ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has expressed grave concern over the decision of the PML-N government to do away with the ministry of human rights and has called for its restoration, considering the enormous rights-based issues in the country.

The incumbent government, since being sworn in, has placed human rights low on its priority list, as demonstrated by ending death penalty moratorium and finishing the human rights ministry and assigning its work to ministry of law and justice, said the Coordinator Human Right Cell, PPP Nafisa Shah. PPP’s legislator said that the cell considers this act of dissolution of the HR ministry nothing but an obvious reemphasis on the government’s lack of political will to deal with human rights issues.

It is pertinent to mention here that protection of human rights has always been of paramount importance on the public government agenda.  The last PPP government made clear headway by expanding fundamental rights in the 18th Amendment to the constitution and ensuring that there were no political prisoners.

Nafisa Shah said that following Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s mission of enlarging the rights based agenda, the 2008 Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government also set up an independent and autonomous ministry of human rights, which was working adherently on human rights issues.

The human rights ministry had been given a comprehensive mandate dealing with women’s rights, child rights, rights of minorities and all disadvantaged sections of society. The ministry was also made the focal point of reporting on Pakistan’s commitments to international conventions and obligations.

Now this framework for rights policy will suffer as there is no focal point for human rights work. Besides, the cell members noted that National Human Rights Commission legislated by the last assembly has not yet been constituted and this delay is a further cause for concern, Nafisa Shah concluded.

In a statement issued in Lahore, Sumsam Bokhari, Central Secretary Information PPP has said in a statement that the new tariff on electricity and petroleum products would be instrumental to make hole in the pockets of the poor masses to the extent of whooping Rs. 360 billion meant to fill the deep pockets of the owners of the oil companies who are usually seen sitting in the high-level official meetings to formulate energy policy.

He said that the representative organisations of the textile sectors, chambers of commerce and industry and the civil society had rejected the new tariff as it would make Pakistani products less competitive in the international market due to the escalation of cost of production. “At the end of the day, the exports of the country will suffer and so the economy of the country and indeed all the walks of national life”,he said. Sumsam said that phenomenal raise in the tariff just before Eid was both unjustified and tyrannical for the poor people as it would greatly affect their capacity to observe Eid with religious fervour and enthusiasm.

He demanded that the names of the owners who had been paid hundreds of billions of rupees to clear the outstanding payments to the IPPs should be made public so that the people could know exactly the beneficiaries of the generosity of the present government. He deplored that the even after making such heavy payments to the IPPs, the people of the country continued to face loadshedding even during Iftari, Sehri and Taraveeh times despite their tall claims to the contrary.

He recalled that during the PPP-led previous government Pakistan became a wheat exporting country from the wheat importing country mainly due to the correct policy of the then government.

He said that the previous government gave two rupees subsidy per unit to the farmers on the tube wells which had not only been done away with but new tariff would also stifle the agriculture sector.

He said that the PPP would agitate against the broad day robbery of the government and would mobilise public opinion against the price- hike.