Agenzia Fides REPORT- Increase efforts to protect human rights, enact laws on crucial issues such as torture, education and women's rights: is what the Pakistani government has asked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the country (4-7 June). "All the rights must be guaranteed to all people in Pakistan, regardless of their sex, religion, social group," she remarked, noting that Pakistan has made some progress, but "has a long way to go in other areas", for a greater respect for human rights, in particular with regard to religious minorities. Yesterday Navi Pillay also had a direct meeting with Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National Harmony, discussing the issues that touch, in particular, religious minorities and social programs. As reported to Fides, Bhatti said that "the government is taking all possible measures to tackle problems like poverty, illiteracy and intolerance" and called on the international community to cooperate with Pakistan "to establish peace, to promote religious harmony." Bhatti recalled the existence of a "National Commission for Religious Minorities" and his work in the Ministry for National Harmony, which was born to alleviate the problems between "majority minority". Pillay praised the government's efforts for the protection of minorities, in favour of "programs of study scholarships abroad for Pakistani students."
In recent days, after a debate that lasted for months, the Pakistan president Ali Zardari signed the decree establishing the "National Commission on Human Rights," which will be tasked to monitor the situation, promote special investigation in the field of human rights. The Commission, which will be renewed every four years, will consist of 10 members: a president, one representative from each of the four Provinces and of the two Territories in which the nation is divided; two members of religious minorities; the president of the National Commission on the Status of women. At least two Commission members must be women. As learned by Fides, the Catholic Church and civil society have welcomed the step taken by the Pakistani government, hoping that "the new institution will serve to really improve the standard of protection of human rights in the country." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/06/2012)