NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch Thursday urged President Asif Ali Zardari not to sign a bill creating a national human rights commission until “it is revised to authorise investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations.”The National Human Rights Commission Act was passed by the National Assembly on May 4, but requires presidential assent to go into effect. “The National Human Rights Commission if given teeth can play a critical role in improving Pakistan’s dire human rights situation,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “President Zardari should tell parliament he will only sign the bill when it gives the commission authority over abuses by the military and intelligence agencies.”The bill creating the National Human Rights Commission contains many positive elements to promote and protect human rights in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog group, acknowledged. The commission would be an independent body, with members appointed by a cross-party parliamentary committee. Its responsibilities would include monitoring the general human rights situation in Pakistan, investigating specific human rights violations, making recommendations to the government, and assisting individual Pakistanis whose rights have been violated. The commission would have the legal authority to summon witnesses and obtain documents, including govt documents.However, Human Rights Watch expressed strong concerns that the current bill would prevent the commission from addressing or investigating human rights violations by members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies.In instances of allegations against the armed forces, the commission would only be mandated to seek a report from the federal govt, HRW noted. After it received the report, it would only be able to recommend further action to the govt. It would have no powers of direct investigation into these cases.The commission also would be virtually powerless to investigate any allegation of abuse related to an intelligence agency, Human Rights Watch said. Section 15 of the proposed law states that the “functions of the commission do not include inquiring into the act or practice of intelligence agencies.” Should a complaint be made to the commission alleging an agency act or practice “inconsistent with or contrary to any human right, the commission shall refer the complaint to the competent authority concerned,” the bill says.“Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” Adams said. “A primary reason to create a national human rights commission should be to address longstanding impunity for the army and intelligence services.”HRW called on Pakistan’s parliament to revise the National Human Rights Commission Act to comply with the Paris Principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights. to ensure that the commission emerges as a truly independent and empowered protector and promoter of human rights.“A strong and independent National Human Rights Commission can be a key institution in aiding Pakistan’s transition to a truly rights-respecting democracy,” Adams said. “But a commission that cannot take on cases involving the army and intelligence agencies would perpetuate a cruel joke on Pakistanis whose rights have been violated.”