NEW DELHI: The spotlight at second phase of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session (Sept. 9-27) in Geneva is on religious discrimination and acts of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, even as Islamabad is trying hard to rake up the Kashmir issue.

The second phase of the UNHRC session involves participation of non-government organisations, and several NGOs and civil society groups have submitted petitions to the Council on rampant enforced disappearances, misuse of blasphemy laws and discrimination against religious minorities, including Christians, besides the Shia community, ET has learnt.

Islamabad may face major embarrassment at the UNHRC after an NGO submitted a petition at the session against enforced disappearances, with the Pakistan Army singled out as the biggest perpetrator behind these disappearances.

“Despite growing anger in Pakistan over the prevalence of enforced disappearances, criminalised by international charters and conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the government has yet to acknowledge its responsibility for hundreds of people who have been arbitrarily detained in secret places by the Pakistani army, especially the Baloch minority,” according to a written statement submitted by Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association.

“The Pakistani army continues to commit enforced disappearances on the basis of identity,” it alleges, adding 44 people in different parts of Pakistan, such as Awaran and Kech, were forcibly detained in June alone.

“One of these cases was the arrest of Bashir Ahmed, a resident of al-Awaran neighbourhood, when he was on his way to work on June 26. Bashir was tortured, resulting in his death ...,” the statement alleged.

In April, security forces forcibly took away 59 persons from Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Lasbela, Panjgur districts of Baluchistan, according to the NGO.

Another petition before the UNHRC alleges that between 1987 and 2017, 1,500 people or more were charged with blasphemy, of which 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis, 205 Christians and 26 were Hindus.

“The blasphemy laws are worded in such manner that enable easy misuse. This accommodates false accusations initiated to settle personal scores, economic competition issues and sectarian differences. The laws are routinely used to target religious minorities for personal or political motives and result in a violation of fundamental rights,” the petition by NGO Jubilee Campaign alleges.

Last week, the wife of a deceased Pakistan Army General who belonged to the Shia community was denied permission to host a religious meet at her Karachi cantonment home.

On August 21, a group of religious minorities submitted a 10-point memorandum to the Pakistani government demanding recognition of their human rights.

The memorandum demands that the minimum marriage age be raised from 16 to 18, the creation of a federal ministry for religious minorities; a 5% quota for scholarships; protection for houses of worship; legislation to prevent discrimination in employment, education and society; designated prayer locations in public places; removal of books promoting hate against religious minorities; and criminal justice reforms to protect women from the daily violence they face, including abductions, sexual violence and forced conversions.'