LAHORE: The International Human Rights Day was observed in Punjab at different levels on Thursday.

The Provincial Department of the Ministry of Human Rights and Minority marked the day with a simple ceremony at the Governor House, with only a handful of people attending because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Provincial minister HR&MA Ijaz Alam Augustine, parliamentary secretary Human Rights Mahinder Pal Singh, MNA Jamshaid Thompson, MPA Haroon Imran Gill, head of Unique Group of Colleges Prof Amjad Ali Khan, political and religious leaders, and representatives of civil society were present at the event.

The Director of the HR department Mohammad Yousaf highlighted the importance of the International Day of Human Rights and Secretary Nadeem-u-Rehman briefed on measures taken by the department for the betterment of the religious minorities. However, the department officials spoke mostly on the topic of atrocities that were taking place in Kashmir, and condemned it.

Children of the Girls’ Guide Association presented a skit to highlight the issues of women and children in society.

Meanwhile, Mahinder Pal Singh also spoke about the condition of the Sikh farmers of India and condemned the brutality against them.

Expanding on the topic of Kashmir, Ijaz Alam Augustine said that the Modi government was violating Article 137 while it was also very shocking to see the Indian government’s suppression of farmers protesting new laws which would endanger their livelihood. He said that the Indian government has to engage in open dialogue with farmers rather than use of water cannons and tears gas.

Speaking about the domestic issues, he said that many new initiatives had been taken to eliminate child labour across the province, and more effective legislation regarding the rights of women, especially girls, was also under working. He said that the government was bringing Violence against Women Centres (VAWC) in different districts of Punjab. He added that while laws protecting women were there, the government was also working to bring laws to protect children as well.

“This government has brought about more than a hundred programs in Punjab with the collaboration of the civil society and welfare institutions,” he said. “Today there must be a pledge that no humiliation of any human should be tolerated. Not only should we speak against intolerance, if it is happening in front of us, we must also try and stop it, not just resort to making videos of it. The Punjab government is an ally of the youth and will always safeguard their rights as well.”

At the end of the ceremony shields were distributed among representatives of Bargad, Youth Democratic Front, SPO, Human Friends, Good Thinker Organization, Faces of Pakistan and Unique Group of Colleges.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the chairperson of the Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Organization said that violations of human rights destroy societies both morally and socially and that India had been oppressing innocent people in occupied Jammu and Kashmir for decades. The present government has drawn the attention of the international community to this issue by raising its voice against this violation of human rights on every platform.

Regarding rights of children, she said that the Punjab government is taking special measures to protect the rights of children along with other citizens. “Children are an important part of our society and a valuable asset and they need intensive care,” said Sarah Ahmed.

“The Child Protection and Welfare Bureau will continue its efforts to protect the basic rights of children, education, health and mental development.”

“On Human Rights Day today, I would like to stress the importance of child rights. Children are important & must be treated with utmost care. They are our assets.”

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020

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