Performance of human rights ministry deemed unsatisfactory -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Performance of human rights ministry deemed unsatisfactory

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Members of a Senate standing committee expressed their dissatisfaction over the performance of the Ministry of Human Rights.

At a meeting of the committee on Thursday to discuss the performance of the ministry, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights Senator Mohammad Javed Abbasi of the PML-N said, “It saddens me that an important ministry that was entrusted with ensuring human rights in the country is not delivering like they were expected to.”

Whether it was the status of orphans, the protection of children against all kinds of abuse or the collection of authentic data on rights violations, the performance of the ministry is unsatisfactory, added PML-N Senator Ayesha Farooq.

The ministry officials briefed the members of the committee about its laws, structures and mandate. The senators were told about the human rights issues that were resolved and those that were still being worked on.

The members learnt that out of 4,500 human rights violations cases in 2012, only 38 per cent had been settled.

An official from the ministry said, “These were high-profile cases and were followed up either by the standing committee of the Senate or the National Assembly.” He explained that provinces were reluctant to report cases and that devolution had restricted the ministry’s powers of looking into provincial matters.

The members were also told that the only source for data collection on human rights violations was the media.

Senator Farooq said, “It is obvious that the ministry does not have reliable sources to gather information.” She urged the ministry to look for other sources to collect data from.

That the ministry had not used the Human Rights Women in Distress and Detention fund in the last 19 years upset and annoyed the senators.

According to a ministry official, there were no mechanisms to disburse the over Rs46 million that had accumulated in the fund since it was established in 1996.

Additional Secretary Ministry of Human Rights Sadiq Aleem sought assistance from the members to make the fund operational. He said, “The matter was taken up in the past but no mechanisms could be designed to disburse the funds to the needy.”

The head of the Senate standing committee said had the issue not been taken up by a member, the fund would have taken many more years to become functional.

The members of the committee learned that more than 20,000 cases of human rights violations had been filed and were under process.

Since 2012, there have been nearly 500 acid attack cases, 6,600 murder cases, nearly 3,300 kidnappings, 1,000 cases of rape, 2,100 target killings, 245 extra-judicial killings and 1,441 honour killings. In the last four years, there were 269 sexual assault cases and 526 cases of torture across the country, the ministry officers said.

Comparing the numbers across the years, the senators learnt that while acid attack cases had gone down from 240 in 2012 to 49 in 2015, more than 1,500 people were murdered in 2015 compared to 982 in 2012.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Abbasi, said, “We need a detailed briefing from all the wings of the ministry if we are to assist it to do a better job and ensure the promotion and protection of life and liberty of the people.”