinheiro Principle to ensure non-discrimination and resettlement of internally displaced person.

Civil society organisations that have endorsed the Charter included Women In Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), South Asia Partnership- Pakistan (SAP-PK), Blue Veins, Pakistan Coalition for Education, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), Aurat Foundation, Centre for Social Justice, NOW Communities, Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Legal Aid & Awareness Services(LAAS), Khwendo Kor, Noor Education Trust, SPARC, Takra Qabailee Khwendy, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), National Council for Minority Rights, Human Rights Committee of Pakistan.

The political parties that have been submitted this Charter included: Pakistan Muslim League PML-Q, Balochistan National Party (BNP), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), JUI-F, Pakhtoonkhwa Mali Awami Party (PkMAP), Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , MQM, Jamat Islami, Qaumi Watan Party, Awami National Party, PML-F.