JAC raps critics of Asma’s UN role
13 March 2008
LAHORE: The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights has condemned the criticism by various organisations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jehangir on her UN Mission to Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gujrat concerning rights violations. JAC Convener Shahtaj Qazilbash said in a statement the mandate Asma had been entrusted with by the UN was limited to the issue of freedom of religion or belief. The UN special Rapporteurs, she said, were required to engage with all stakeholders, including government officials, victims, perpetrators, NGOs and other members of civil society that had any relevance to their mandate. She said it would be absurd on part of any UN Special Rapporteur to refuse meeting people fearing criticism from fellow citizens or for that matter to expand their mandate because of their national or religious background. The UN Rapporteurs, she said, worked in a truly professional way and were required to remain independent in their reporting. It was, therefore, crucial that while on a mission the Rapporteurs stayed within their mandate and at the same time tried to meet all the players as discussion were required with all sides in order to get the full picture, she added. She expressed the hope that the public opinion in Pakistan would allow Asma to perform her role in the international community in an impartial manner as the independence of UN mandate holders was vital to the functioning of the whole system of the special rapporteurs. Meanwhile, the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) also defended Asma’s role. LP’s Farooq Tariq said in a statement that Asma was visiting India as the official representative of the United Nations for gathering information about the treatment being meted out to religious minorities and not as the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Condemning the Jamat-i-Islami and other religious groups for starting a ‘propaganda campaign’ against Asma, Mr Tariq said her detractors had forgotten the efforts made by her for the recovery of missing persons, most of whom belonged to religious parties. He said the LPP would start demonstrations in Asma’s defence in case the ‘religious bigots’ did not stop their campaign against her immediately.