NA panel approves draft bill for rights commission
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly committee approved on Tuesday the draft of a bill seeking to set up an independent and powerful National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) in the country to fulfil international obligations under a United Nations General Assembly resolution.
The bill had been moved by federal Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Alam Gilani in the National Assembly on Dec 17, 2008, after its formal approval by the federal cabinet in October the same year.
The NA Standing Committee on Human Rights, headed by Pakistan Muslim League-Q MNA Riaz Fatiana, took almost 20 months to approve the draft of the all-important “National Commission for Human Rights Act 2008”.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Fatiana admitted that the committee took a long time in approving the bill, but said this was because of the “vague language” of the original draft. He said the committee had to ask the ministry of human rights to re-draft the bill and make it brief and comprehensive.
Secondly, he said, the committee had decided to seek inputs from representatives of civil society organisations on the bill to make it a consensus document.
Mr Fatiana said they had approved the bill with a number of changes in the original draft.
Giving salient features of the draft bill, he said the original draft had suggested that the NCHR could only be headed by a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court or a high court, but now, he said, they had amended it, making it possible for any person having vast experience in the field of human rights to become its chairperson.
According to Mr Fatiana, the proposed NCHR will comprise 11 members -— one member each from all the four provinces, two members representing minorities, one member each from Islamabad, Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan and the federal secretary of the human rights division as an ex-officio member.
The chairperson and members would be appointed by the president on the recommendations of the prime minister for a period of four years. Every citizen will have the right to register a complaint with the commission in case of human rights violations against any individual or institution.