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ISLAMABAD: During a meeting on Thursday, members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights discussed an allegation made by MNA Zahra Wadood Fatmi, who said she faced embarrassment due to a member of a National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) during a lunch in the United State.

Before the meeting at Parliament Lodges started, the PML-N parliamentarian said she was embarrassed due to NCHR member Chaudhry Mohammad Shafique, who was also present during the meeting, and whom she said interrupted and contradicted her when she was discussing terrorism and Afghanistan related issues during a lunch in the US.

“I was giving my point of view and that of the Pakistani government but Mr Shafique interrupted me and differed with my opinion. He embarrassed me and I was called a liar because of him. I changed the topic and lodged a complaint with Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq after coming back to Pakistan,” she said.

“How can someone who is representing the NCHR speak against the official policy line of his country? He said it is the government’s and the state’s fault that terrorism could not be controlled in the country,” Ms Fatmi said.

Members of the standing committee had in March this year visited the USA under the International Visitor Leadership Program which is a cultural exchange and study program.

Committee Chairman Babar Nawaz Khan told committee members that the National Assembly speaker has taken notice of the incident.

“I talked to the speaker in his chamber and he said he will look into the issue himself. I suggest we wait as the speaker will definitely take appropriate action,” he said.

MNA Surriya Asghar asked why Mr Shafique was sent for the study course and what the parameters for selecting participants for the courses were.

Mr Khan said Mr Shafique was nominated by the US government.

Mr Shafique requested to be allowed to explain his side of the story multiple times but he was not given a chance.

Pointing at him, MNA Fatmi said: “I was speaking and you kept snubbing me. I had to change the subject because of the embarrassment and it all happened because of you”.

The committee chairman said NCHR members and its chair have made a habit of defaming the country and that they send a shadow report regarding the status of human rights in Pakistan contrary to the official report of government.

“The commission’s chairman openly says he is not bound to show his shadow reports to the committee and that he cannot be controlled by the ministry. I consider this an act against national interests and that is why the NCHR has now been attached with a ministry,” he said.

The committee decided to look into the matter after the speaker makes a decision.

Talking to after the meeting, Mr Shafique said he went on the course privately and that the talk in question was informal, was not being recorded and was over lunch.

“Ms Fatmi was blaming external powers for terrorism. As an independent human rights activist, I could not [agree with her] and said that the state has also failed to eradicate the causes of terrorism. I said so much can be done to finish terrorism and extremism in the country but concrete steps could not be taken,” he said.

He added that most of those attending the lunch agreed with him which is why Ms Fatmi felt embarrassed.

“I thought the matter had ended there but when we came back, she filed a complaint against me with the office of the National Assembly speaker,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2017