LAHORE: The civil society organisations announce the launch of Pakistan Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN) in response to ever-increasing threats and intimidation of individual human rights defenders and CSOs.

Over 250 organisations are currently part of the network. It will work for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) through advocacy and by providing immediate assistance to those at risk. The network plans to liaise with existing official and unofficial protection mechanisms and work together with various organisations to ensure that those at risk are helped in time.

It also plans to engage in advocacy with the government and its various organs particularly parliament for improved protection of human rights defenders in the country.

The PHRDN is born as a result of a research done by Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD) on Human Rights Defenders detailing the high risk faced by human rights defenders in the country. It was noted that HRDs are often up against grave risks to their well being in their line of work i.e., abuse, threats, death threats, smear campaigns, arbitrary arrests, detention, forced disappearances, torture and even assassinations.

In the recent years many human rights defenders witnessed a shrinking space as far as work safety is concerned.

Rashid Rehman, Zarteef Afridi, Sabeen Mahmud, Jarar Malik, Parveen Rehman and Zafar Lund are some of the activists to have lost their lives in the line of duty.

It needs to be stressed that over-regulation by the state is not creating a conducive environment for human rights defenders’ work. As a result regions of Balochistan, FATA, KP and, South Punjab are increasingly marginalised. The declining human rights trends in turn creating a subculture of inefficiency and result in an environment of political instability.

The PHRDN demands the government to work in accordance with constitutional rights, international human rights obligations and provide more space for HRD work, and withdraw actions against civil society organisations, their closed offices should be opened.

The network stressed that more room needs to be provided to human rights defenders for building a softer image of the country and create an enabling environment for human rights defenders to counter the increasing international isolation.

The officials of the network include: national coordinator, Tanveer Jahan. Steering committee consists of Peter Jacobs (Punjab), Zulfiqar Shah (Sindh), Ali Palh (Sindh), Ghulam Jan Mengal (Balochistan), Bushra Khaliq (Punjab), Munazza Hashmi (South Punjab), Qamar Nasim (KP).

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2016

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