On the 14th of March 2023, GHRD organised a parallel event at the UNHRC in Geneva in the context of the 52nd session of the Council. The event, focused on highlighting the human rights situation in Pakistan, featured four experts: Lakhu Luhana (Secretary General of the World Sindhi Congress), Dr. Naseer Dashti (UK based Baloch Human Rights Council President), Thierry Valle (President of the Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience) and Manel Msalmi (expert on climate change, gender equality and the Arab spring).
Multiple concerns were raised concerning the rights of various minorities in Pakistan. First, Mr. Luhana brought the attention of the public to the ongoing absence of relief and support for the Sindhi people suffering from the rains and flood that devastated the Sindh region. Luhana described the situation as an active genocide of the Sindh people perpetrated by the Pakistani government due to the lack of effective response to the situation, highlighting that no boats or other form of relief were sent to rescue individuals who were then deliberately left to die while diseases developped quickly in the murky waters. The UN OCHA reported on this absence of governmental action to rehabilitate the region, stating on the 9th of March 2023 that 1.8 million people were still living in direct contact to contaminated waters due to the flood.
Then, Dr. Naseer Dashti pulled the focus to the case of enforced disappearances in the Balochistan region, particularly affecting activists and human rights defenders. This situation is exacerbated by the absence of coverage of the situation by international media and NGO, leading to a near complete erasure from the international agenda. Dr. Dashti states that nearly a million people were forcibly displaced as a consequence of these attacks often leading to extrajudicial killings.
Following this, Thierry Valle presented a short summary of the role of the UN and European Union in protecting minorities in Pakistan. He highlights the potential positive role of the General Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) mechanism as a tool to push for sustainable development and good governance.
Finally, Manel Msalmi spoke about the crime of blasphemy in Pakistan. Accusations of blasphemy often lead to killings, often extrajudicial at the hands of male muslim mobs. She showed how such laws encourage religious intolerance. She advocates for the necessity to educate people, starting at a young age, to prevent radicalisation to limit this rise of ‘mob justice’. To frequently, being accused of blasphemy systematically leads to death without investigation or trial - Pakistan still applies the death penalty, there are reports of minors being put on death row.
This event was closed by an interactive dialogue with the public. Various interesting questions were brought up. One audience member made a strong statement in connecting the, apparently man-made, flood in the Sindh region to a similar man made flood that occurred in Assam affecting the Royingha population in the area drastically. Altogether, this event ends on a call to the international community, particularly here at the UN, to listen to human rights defenders and activists in the region of Pakistan in order to provide fundamentally necessary relief and support to minority groups and prevent the continuation of grave human rights violations.