ISLAMABAD: The government has finally created the much-awaited National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) for the first time in the country’s history and has nominated a full-time chairman and members for the commission. The NCHR will begin functioning as soon as President Mamnoon Hussain gives his approval.
The parliamentary committee on NCHR met on Friday and approved the name of retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan to head the commission and one member from each province and minorities.
The members are: Kishwar Shaheen Awan (Punjab), Anees Haroon (Sindh), Dr Yahiya Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Fazila Alyani (Balochistan), Chaudhry Mohammed Shafiq (Islamabad), and Ishaq Masih Naz (Minority).
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One member from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is yet to be nominated.
The committee announced on Friday that the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) will be an ex-officio member of the commission.
Talking to Dawn, the head of the committee Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah said: “All the names, including that of the chairman and commission members have been unanimously approved by the four-member parliamentary committee.”
He said the committee had sent the names to President Mamnoon Hussain for his final nod. “We hope the president will notify the commission soon,” he said.
NCHR will have inquiry powers equivalent to civil courts
Mr Shah said the committee had interviewed the chairman-select as well as other proposed members of the commission nearly two months ago. Since the nominated chairman was abroad, he was interviewed via video link.
He said the Ministry of Law and Justice had been tasked to advertise the unfilled position of a member from Fata to seek probables for the vacant slot.
He said that after receiving the names the ministry would send them to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and both of them would finalise at least three names, of which one would be selected by the parliamentary committee.
Being signatory to the United Nations charter, it was obligatory for Pakistan to establish the NCHR. Efforts were being made to form the commission for over seven years. The proposal to set up the commission was first presented in 2008, under the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, to the parliamentary committee which was headed by Riaz Fatiyana at the time, but nothing materialised until 2011. In 2012, a bill for the creation of the commission was passed by the National Assembly and the Senate.
The NCHR will have vast powers of holding investigations and trials. Its functions will include inquiring into violations of human rights at its own initiative or on a complaint, interventions into court proceedings to investigate allegations of violations by someone seeking to become a party to the case, visiting jails or other places of detention, reviewing factors — including acts of terrorism — that inhibit human rights, as well as creating awareness on human rights, submitting independent reports on the state of human rights in Pakistan and developing a “national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights”.
With the establishment of the NCHR, every citizen will have the right to register a complaint over cases of human rights violations. The commission, while inquiring into complaints, will have all the powers of a civil court and can summon any individual, public or private department.
Published in Dawn February 14th , 2015