ISLAMABAD: H.E. Marcel de Vink, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Pakistan attended the launching ceremony of the Rights of Expression, Assembly, Association and Thought (REAT) Network Secretariat, at a local hotel, on Friday.
While addressing at the occasion Ambassador de Vink, welcomed the launch of the REAT network. “I’m proud that the Netherlands has been at the start of this important effort”. He expressed his concern about the many human rights challenges Pakistan faces, not least, the rising marginalization of religious communities. He said: “Let’s not forget that minority rights are human rights and human rights are minority rights. The Rule of Law is there for all. Equal citizenry, as is mentioned in article 25 of the constitution, is critical for social cohesion and peace.” He also highlighted the importance of the judgment of the Supreme Court, which that was passed last year. “This judgment of the Supreme Court was a landmark for minority rights. In this context it is significant that it lists 7 points where the Government is asked to take action. “As friends of Pakistan we would like to work closely with Pakistan on the important work yet to be done.” He continued: “It is also important in the context of GSP+ which demands, in return for trade preferences, the effective implementation of the obligations under international conventions on human and labour rights”. The Government of the Netherlands had started the Human Rights Fund in Pakistan in 2008 with a vision to help guarantee equal human rights for all Pakistanis, as is mentioned in Pakistan’s Constitution. REAT Initiative is also supported by the Government of the Netherlands.
Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Chairman REAT Network, Mr. Krishan Sharma introduced the REAT Network as one of the largest civil society initiatives in Pakistan working on the rights of religious minorities. He highlighted the objectives, aims and achievements of the network and informed the audience that through its concerted efforts, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh passed two resolutions on job quota and forced conversions. REAT initiatives also worked with Sindh Government to include the speech of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the curriculum which was announced on 23rd march by the party leadership. On the other hand, the Baluchistan government adopted ethics as subject in the course to be taught in the educational institutions at grassroots level, he added.
Mr Muhammad Arshad DG Ministry of Law Justice and Human Rights (MoLJHR) while talking on this occasion he pledged support for REAT Network especially for its Early Warning Initiative. REAT Network has introduced first time the concept of Early Warning System. He has lauded civil society efforts for promotion and protection of minority rights in the country and urged all stakeholders to join hands with the Government for effective implementation of laws. Mr. Justice (R) Mehta Kailash Nath Kohli spoke on the overall situation of minorities in Pakistan, Chairperson NCSW Ms. Khawar Mumtaz spoke on the status of Women, while Mr. Gareth Aicken, Country Representative, The Asia Foundation, Pakistan, and other members of the REAT Network also highlighted the achievements of the initiative and requested the participants to support the network. A notable highlight of the event was Sufi Kalam and candle light for a Peaceful and Just Pakistan.