Correcting image: First-ever human rights policy on the anvil
By Zia Khan
ISLAMABAD: Authorities are preparing the country’s first-ever human rights policy to furnish guidelines for institutionalising official response to a scourge that is among several factors maligning the country’s image aboard.
“We are in the final stages of drafting a human rights policy that will be covering all aspects of a grave problem … it is going to be out in a few months,” an official working on the issue told The Express Tribune on Friday.
The official at the newly created Ministry of Human Rights did not want to be named because he is not authorised to share information with the media.
It is the first time in over 60 years that any Pakistani government is preparing an official policy to address this problem.
The official said the proposal being considered for the preparation of draft would primarily deal with how the government and its agencies at various levels — federal, provincial and grassroots — should respond to human rights violations, with an aim to reduce them.
“Basically, the idea is to create awareness among people about human rights, and the need to respect them,” said the official, referring to a general apathy towards the problem in a society that is hardly responsive to such violations.
“This is going to be a first step … something that can start sensitising people, the society and the state towards what is generally ignored as useless debate,” added the official, without sharing details of the policy.
Pakistan has been among the countries where human rights violations are rampant and the official response in most cases doesn’t exist.
There are approximately thousands of so-called missing persons in the country, allegedly picked up by secret agencies for their involvement in what is called ‘anti-state’ activities.
An assessment by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says the situation has worsened in 2011 when a fragile democratic government, powerful military and growingly assertive judiciary continue wrangling for supremacy.
The HRCP report on ‘State of Human Rights in 2011’ spoke of a gloomy scenario vis-à-vis administration of justice, law and order, jails and prisoners, freedom of movement, expression and thought, rights of women, children and workers, education and health as well as environment and status of refugees.
The official said the proposed policy would suggest the government to carry out legislation for putting in place a mechanism for regulating and monitoring the role of secret agencies operating under the national security paradigm.