KARACHI: In a meeting with a Human Rights Watch team, PPP Patron-in Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reaffirmed his commitment to protecting human rights across Pakistan and especially in Sindh where the PPP controls the provincial government.
HRW’s Pakistan director, Ali Dayan Hasan expressed appreciation for the Patron-in-Chief’s stated commitment to human rights on behalf of HRW executive director Ken Roth and Asia director Brad Adams. Mr. Hasan appraised the patron of HRW’s recent fact-finding mission to Sindh. Matters of mutual concern including the problem of “ghost schools” in the province, the drought in Thar and militancy in Karachi came up for discussion.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed concern over the education situation in the province and reiterated his Party’s resolve to improve the system, to address cases of local mismanagement and corruption in the education sector and to provide free education to every child. The PPP Patron in Chief hoped that the recently approved Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP) 2014-2018 will play a major part in the reform push needed for mitigating the education emergency.
“I have committed on behalf of my party that we will deal with issues bedevilling education in the province on a priority basis. While there is no quick-fix, I do not make empty promises and intend to keep my word,” the Patron-in-chief told HRW. The PPP leader asked HRW to provide its detailed findings on the issue of alleged ghost schools and to share recommendations on the matter with the provincial authorities. He requested the Sindh provincial authorities to report progress in light of input on the issue from HRW and others.
On the Thar drought, the Patron-in-Chief informed HRW of the efforts of the Sindh government to deal with the emergency and his personal efforts to improve the situation and ease the plight of ordinary people. He emphasized that compensation had been announced for victims, that medical and food supplies had been rushed to the region, and that both bureaucrats and ruling politicians from the PPP found guilty of negligence had faced disciplinary action. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke of his visit to Thar to oversee relief efforts and assured HRW that he would continue to monitor the situation as required.
“Of course, we regret the suffering of our people and feel their pain and easing that is and should always our first priority. That is why I rushed to Thar despite Taliban threats to target me,’” the Patron-in-chief said. “However, the drought cycle in Thar has been 30-40 years in the making- and requires long-term measures and the input of experts to address issues of environmental degradation and resource mismanagement,” the Patron clarified. “We will undoubtedly address these issues and ensure that vulnerable people are protected in Thar but short-sighted condemnation alone is not a solution to a serious long-term problem.”
The PPP Patron-in-Chief reaffirmed his commitment to fighting extremism and militancy in all its forms. He told HRW that a rights-respecting society, which was his ambition for Pakistan, could only be achieved by holding extremists accountable for atrocities that had resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Pakistanis. Bilawal requested HRW to take further steps to highlight the suffering of Pakistan’s people, its law-enforcement agencies and its army in the fight against terrorism. Ali Dayan Hasan said that HRW would continue to highlight all rights abuses including those by extremists internationally and also engage with the federal government, all provincial governments and other stake-holders on improving human rights in Pakistan.
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