ISLAMABAD: The Senate Human Rights Committee on Wednesday expressed serious reservations over the creation of a ‘parallel human rights body under the executive,’ claiming it undermines the existing National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR).

The issue came up before the Senate Human Rights Committee today after a motion moved by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar last month was referred by the upper house to the relevant committee for examination.

Babar said an official communication last week from the Prime Minister’s House revealed plans for a national human rights action plan and a new human rights body, allocated a budget of Rs400 million, further bypassing the NCHR.

Babar added that the Parliament will resist manoeuvres undermining the NCHR, and called for transferring the Rs400 million to its Special National Human Rights Commission Fund.

The NCHR was created through an Act of the Parliament as an independent body whose chairman and members are selected by a bipartisan parliamentary committee.

Read more: NCHR seeks report on Thar infants’ death

“On the one hand the government flaunts the NCHR before the European Union for extracting benefits under the GSP plus, and on the other it has set out on a course to secretly undermine the Commission,” said Babar, warning that “this duality and hypocrisy will boomerang on the government.”

“It is now quite clear why ever since its establishment, the NCHR was made dysfunctional by denying it funds”, Babar said, questioning the government’s commitment towards human rights issues.

Further emphasising the new human rights body’s redundancy, Babar reminded that under clause 9(k) of the NCHR law, it is the responsibility of the Commission to develop “a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights,” and this function could not be usurped by the executive.

He said the facade of another national human rights action plan drawn up secretly was an assault on the Commission and a bid to undo it.

Babar demanded a copy of the summary on which the prime minister approved the proposal to transfer the work of the NCHR to the human rights ministry.

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Human Rights Zahid Hamid assured the committee he will look into the issue and address the concerns in consultation with the NCHR.

The Senate Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Senator Nasreen Jalil, met today in the Senate Secretariat to take up a host of issues.

Besides the NCHR, the agenda included the Hindu Marriage Bill, the Child Protection Bill, the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, and a public petition of a private citizen whose son went missing in Dubai over two years ago under mysterious circumstances.

Senator Farhatullah Babar called for the annulment of clause 12(iii) in the Hindu Marriage Bill, under which a Hindu marriage will be annulled if one of the partners converts.

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