SAHR calls for sustained peace talks, easier visas
LAHORE: Bureau members of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a non-government organisation (NGO), met on Friday and Saturday in Lahore and discuss the human rights situation in the region. The organisation noted that efforts were underway to end internal and external conflicts that have affected the peace and stability in the region, said a declaration on Sunday.
According to the declaration, SAHR bureau members praised peace efforts between Pakistan and India and called upon South Asian governments to address all issues through a sustained dialogue. The organisation showed concern over the worsening security situation in the region, especially the growing extremism, and called it unfortunate that some secular politicians were also playing up religious affiliations to fulfil their political agendas.
SAHR noted that though some special laws, that subverted the process of law had been repealed, several others were still in force that were harming the public. The organisation expressed concern that the majority of such laws was being used in the war against terrorism.
The NGO admitted the threat of terrorism but resented the manner in which peoples’ rights were being curtailed on the pretext of combating terrorism. The bureau also noted the infringement of freedom of expression in some South Asian countries and urged the people of the regions to vigilantly counter such tendencies.
SAHR also discussed human rights violations and expressed concern over increasing extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and illegal custody cases in all parts of the region. The organisation urged civil society members to monitor the situation and address its root causes.
SAHR noted that only people-led organisations could ensure political, economical and social rights to the people of the region. The organisation welcomed India-Pakistan peace talks and suggested both governments quickly ensure an end to human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
SAHR noted the miseries of foreign prisoners and said that the NGO helped release and repatriate several such prisoners. The organisation said more success could be achieved with the partnership of civil societies and governments.
There was no data available about such prisoners so host governments should inform the consulate of the prisoner’s country soon after their arrest. Consults should be ensured free access to the prisoners.
SAHR urged the consulates to form a special cell for prisoners and exchange of prisoners should be a treated as an important confidence-building measure between South Asian countries. Such measures should be institutionalised through the adoption of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) protocol about foreign prisoners.
The NGO noted that education systems in South Asia required urgent reform, particularly curricula, which in several countries were breeding intolerance, bigotry and hatred among the youth.
SAHR said that a joint initiative should be undertaken at the SAARC level to prepare guidelines for a uniform curriculum to cater all re1igions, cultures and societies. The joint venture should identify historical inaccuracies introduced in syllabi so that the respective governments could rectify them.
SAHR said the organisation wanted to build a bridge between the people of South Asia, particularly the youth. It urged governments and civil societies to move forward to make South Asian countries centres of excellence so that future generations are able to expand their horizons through a mutual exchange of ideas and experiences.
SAHR urged governments to address public demands for peace and free interaction and said it was high time to abolish visa restrictions.