Reflection on numbers: Sindh’s indifference towards human rights | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Reflection on numbers: Sindh’s indifference towards human rights

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: Human rights are two big words. Everyone screams about it. Sindh doesn’t really care. For the past several years, development funds allocated to the Human Rights department have been going to waste.

In fact, since the department was established in the last Pakistan Peoples Party government, no innovative or new schemes have been introduced; not a single project has been completed, and targets are never met. The date of completion for the projects is simply extended each year.

The next fiscal year, 2015-16, also offers no change for the department and its policies, and provides no relief to the victims of the deteriorating human rights situation in the province.

Rs40 million have been allocated for the human rights department, an increase from last year’s Rs36 million. This money, like previous years, is unlikely to be used for the projects it was allocated for.

Like last year, the ADP for this fiscal year reflects no new schemes. The three projects which were approved back in 2011, are yet to be made properly functional. They include establishment of a human rights cell, free legal aid centres at the district level and a series of awareness campaigns. With the state of human rights deteriorating in the province, the Sindh human rights department seems to be lost in bureaucratic apathy as the projects proposed three years ago are not even 80% complete, according to the budget document.

According to last year’s budget report, the department was allocated Rs36 million, of which it received Rs22 million, while only Rs1.2 million was spent on one scheme. There is no record of the remaining Rs21 million — where was it spent and how.

Due its dismal performance over the years, the Human Rights Department — a separate ministry and entity — was brought under the umbrella of the Law, PA and Prosecution Departments last year.

Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Zohra, concern over the performance of the human rights department in the outgoing fiscal year. She also questioned the inefficiency of the department in not coining any new scheme for the next financial year.

“The budget is a mirror — it provides insight on what the government is thinking and planning.”

Regarding the implementation of laws related to human rights, she said that while the Sindh government had passed a domestic violence bill, there was no implementation on it. The chairperson said while the Sindh government had also done some good legislation, the implementation was lacking.

“The government should at least take the situation of Karachi seriously — torture and encounter killings are getting so common in the city,” she said.

Aurat Foundation resident director Mahnaz Rahman said that the government’s inefficiency and corruption was in front of everyone. “Those who are heading the department should work sincerely.”

Rahman added that resources were being provided to those who didn’t do any work and those who were competent were ignored. Referring to the formation of the Sindh Human Rights Commission which is being headed by Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, Rahman said that she was not being given any resources to function.

When The Express Tribune contacted Nadia Gabol, the special coordinator to the chief minister for human rights, she had this to say about new schemes: “The paper regarding the proposed new schemes could not be printed. I can send you a copy via email.” Gabol attempted to present a rosy picture of the new schemes, which according to her, include a shelter home and facilities for DNA tests.

She said that the human rights complaint cell in Karachi was functioning and would be made permanent soon. Not satisfied with the budget allocation, she said that they didn’t have enough money for the projects. “We have to pay salaries to our staff from the development money. It starts from Rs15,000 and goes to Rs40,000.”

Express Tribune

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