State must address South Punjab’s long-standing grievances

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) wishes to express its solidarity with flood affectees in South Punjab. We are aware that the scale of the disaster is unprecedented.

At the same time, it is clear that the role of the government and local administration in facilitating and rescuing victims has been disappointing. HRCP is gravely concerned that volunteers and NGOs that have come forward to help in disaster-hit areas are being obstructed by the administration, instead of facilitating their efforts.

The current situation has exposed the neglect that the Seraiki waseb has long suffered.

HRCP has identified these areas of neglect, which are directly responsible for continued violations of the Seraiki people’s political, economic and social rights.In its fact-finding report titled South Punjab: Excluded, Exploited, launched in Multan earlier today, HRCP has underscored women’s continuing vulnerability to harmful customary practices, forced conversions among local Hindu communities, the poor working conditions of industrial workers and bonded labourers, and allegations of unfair land allotment in Cholistan—including to the military—at the expense of local communities.

Based on field visits and consultations with government officials and civil society, the report recommends that federal and provincial stakeholders initiate a political dialogue to recognise the Seraiki identity and ensure access to formal and effective policing systems to improve law and order.

The state must also institute mechanisms to provide redressal to survivors of gender-based violence and discrimination, such as forced conversion and forced marriage, and protect the rights of transgender persons in South Punjab.

Workers’ rights to adequate wages and social security must be ensured, with district vigilance committees made fully functional to monitor and report the incidence of bonded labour.

Cholistan Desert

District-level committees must also be established to redress farmers’ grievances. Cholistan must be given special consideration in view of the chronic invisibility of its people, while land in the area should be allotted only to indigenous Cholistanis and without discrimination on the basis of religion.

National human rights institutions such as the National Commission for Human Rights and National Commission on the Status of Women must be involved at every stage to address these rights violations.

HRCP reiterates its demand for the establishment of a national commission for minorities’ rights with statutory authority.

The state must further upgrade the health, education and administrative infrastructure in the region, with sufficient budgetary allocations, particularly in extremely deprived areas such as Cholistan.

The need for sustainable infrastructure is especially urgent in light of the devastation caused by recent floods.

HRCP urges all stakeholders to work together and take swift measures to alleviate people’s concerns.

The neglect of vulnerable communities in South Punjab cannot be allowed to continue

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