KARACHI, May 30: President Asif Ali Zardari signed on Wednesday the National Commission for Human Rights Bill 2012 for promotion and protection of human rights as provided by the Constitution of Pakistan and various international instruments to which Pakistan is a state party or shall become a state party.

The signing ceremony, held at the Bilawal House, was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, federal ministers Rehman Malik and Moula Bakhsh Chandio, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, provincial ministers and federal and provincial government officials. In a media briefing, the president’s spokesman, Senator Farhatullah Babar, said that with the signing of the law, Pakistan had fulfilled a core requirement of the Paris Declaration of 1993 calling upon states to set up independent human rights commissions.

According to the law, the commission, headquartered in Islamabad, shall consist of 10 members, including a chairperson and one member each from the four provinces, Fata and Islamabad capital territory, minority communities and chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women.

At least two women shall be its members.

A person shall be eligible for appointment as chairperson who has been, or is qualified to be, a judge of the Supreme Court or a person having demonstrable knowledge of, or practical knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights. Similarly, a member shall not be less than 40 years of age and shall have knowledge and experience relating to human rights.

The chairperson and members shall hold the office for a term of four years that may be extended once.

The federal government shall, through public notice, invite suggestions for suitable persons for appointment as chairperson and members of the commission and, after proper scrutiny, shall submit a list of these persons to the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

The law states that the prime minister shall in consultation with the leader of the opposition forward three names for each post to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person for each post. In case there is no consensus between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, each shall forward separate lists to the bi-partisan and bicameral parliamentary committee which in turn shall approve the nomination and forward them to the president for appointment.

The chairman and the member may be removed from office on the grounds and in the manner provided for in Article 209 of the Constitution.

The commission will perform its functions either taking suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf for violation of human rights or abetment thereof and the negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant.

It can intervene in any proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court by making application for becoming a party before the court.

The commission, or any person authorised by it, may visit any jail, place of detention or any other institution or place under control of the government or its agencies, where convicts, under trial prisoners, detainees or other persons are lodged or detained for purposes of ascertaining the legality of their detention as well as to find out whether the provisions of the applicable laws or other provisions relating to inmates’ living conditions and other rights are being complied with.

The commission will submit independent reports to the government on the state of human rights in Pakistan for incorporation in reports to United Nations bodies or committees.

It will develop a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The law says that when an inquiry of the commission discloses the violation of human rights, it will recommend action and interim relief to the victim to the authorities concerned.

The commission will have all powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908). It may call for information or report in cases of human rights form the government or its organisations.

The commission may from time to time accept unconditional grants or contributions from donors and non-governmental organisations in a transparent manner with approval from the federal government.

The fund will be audited by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

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