HRC long dead and forgotten
LAHORE: The Punjab government’s commitment to safeguard human rights can be gauged from the way it handled the Punjab Human Rights Commission after the fashion of the military government.Before the formation of the present political set-up in the province, the then law minister, Rana Ijaz, had formed the commission – an official body supposed to take notice of human rights violations. To be headed by a retired judge of the Lahore High Court, it was supposed to include many more retired judges and other representatives from the civil society organisations and work within the government. It was at a nascent stage in 2002 when the incumbent government took over. Since then, no one has heard about the commission.
According to one of the members of the defunct commission, “the initiative had been killed and buried. The Punjab government neither provided space for office, nor did it support or fund the project. We, the members, pooled some money and found volunteer workers (retired high court judges) and kept the initiative alive for a while. But it was slowly allowed to die by the government.” Another member said in fact the whole idea was based on official backing for the commission. “Instead of non-government organisations taking up any issue and hogging the headlines, the government should have a set-up because it has more resources to deal with such matters,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the Punjab government refused to support it at the level of an idea, leave alone own it. This is a reflection on how the rulers take human rights in the country.”
Rana Ijaz, who was the brain behind the initiative, said: “Yes, one can say that the initiative is no more thanks to the apathy of the Punjab government. At present, no such body called the Punjab Human Rights Commission exists. In fact, it was never made operational by the government during its four years of existence. It died its own death as no one tried to take up the idea and work on it.” Such commissions, according to him, do exist in other countries, including India, and have been working very efficiently to the benefit of the common man and governments concerned. “They are symbols of official commitment to the issue of human rights. But in Pakistan, the entire job of monitoring human rights has been left to civil society organisations that are working hard but without resources, clout and financial support,” he lamented.