Human rights bill comes under criticism
Karachi: Though many minority community leaders think of the recently passed Human Rights Bill as a step in the right direction, they remain skeptical about its implementation process, primarily because it does not allow for intelligence agencies to be questioned in cases of human rights abuse.
The National Commission for Human Rights Bill, 2012 had been pending in the senate since 2008. In a recent meeting at Bilawal House, President Asif Ali Zardari signed the much awaited bill into law.
Before the ceremony was held, Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested the president not to sign the bill on the grounds that “… [It] would prevent the commission from addressing or investigating human rights violations by members of armed forces and intelligence agencies.”
On the other hand the minority leaders who were invited to the event, suggested that it would be better if the members appointed to investigate violations are “impartial and not politically connected.”
Sardar Ramesh Singh of the Pakistan Sikh Council, who was a part of the signing ceremony, called it a perfect step as “in the last one year many crucial bills have been passed into law but have not been effectively implemented.”
“For example, a National Commission for Minorities also exists, but it has been inactive for many years,” he explained.
“The focus should be more on researching trends in human rights violations so that the law doesn’t remain at discussion tables but addresses issues faced by the common man,” he added.
Zohra Yusuf of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that despite being a positive step, there is a drawback to the law that can’t be ignored.
Zohra also pointed out that the commission on human rights can summon the police and send notices to them but cannot summon or question the intelligence agencies.
“If we look at the missing persons case in Balochistan, and a similar but recent trend in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, all fingers are pointing towards intelligence agencies and Frontier Constabulary (FC), both of which cannot be questioned by the commission. So that makes it weak in action as it implies that most sensitive issues cannot be discussed at all,” she said.
Given the stipulations, she suggests the formation of a strong panel of people who have no political affiliations so that issues are discussed, probed and concluded without any bias or interference from any party.
Nadia Gabol, Sindh Minister for Human Rights said that: “a similar question is in the minds of many parliamentarians pertaining to questioning intelligence agencies. We’ll make sure to raise it, once it is discussed in the assembly.”
Amarnath Motumel of HRCP said that though the laws before this one had implementation issues, “the government must be lauded for taking steps in the right direction,” he said.