ISLAMABAD - A parliamentary committee yesterday expressed serious reservations over the setting up of a parallel human rights body under the executive undermining the National Commission on Human Rights.
The Senate Human Rights Committee said the NCHR was created through an Act of the parliament as independent body whose chairman and members are selected by a bipartisan parliamentary committee and an parallel body was unacceptable.
The committee met in the Senate secretariat with Senator Nasreen Jalil in the chair to take up a host of issues which besides the NCHR included the Hindu Marriage Bill, the Child Protection Bill, the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation and a public petition of a private citizen whose son had gone missing in Dubai over two years ago under mysterious circumstances.
The issue came up before the senate human rights committee after a motion moved by Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar last month was referred by the Senate to the committee for examination and report.
Senator Babar said an official communication last week of the Prime Minister’s House revealed plans of a national human rights action plan and another human rights body allocating Rs 400 million to it also by-passing the NCHR.
He said that the parliament will resist manoeuvres undermining the NCHR and called for transferring the Rs 400 million to the Special National Human Rights Commission Fund stipulated under the law to enable it perform its functions.
On the one hand the government flaunts the NCHR before the European Union for extracting benefits under the GSP plus and on the other it has set out on a course to secretly undermining the Commission, he said warning, “This duality and hypocrisy will boomerang on the government.”
“It was now quite clear why ever since its establishment the NCHR was made dysfunctional by denying it funds he said questioning also the commitment of the government towards human rights issues,” he said.
The PPP Senator said under clause 9 (k) of the NCHR law it was the responsibility of the Commission to develop “a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights” and this function could not be usurped by the executive.
He said the façade of another national human rights action plan drawn up secretly was an assault on the Commission and a bid to undo it.
“It appeared that the Prime Minister had been misled and demanded copy of the summary on which the Prime Minister approved the proposal of t transfer the work of NCHR illegally to the human rights ministry,” he said.
“Those who misled and misinformed the PM should be exposed and also punished,” he added.
About the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, he said, it was an unusual regulation that was promulgated in 2011 but given retrospective effect from 2008 to give cover to those who had been held by the security agencies without lawful authority and were ‘missing persons’.
Senator Babar asked for a list of all those who had been in the custody of security agencies since 2008 but surfaced after the promulgation of this Regulation and their present status whether in detention, or trial or imprisoned.
“A further investigation in to what happened to those who have resurfaced as a result of this regulation will help the nation address the issue of missing persons,” he said.
The Committee also took up the consideration of the Hindu Marriage Bill recently endorsed by the National Assembly Committee.
Senator Farhatullah Babar opposed the clause 12 (iii) in the Bill that says that Hindu marriage will be annulled if one of the partners converted saying that it amounted to promoting forced conversions not only of young unmarried girls but also of married Hindu women.
Terming it a grave human right violation of the Hindus, he called for the annulment of the ‘repressive’ clause.
Federal Minister Zahid Hamid assured the Committee to look into the issue and address the concerns in consultation with NCHR.
Others who attended the meeting included Mohsin Khan Leghari, Nisar Mohammed Khan, Hilalur Rehman, Samina Abid, Sitara Ayaz and Mir Kabir Shahi.