The delegation of the World Sindhi Congress, led by Ambreen Hisbani, Cultural Secretary, WSC participated in the 54th Session of UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held in Geneva (July 29th – August 16, 2002).
During her visit to Geneva, Ms. Hisbani met various UN officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and delegates of several countries participating the session. Ms. Hisbani got an opportunity to submit statements on Item 4 (Economic, social and cultural rights).
A statement was read by the Liberation on the State of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Sindh (Pakistan). Three issues pertinent to Sindh and Balochistan were highlighted (i) on-going construction of Thal Canal on River Indus against the will of people of Sindh (ii) Violation of Cultural Rights (iii) Denial of Self-Governance and Democracy. Liberation is an Europe based non-governmental organization that has supported anti-colonial movements since last five decades. It frequently speaks in UN forums on behalf of marginalized peoples from all over the world including Sindhis of Pakistan. Ms. Ambreen was also a Central Committee member of the Libertion for 2001-2.
Since last thirteen years, WSC have been regularly participating in this important UN event. WSC considers this participation as an important achievement because Sindhis get chance to present their case in front of international community and challenge the “official” governmental stands of Pakistan. Copies of her this statement and other statements submitted by WSC are available on http://www.worldsindhicongress.org
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54th SESSION SUB-COMMISSION ON PROMOTION AND PROTECTION
OF HUMAN RIGHTS (29th July -16th August 2002)
Item 4. Economic, social and cultural rights
State of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Sindh
Let me first congratulate on your election to preside this session, I would like to share my deep respect for your commitment to the social, economical and cultural
rights especially for the right to sustainable
development be included as the basic human rights.
It has been almost 36 years since UN General Assembly
adopted The International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights. Pakistan ratified this covenant on
21Setember 1966. Till this date today, Pakistan has not
established any laws or executed polices to protect the
basic rights of its smaller nations, women, and
We believe that crisis and instability in Pakistan
derive from the country’s composition in the present
form, in which one province, namely Punjab, has an
overwhelming domination in all spheres of power. Punjab
has dominated Pakistan through the successive military
regimes in Pakistan — almost 42 years out of its 55
years of existence Pakistan has remained under the
military rule. Peoples of smaller provinces, especially
Sindh and Balochistan, are being denied their due
political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
Today we would like to bring to your attention the
examples of gross human rights violations inflicted upon
the people of Sindh.
Building of Thal Canal
In August 2000 we made an intervention in which
Liberation showed its deep concern with the intentions
of the military government in Pakistan regarding the
proposed construction of controversial Kalabagh Dam on
River Indus. Despite rejection of the dam project by
environmental and irrigation experts and by three out of
the four provinces of Pakistan–namely, Sindh,
Balochistan and Northwest Frontier Province (Pakhtunkwa)-
-the Government of Pakistan planned to start that
environmentally and ecologically disastrous project.
On the intense protest of the Indigenous people of Sindh
and other two provinces, the military government has
temporarily suspended the Kalabagh Dam Project.
The Kalabagh Dam Project and other controversial
irrigation projects are usually executed during the non-
elected and military regimes in Pakistan.
Liberation is deeply concerned and disturbed with the on-
going work on the mega irrigation project called “Thal
Flood Water Canal” on the upper riparian of Indus. This
project will cost Rs. 30.5 billion and is designed to
carry 2.4 MAF irrigation water out from River Indus
System to cultivate 1.3 million acres of arid land in
southern Punjab. Many current and retired military
generals and tribal landlords supporting the government
own lands in this part of Punjab.
The work on the Thal Flood Water Canal was started in
August 2001, and was inaugurated by General Parvez
Musharaf, without any consensus from the Government of
Sindh or any other technical and administrative bodies
in Pakistan. Government of Sindh, people of Sindh and
many other local and international NGOs have rejected
this projects and have expressed their deep concerns
over its environmental and ecological impact on people
of Sindh residing at the lower riparian the River Indus.
Despite these human and economical, and environmental
cost to Sindh, Pakistan Government approved The Thal
Canal Project on the upper riparian of Indus River The
Indus River system cannot afford to have any more upper
riparian canal project such as Thal Canal. According to
the Water Management and Distribution Committee report,
the current flow of the Indus (four out of every five
years) is 123.59 Million Acre Foot (MAF)–approximately
15.59 MAF less than what is required to meet the bare
minimum needs of four provinces and bare survival of
Indus Delta region.
Building a new Canal with the capacity of approx. 2.4
MAF would worsen this situation even further. Thal Canal
will create various agro-ecological problems. It will
wipe out the wetlands in Sindh, some of which are
internationally protected under Ramser�s Agreement.
These wetlands provide a habitat for many plants and
animals, including many endangered species (like Blind
Liberation believes that Thal Canal Scheme is the breach
of Pakistan�s constitution, which is currently under
suspension by military government, and international
law. The Project violates the ILO Convention, 1989 (Art.
169) which states that, �It is clearly stated in
EC/CN.4/SUB.2/RES/1999/21) to promote and affirm the
rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and
resources, in particular, the indigenous and Tribal
peoples.� UN Convention on International Watercourses
(1997) was passed by General Assembly. The Convention
offers principles – such as equitable and reasonable use
and no significant harm to any party. Thal Canal
certainly violates this convention too.
Liberation believes that water is not only the issue of
environment, ecology, and culture, but it is also the
question of Peoples’ survival and security. With out the
help of international community and a broad neutral
international monitoring body, competition over water in
Pakistan could eventually lead to serious conflict.
Liberation also believes that Water dispute amelioration
is as important, more effective, and less costly, than
Violation of Cultural Rights
On cultural front, Sindhi are also facing systematic
suppression of their culture and language. Sindhi was
the official language of the region even under the
British rule but in 1948 only in one year 1500 Sindhi
medium primary schools were shutdown in main towns, and
this process is still going on. It deprives the children
of Sindh to have education in their own language. The
state-controlled media only provide less that 30 minutes
a day of Sindhi broadcast. Furthermore, Sindhi Sufi
thoughts, which are more secular in character than the
orthodox Islam, have been systematically threatened, as
the State engages itself in pan-Islamic propaganda. The
suppression of Sindhi culture and the dominance of state-
imposed social life created hopelessness among people of
Denial of Self-Governance and Democracy
Right to development, right to food, water, education,
right of intellectual and spiritual development of the
people can only be safe guarded when people are
empowered. In the modern world the name of that
empowerment is Democracy. This basic and fundamental
right of the people of Pakistan has been denied since
last three years and it is still under threat by the
current military regime.
General Musharaf-the self-imposed President of Pakistan-
recently announced a set of �constitutional amendments�
legitimizing his military dictatorship. These amendments
guarantee a permanent and dominant role for military in
all future governments in Pakistan. These new changes
grant President (Gen Musharaf) the power to dissolve
Parliament and dismiss the prime minister in any future
elected government. A so called �National Security
Council� having powers to sack the cabinet and dissolve
parliament (federal as well as provincial) will be
formed. It will also oversee the country’s governments.
This council consists of ten members out of whom the
President will appoint eight and two will be elected.
This council comprises of President (Gen Musharaf
himself), Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, four
Provincial Governors (appointed by the President), four
military service chiefs and will be presided by General
In addition, all the important positions, like the armed
forces�s chiefs as well as the vice chiefs, head of the
National Accountability Bureau, Chief Election
Commissioner, Auditor-General and several other
judicial, financial, economic and legislative positions
will be appointed by the president. Just two months ago
in May, General Musharaf conducted the Presidential
referendum to elect himself the President of Pakistan
for five years. The recent announcement secures his
fragile position by making sure that all military and
other officials and institutions remain loyal to him.
This setup in particular is going to deprive the
oppressed nations including Sindh and Balochistan from
having any share in the governance of their own
provinces or in the federal government.
It is indeed true so far that Pakistan Government has
been performing as an ally in the coalition of 69 UN
member countries in War against terrorism, but we
believe that the sole reliance on Mr. Musharaf, who is a
self-imposed President of Pakistan, would be very short
lived and may actually be counter productive.
The US State Department annual report on Pattern of
Global terrorism during 2000 released in April 2001
clearly states Government of Pakistan increasing support
to the Taliban by providing them material, fuel,
funding, technical assistance and military advisers.
These policies of extremism have not only harmed the
people of Pakistan and neighboring countries but have
now reached to harm the peoples around the globe. The
military establishment of Pakistan thrives on the
politics and economics of the religious nationalism.
Pakistan military works as a corporate, and working on
the same principle of �maximize profit in minimum
time, � and Pakistan Military used the tragedy of Sept.
11 for its own financial benefits.
Considering these realities, it is unlikely that
Pakistan military would shun the war strategy with its
neighboring countries and create true democratic
structures in Pakistan. Because the very survival of
this �Military Corporation� is the continuation of the
There is a wide range consensuses among all the major
political parties of Pakistan that solution to prevent
future terrorism activities, and permanent prosperity in
this part of the world, is to decentralize the economic
and political structure of Pakistan and �de Punjabize�
Otherwise the current military government ambitions to
capture all the economic and political power in Pakistan
is going to deprive the oppressed nations including
Sindh and Balochistan from having any share in the
governance of their own provinces or federation, true
democracy, peace and security to their people.
It is very sad that since last few decades Sindhis and
Baloch progressive forces with in Pakistan have been
crying and protesting against the religious
fundamentalism, state terrorism against smaller nations,
oppression against religious minorities and women.
International community and media ignored most of these
The ongoing policies of Pakistani government are in
clear violation to the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article (1)(Sec 1)
and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article (1) (Sec 1) stating that, � All peoples have the
right of self-determination. By virtue of that right
they freely determine their political status and freely
pursue their economic, social and cultural development.�
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, we believe that right to self-
determination to the people of Sindh and Balochistan
will make it possible for both regions to serve as a
natural conduit for oil and gas pipelines from energy
rich Central Asia to energy starved South Asia and rest
of the world. Without constant military intervention,
Sindh and Balochistan will rapidly lead the way to
economic expansion in South Asia.
Most significantly for the rest of the world, given its
long peaceful Sufi tradition, Sindh will provide a
bulwark against fanaticism and promote peace and
Therefore Mr. Chairman in the light of above facts,
Liberation would like to appeal to this sub commission,
and all the democratic governments to influence military
government of Pakistan for the restoration of democracy,
human rights, and rights to self determination promised
under the international law.