12/10/2016, 11.50
PAKISTAN
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Human Rights Day in Lahore: The government must stop all discrimination

by Shafique Khokhar

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Press Club, displaying placards and chanting slogans. Disabled, trans-gender, women, men and children have called for respect of minorities, the guarantee and protection of the fundamental rights of each individual.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Men, women and children belonging to the most marginalized segments of Pakistani society gathered yesterday in front of the Lahore Press Club for an event to mark World Human Rights Day. Gypsies, workers in brick kilns, trans-gender people, people with disabilities and members of religious minorities have joined chanting slogans against discrimination and against the government's failure in defending human rights.

The event was organized with the collaboration of the Center for Human Rights Education of Pakistan and the Rwadari Tehreek (Movement for tolerance). Participants in the march have asked Islamabad for equal opportunities for work and education, the right to justice, to health, to a clean environment and water.

Samson Salamat, director of the Centre for Human Rights Education, spoke to the crowd saying: "The International Day of Human Rights is a reminder to our government and our institutions to guarantee fundamental rights, which are key to better society. It should be a priority to create a society where all citizens are treated equally and without discrimination. " Instead, said Salamat, "the space for civil society is shrinking, and this is not a healthy sign for Pakistan."

Taking the floor, Rizwan Gill, president of Rwadari Tehreek, said that "the government is linked to its constitutional responsibility to stop all forms of discrimination and to ensure the proper treatment of all, especially of religious minorities." Samuel Pyara, member of the organizing committee of the movement, said the government’s attitude towards minorities to date is "rather alarming, and this has a direct impact on citizens' civil liberties."

The demonstrators asked the government to stop of all types of hate speech that instill violence against minorities. As is the case in the province of Sindh, the Provincial Commission on minorities must be established through an act of parliament. The marchers are demanding that 2017 be called "year of Rwadari" (tolerance and religious harmony) to defeat religious extremism, terrorism and the threat to human rights.

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