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HRCP to Send Fact Finding Mission to Balochistan 

02 Mei 2011 12:46:46 nm

HRCP to Send Fact Finding Mission to Balochistan

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is sending a special Fact-Finding (FF) mission to Balochistan. Teams of the mission will visit Turbat, Khuzdar and Quetta to get first hand knowledge about the human rights situation in different regions of the province.

The HRCP mission teams will hold meetings with the members of the families of disappeared persons including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs, many of whom were killed and their dead bodies thrown on roadside) lawyers, teachers, students, political parties leaders, representatives of business, industry and trade unions, political leaders and Government officials.

HRCP slams govt as abducted HRD’s body found near Ormara 

29 April 2011 08:59:45

HRCP slams govt as abducted HRD’s body found near Ormara

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep shock and outrage over the barbaric murder of abducted Human Rights Defender (HRD) and HRCP Core Group Coordinator for Pasni, Siddique Eido, whose tortured body was found from Ormara on Thursday. The Commission slammed the government’s failure to ensure Siddique’s safe recovery and urged justice for his murder.

A statement issued by the Commission says: “Since Siddique Eido’s abduction by men in security forces uniforms on December 21 last, HRCP had been demanding that the government ensured his immediate recovery. The uniforms of his abductors and the vehicles they had used gave credence to the belief that state agents were involved. Siddique had been abducted in the presence of several policemen, but despite such clear evidence no action was taken to publicly identify or prosecute his abductors and secure his release. Siddique had worked to highlight incidents of enforced disappearance and other human rights violations in the region and recently his own disappearance had also been challenged in the Supreme Court. HRCP had repeatedly highlighted threats to Siddique’s life in communications to the government and security forces officials and is devastated that not enough was done to save Siddique’s life. HRCP is disappointed beyond words by the degree of official inaction and callousness which amounts to collusion in Siddique’s murder.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time in 2011 that a human rights defender associated with HRCP has been targeted. On March 1, HRCP Core Group Coordinator for Khuzdar, Naeem Sabir, was shot and killed. His killers remain at large. These murders highlight the grave threats that human rights defenders in Balochistan face on account of their work.

HRCP demands that the government make up for its abject condonation of criminality by making sure that Siddique’s murderers are brought to justice in an open and fair trial. Also the state cannot ignore its duty to compensate the families of Siddique Eido, Naeem Sabir and other persons killed after abduction by security personnel.

HRCP has also demanded that the government should stop and prevent harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Balochistan. It is important to create conditions where they can carry out their work without fear.

Safety of journalists remains under threat 

27 Desember 2010 02:11:17

Safety of journalists remains under threat

According to the CPJ, the countries ranked the highest for journalism-related killings are Pakistan (8), Iraq (4), Honduras (3) and Mexico (3)

ISLAMABAD, December 24, 2010: The United Nations agency mandated to defend freedom of expression and press freedom has called for improved safety for journalists and other media professionals working in areas of conflict or social unrest so they can carry out their duties.

The call follows the publication last week of year-end analysis by the non-governmental organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which found that at least 42 journalists were killed in 2010.

“While the number of journalists killed in 2010 represents a decline from previous years, it nonetheless remains unacceptably high and underlines the violence that journalists confront on a daily basis,” stated Irina Bokova, the director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

According to the CPJ, suicide attacks and violent street protests caused an unusually high proportion of deaths. In addition, the countries ranked the highest for journalism-related killings are Pakistan (8), Iraq (4), Honduras (3) and Mexico (3).

Ms. Bokova also deplored the death of Iraqi television journalist Omar Rasim al-Qaysi, who was killed in a suicide bombing on December 12. Mr. al-Qaysi, an anchor working for the satellite television channel Al-Anbar TV, died when a car bomb exploded as he was walking to work in central Ramadi in al-Anbar province.

His brother Mustafa al-Qaysi, a cameraman for the same channel, was injured in the attack, which killed at least 13 people and injured 40. The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

“As bombings and attacks continue in Iraq and other areas of conflict or social unrest, journalists are paying an unacceptably high toll for defending the basic right of freedom of expression,” said Ms. Bokova.

“I call on the Government of Iraq, and on the governments of all countries where similar campaigns of violence are being waged, to do their utmost to improve security conditions. Only then will journalists be able to carry out their important work in relative safety.”

Latest murder underlines dangers faced by journalists: UN 

26 Desember 2010 06:30:59

Latest murder underlines dangers faced by journalists: UN

A senior United Nations official has called on Pakistani authorities to probe the murder of a journalist gunned down in the south-western province of Balochistan this week, the fourth media professional to be killed in the country in less than two weeks.

Muhammad Khan Sasoli, 36, worked as a correspondent for Royal TV and the INP news agency in Khuzdar and was the president of the town’s press club. He was shot four times by two men on a motorcycle outside his home and died instantly on December 14.

Irina Bokova, the director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), condemned the murder, which follows the killing of three Pakistani journalists in two separate incidents on December 6.

“Acts of violence against journalists represent attacks on freedom of expression. Only by protecting this fundamental right can we have democratic societies,” she said in a press release.

“I call upon the authorities to do their utmost to investigate this crime and arrest the perpetrators, in order to put a stop to violence against journalists in Pakistan. Three other journalists died this month in Pakistan besides Sasoli, a fact that underlines the extreme dangers faced by media professionals in the country.”

Altaf Chandio was reportedly shot dead outside his home in Sindh province on December 6, while Abdul Wahab and Pervez Khan were killed in a suicide bombing in the north-west tribal area on the same day.

Flood victims start to settle into new homes, earn livelihood 

12 Desember 2010 10:01:35

Flood victims start to settle into new homes, earn livelihood

Fifty families uprooted by devastating floods earlier this year in northernmost province of Gilgit-Baltistan have moved into new houses they helped to build with support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The families are the first among thousands of people who will help to build and then reside in disaster-resistant structures in Gilgit-Baltistan where about 87,000 people, or 10 percent of the province’s population, have been displaced by floods and landslides since July.

“One of the first steps in rebuilding lives is to help people get a roof over their heads,” said Abdul Qadir, UNDP Environment Specialist in Pakistan. “Getting people into proper accommodation before winter comes is one of our important goals.”

Some 500 disaster-proof houses are initially planned for about 4,500 people in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Hunza Nagar and Ghizer districts and in the Chitral region of neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In these combined areas, more than 3,300 houses were destroyed or damaged, affecting more than 29,000 people and killing 192.

The houses, made of poplar wood, stone masonry and water-resistant roofs, are each 400 square feet and cost the equivalent of US$1,000. The interior -- living room, kitchen, storage space, and washroom -- is insulated to protect inhabitants from harsh winters.

Inhabitants themselves were involved in digging the houses’ foundations and collecting stones for their construction as part of an income-generating programme run by UNDP for local flood-affected populations.

One recipient of a house in Gilgit, Bibi Roshan, 54 and mother of six children, is due to move into her new accommodation at the end of this month: “This house is a blessing,” she said. “It has brought new light and hope to our lives after I lost everything, my house, my land and my cattle.”

Responding to the huge need for shelter and the success of the Gilgit housing project, UNDP will build houses in other parts of the country, especially in Sindh province’s worst-affected Thatta district where an estimated one million people have been displaced by the floods.

The efforts are part of US$120 million early recovery programme launched by the Government of Pakistan and UNDP to restore livelihoods through job creation, repair of basic community infrastructure, and strengthening of local government offices.

UNDP shifted from its pre-existing programme activities as soon as the floods started in order to reach the worst affected communities. It had already piloted disaster-resistant and energy-efficient houses as part of infrastructure strengthening efforts.

More resources vital for flood relief efforts: UN official 

12 Desember 2010 10:00:28

More resources vital for flood relief efforts: UN official

 The United Nations humanitarian chief has urged the international community to provide the necessary resources to assist the millions of people in Pakistan who are still in need of vital assistance some four months after floods inundated large portions of the South Asian nation.

“There is a continuing need for a strong financial response and I want to see attention focused on this immense human tragedy,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told a press conference in New York.

The $2 billion appeal for aid for Pakistani flood victims made in September, the largest-ever launched by the UN and its partners for a natural disaster, is currently 49 per cent funded.

“This is an emergency which will continue for months to come, and considerable relief efforts will continue to be necessary alongside recovery activities and development work,” said Ms. Amos, who just returned from a visit to Pakistan last week, her second since the disaster.

Reporting on what had already been achieved, she said that last month alone, the UN and its partners delivered food to 6 million people. In addition, more than 4.3 million people have access to safe drinking water on a daily basis, emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 4.7 million people, and more than 7 million are benefiting from essential healthcare.

“But there is still a great deal to do,” stated Ms. Amos, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“The floods in Pakistan are slowly falling out of the headlines but people are still experiencing an acute emergency situation which requires international attention.”

The floods that began in late July affected some 20 million people across the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, and damaged schools, health centres, important infrastructure such as sanitation systems, bridges and roads, and destroyed croplands.

Large portions of the hardest-hit areas are still under water, noted Ms. Amos, adding that while approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the water has now receded, it might take another three to five months for the rest of the water to recede, particularly in Sindh.

“People are still living in a very precarious situation, many totally dependent on humanitarian assistance,” she said.

“And with winter now setting in, I’m concerned that more needs to be done to ensure that particularly those who are vulnerable have a roof over their heads.”

Flood-affected people in need of more assistance 

04 Desember 2010 12:25:38 nm

Flood-affected people in need of more assistance

The United Nations humanitarian chief has visited the flood-ravaged area of Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh to review relief efforts among people still suffering from the effects of the deluge that cut a swathe across the country four months ago following torrential rainfall.

“Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster is far from over,” said Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, on the second day of her four-day visit to Pakistan.

Millions of people in Pakistan are still living without basic necessities after their homes and sources of livelihood were washed away or damaged by the floods that swamped the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan along the Indus River basin following heavy monsoon rains that began in July.

“A lot has been done, but there is much more to do,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Four months on, there are still long lines of tents along dykes and dams. Even the strongest are growing weary. It is critical that we continue to assist the people of Pakistan during this devastating emergency.”

Out of an estimated 18 million people affected by the floods, close to 7.2 million are in Sindh.

Ongoing relief efforts have made it possible for more than two million people in Sindh to have access to safe water, and more than 4.3 million others have received food assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

High levels of malnutrition and a risk of an outbreak of disease, however, remain a concern, with children and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. Large areas of Sindh remain under water, with nearly half a million homes destroyed and one million people displaced.

In Sehwan district, Ms. Amos met families who are still living in camps. They spoke of their difficulties and their desire to return home to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

She also met representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), UN agencies and local government officials in Sehwan to discuss the continuing challenges in the relief effort.

“People are worried about the future -- for many of them even when the waters recede, they will have nothing to go back to,” said Ms. Amos.

Last month, the UN and its partners delivered food to six million people. In total, more than 4.3 million people have access to safe drinking water on a daily basis, emergency shelter materials have been distributed to 4.7 million people, and more than seven million people have benefited from health care.

Unesco head condemns journalist’s death 

27 November 2010 12:40:27 nm

Unesco head condemns journalist’s death

The chief of the United Nations agency that defends press freedom has condemned the recent murder of a Pakistani journalist, calling it an attack on democracy.

According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Abdul Hameed Hayatan, 25, became the 11th Pakistani journalist to die this year when he was found dead in a canal near Turbat in western Pakistan’s Balochistan province last week, along with his friend, Hamid Ismail.

“An act of violence on a journalist is not only a crime against the individual victim. It also represents an attack on freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right and a cornerstone of democratic society,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Director-General Irina Bokova.

“I call on the authorities in Pakistan to spare no effort in investigating this murder and bringing the culprits to justice.”

Hameed, known also as Lala Hameed Baloch, worked mainly for the Urdu-language daily ‘Intikhab’. He was found dead on November 18 with gunshot wounds after disappearing from his hometown of Gwadar on October 25.

According to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) statistics, four of the 11 journalists killed in Pakistan this year were killed in the Balochistan province.

Zidane, Ronaldo to play for Pakistan, Haiti in charity match 

24 November 2010 11:01:13

Zidane, Ronaldo to play for Pakistan, Haiti in charity match

ISLAMABAD, November 24, 2010: World champion footballers and United Nations goodwill ambassadors Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane have announced that the 8th Annual Match Against Poverty will raise funds for the nearly 25 million people affected by the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods.

The two men, who use their celebrity status to promote the anti-poverty work of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), will mobilise their all-star team to challenge Greek-side Olympiacos in a friendly on December 15.

The match, which will be played at Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, Greece, is part of the global campaign to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the targets to slash poverty, hunger, disease and other social ills, all by 2015.

“With five years left to accomplish the set of eight goals,” said Zidane, “I hope this 8th Annual Match Against Poverty will help communicate a sense of urgency that we all need to join the team to end poverty now.”

UNDP will receive half of the match’s proceeds, which will go to ongoing relief efforts in Haiti and Pakistan.

“Our goal with this 8th Match Against Poverty is to support the people and governments of Pakistan and Haiti to recover from the devastating natural disasters which affected them so terribly in 2010,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, expressing gratitude to Zidane and Ronaldo for raising awareness for those “who are often too quickly forgotten.”

Olympiacos Football Club owner Evangelos Marinakis also voiced hope that the match would bring people around the globe together and break down barriers.

“Using football’s magic driving force, Olympiacos F.C. is on the pitch to raise an appeal against poverty and mobilise action towards achieving the MDGs,” he said.

Olympiacos will donate its share of the proceeds to parents of children with special needs, as well as to homeless and disadvantaged communities in Piraeus.

Earlier this year, the 7th Annual Match took place in Lisbon, Portugal, where Zidane, Ronaldo and the UNDP goodwill team played Benfica and raised more than a half million Euro for the people of Haiti.

Proceeds from previous matches have benefited anti-poverty initiatives ranging from support to female entrepreneurs to the construction of sports centres for street children and the disadvantaged throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Research exposes flaws in Flood Damages and Needs Assessment 

19 November 2010 03:04:00

Research exposes flaws in Flood Damages and Needs Assessment

By: Sohail Rashid

ISLAMABAD November 11, 2010: An independent research study conducted by a group of concerned civil society organisations exposed major flaws in Flood Damages and Needs Assessment (FDNA) conducted by World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

This was revealed during a civil society consultation on FDNA organised by Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI) Islamabad under the umbrella of Pakistan Debt Cancellation Campaign (PDCC).

Preliminary findings of study indicate secrecy and lack of information disclosure on part of World Bank and ADB compound issues of authenticity of FDNA. The survey teams employed by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) were not trained proper. Even the concerned line departments were not aware of the whole process which was shut to most of the stake holders. This makes the FDNA far from all encompassing and is marred repeatedly by lack of coordination and clarity among the assessment teams and line departments.

There are issues of quality and completeness. 88% of the communities told that the assessment teams did not assess the damage caused to the housing structures. 91% said the visiting teams did not inquire about loss of live stock occurred at household level. 83% households told that the assessment teams just stayed at a particular point like village shop etc and collected the information.

Rest of the people told that the teams stayed with some political or influential figure of the village only. 79% told that teams did not go into fields to assess the losses to crops and fields.

On the other hand, 2/3rd of the officials said that they have not been provided any training, orientation for the FDNA. 2/3rd expressed their inability providing a copy of

the assessment form, while rest of them said that they could provide it on later stage. More than half of the officials 52% claimed the assessment in their districts had been competed, rest said that it was in process. Of the 36 local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) interviewed in nine districts, more than half 56% expressed their ignorance about the FDNA.

The concerned civil society group composed of 28 organisations fear a hasty FDNA being undertaken by those who are also Pakistani major lenders will end up in proposing projects and strategies that will benefit their own interests instead of 20 million flood affectees.

The participants demanded on the government to go for a comprehensive damage need assessment by involving CSOs of affected communities and IFI’s FDNA and its process must be made public, presented and debated in the parliament and in all provincial assemblies.

The consultation was also aimed at mobilizing public opinion over the genuineness and validity of debt cancellation demands. The participants observed Pakistan’s existing foreign debt stands at 55 billion $ which is projected to increase to 73 billion $ by 2014. This year Pakistan will be required to pay 2.9 billion $ for servicing it’s foreign debts- an amount that is three times to Pakistan’s health budget and is double of 1.5 billion $ figure which USA has committed for this year to Pakistan under much talked about Kerry-Lugar Bill.

In a country where the economy has already suffered losses of more than 40 billion $ since 2001 owing to the menace of terrorism and where poverty and unemployment are rampant, the poor people of Pakistan can’t afford the additional burden of new loans and tough conditionality of structural adjustment programs being harshly imposed by IFI’s like IMF.

The members of the civil society stressed in their today’s meeting that what Pakistan actually needs at this time is a breathing space to have resources for reconstruction and rehabilitation and socio economic development. This is only possible through a favourable international response in shape of foreign debt cancellation so that the freed up resources could be directed to flood reconstruction and rehabilitation.

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