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Political Play
Zulfiqar Shah
Crimes against humanity in Sindh and Pakistan 03 November, 2012
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabani Khar has presented a rosy human rights report in the periodical human rights review session of the United Nations in Geneva, which is an attempt to hide underway crimes against humanity in the country.

SHE HAS claimed remarkable achievements regarding rights regime in Pakistan. Her report and talk at Geneva gives an impression that Pakistan has undergone a huge transformation during last four years similar to a revolution in the governance, rights regime, and legal framework. 


The realities in Pakistan are entirely opposite to that report. If an analysis of last four years in Sindh province alone is carried regarding the Hindus exodus and ethnic cleansing, involuntarily disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and ethnically discriminative legislations, the intensity of the violations as well as denial of the rights under various treaties and declarations of United Nations will no doubt prove to be the crime against humanity.

Hindu Exodus and other forms of ethnic cleansing in Sindh
Thousands of Sindhi Hindus have been forced to quit Sindh, Pakistan, who have refuge or settled in the various countries mostly in India. Nearly 8000 Hindus from Sanghar district of Sindh, Pakistan have sought asylum in Rajasthan state of India during October 2012.  The other form of ethnic cleansing is the target killings of ethnic Sindhi, Baloch, and Pashtun in Karachi city, which is aimed to resist these peoples settlement and force the existing population to migrate from city. The state support to an ethnic violence-making group through administrative decisions and legislative initiatives is an established reality of violating the various international treaties and declarations, which are rectified by Pakistan.

In this regards, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ in Article II reads:

"….genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a. killing members of the group; b. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part…

According to the Article III of the convention, genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; attempt to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide are punishable crimes. The article IV of the treaty clearly mentions, “Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

Pakistan, being a signatory of the convention, is bound to amend the constitution in accordance with this convention so that those rulers, public officials, or political groups who commit such a crime may be punished. Besides, in the light of various resolutions of the Security Council, Hindus exodus and ethnic cleansing through terror is a crime against humanity and can lead to the trial of responsible state and not state actors under the international justice mechanism.

Ethnically discriminative Sindh Local Government Law (SPLGL)

Thirty and one days of October 2012 have shook Sindh with massive outpour and pubic disgruntlement that have led ethnic Sindhi people of the province to the streets in hundreds of thousands, caused street gun battles, murder of at least four civilians by law enforcing agencies and private armed persons and detention of 1500 protestors. At least three successful province wide shutter-down and vehicles-jam strikes have been reported so far. The law, being ethnically discriminative, violates the indigenous majority population’s right to equal participation in the governance, development and right to rule their historical motherland. It mainly is in violation of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR ) and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).    

In ICCPR , term ‘racial discrimination’ means any form of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.   

If roughly reviewed, the SPLGL is a clear violation of Article 1 (4) and Article 2(1) of ICERD, which if read in association with various concerned articles and clause of ICCPR, CECR, and ICPPED, will fall in the high degree crimes and discrimination against humanity. Article 1 (4) of ICERD reads:

"Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved."

Whereas the various clause of Article 2 (1) reads:

States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end: (a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation; (b) Each State Party undertakes not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or  organizations; (c) Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists; (d) Each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization; (e) Each State Party undertakes to encourage, where appropriate, integrationist multiracial organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between races, and to discourage anything which tends to strengthen racial division.

Numerous clause of Sindh People’s Local Government Law violate the spirit as well as various articles and clauses of ICERD. SPLGL if combined with the policies restricting Sindhi students right to study in the educational institutions as well as filters in ethnic Sindhis employment opportunities is a higher form of discrimination. Apart from administratively dividing Sindh, SPLGL ethnically discriminates through: a) resisting the process of urbanization and economic development of ethnic Sindhi population within and outside Karachi by limiting their movement and rights to the secondary and tertiary cities of the provinces; b) legalizes hegemony and monopoly of selective minority ethnic group over the majority indigenous population as well as other inhabitants of Karachi city, 3) violates ethnic Sindhi population’s right to education, economic opportunities and cultural development.      

Article 2 of the ICERD reads:

"States Parties shall, when the circumstances so warrant, take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These measures shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved."

Pakistan has already signed to adhere not to practice “racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction.” According to Article 4 (b) and (c) of the convention, Pakistan is bound to declare those organizations illegal, and prohibit the organizations that propagate activities advocating racial discrimination, and participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law. It is also bound to disallow public authorities or public institutions to promote or incite racial discrimination.

If certain clauses of SPLGL are taken into consideration along with the ethnically selective targeted killings in the city as well other discriminative steps by Sindh government, a high degree of civil and political violence would be evident. There are already some published election monitoring and observation documents by the Pakistani civil society that reports the violence and fabricated votes in some of the Karachi constituencies, which give edge to the an ethnic organization winning seats from the city undemocratically.

According to Article 5  (b) of ICERD:

The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution; (c) Political rights, in particular the right to participate in elections-to vote and to stand for election-on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, to take part in the Government as well as in the conduct of public affairs at any level and to have equal access to public service; (d) Other civil rights, in particular..(i) The right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State..(e) Economic, social and cultural rights, in particular: (i) The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favorable remuneration;(iii) The right to housing...

Besides, according to the Article 7 of the convention Pakistan has to undertake immediate and effective measures in the fields of teaching, education, culture, and information to combat racial discrimination. It is also bound to promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups.

The people of Sindh legitimately can approach the international legal framework in a vast arena through the various components of international legal framework, for which Article 15 (1) of the ICERD refers:

Pending the achievement of the objectives of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, the provisions of this Convention shall in no way limit the right of petition granted to these peoples by other international instruments or by the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

The discrimination regarding employment in Karachi as well as education policies of academic institutions in the city can be seen in contradiction with the article 6 (2) of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Besides, according to Article 13 (b) and (c) secondary and higher education in all of its forms shall be made equally accessible to all.         

If all these treaties are read in the context of SPLGL with the background of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), this law extremely negates the internal rights regime.

According to the Article 7 (2) indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace, and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence. Article 8 abstains their forced assimilation or destruction of their culture and makes bound the States to prevent as well as redress their cultural values, ethnic identities, control over land as well as (geographical) territories, their forced transfer or migration from any part of their historical land and other (natural) resources (like coasts, rivers, lakes etc), as well as “any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them”.

Article 10 of the declaration abstains their forcibly removal from their lands or territories. According to the Article 15 (2) “States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.”

According to Article 26 (1) (2) and (3) indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop, and control the lands, territories, and resources, which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired and States are bound to ensure this. Article 32 (1) reaffirms that indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

Involuntarily disappearances

The September 2012 visit of UN mission on Involuntary Disappearances of Sindh and Balochistan province to hold meetings with the political parties, civil society groups, and families of victims in which the cases and details of thousands of abducted activists were highlighted.

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) categorically ensure binding on the signatory countries to abstain any form of enforced disappearance by the state agents or the groups in any circumstances including war, threat of war or internal political instability. The act is termed criminal and a widespread and systematic practice of disappearance is a crime against humanity and is applicable / punishable under international law according to Articles 1, 2, 4 and 5.

If only three currently highly discussed issues of Hindu exodus; ethnic discrimination and cleansing; and enforced disappearances are reviewed, one of the severe most crime against humanity in South Asia is being held with the Sindhi people. The case of Balochistan is also similar.

Conclusion
Pakistan, basically, is undergoing the state crises. It has attempted a chemistry change in the nature of the state apparatus. State, globally, is considered a power structure of a country, which has legitimacy to use the violence through certain law enforcing agencies. The crises in Pakistan is that besides undergoing six decades of ethnic, linguistic and religious discriminations in almost all individual, social, political, economic and cultural aspects, it has shared its legitimacy to use violence with the non-state actor that carry the ethnic, racial and religious discrimination and almost virtual apartheid. This is high time when along with the legal framework, Pakistan need to undone all the gross right violations against millions of ethnic nationalities of Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun as well as religious minorities of Pakistan. The role of Pakistani and global civil society and actor becomes crucial here.           


Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Zulfiqar Shah is a stateless activist, analyst, and researcher. Although he is a refugee, and living a life in exile, he is a born Sindhi and South Asian. Currently he lives in India.
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