National Commission for Human Rights dysfunctional for over three months

Updated September 09, 2019

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Tenure of chairman and six of the seven members of NCHR expired on May 30. — AFP/File
Tenure of chairman and six of the seven members of NCHR expired on May 30. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has been dysfunctional as the process to appoint its chairman and members could not be started even after more than three months.

The four-year tenure of the chairman and six of the seven members of the NCHR expired on May 30.

On the other hand, the employees of the commission fear that the organisation may not be made functional due to sour relations between the prime minister and leader of the opposition in National Assembly, who have to pick the names through consensus.

Tenure of chairman and six of the seven members of NCHR expired on May 30

However, Director General Ministry of Human Rights Mohammad Arshad told Dawn that the posts of chairman and members would be re-advertised soon. But considering the past experience, he added, it may take six to seven months to complete the process of appointments.

Complying with its international obligations, Pakistan established the NCHR under an Act in accordance with the Paris Principles.

The National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012 stipulates a broad and overarching mandate for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights as provided for in Pakistan’s Constitution and international treaties.

As an impartial state body, the NCHR works independently of the government and is directly accountable to parliament.

The NCHR’s financial and performance reports are also directly presented to the parliament for approval on an annual basis.

The primary functions and powers of the NCHR include to hold investigations into allegations of human rights abuse(s) either on petitions filed by individuals or institutions or through suo motu, review existing and proposed legislation in relation to human rights principles, carry out research and advise on policy matters pertaining to the situation of human rights, contribute to national human rights awareness-raising and advocacy initiatives in the country, review and report on the government’s implementation and monitoring of the state of human rights, make technical recommendations and follow up on the implementation of treaty obligations and develop a national plan of action for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights in Pakistan.

Former members NCHR from Islamabad Chaudhry Shafique told Dawn that as everyone knew that the NCHR would become dysfunctional on May 30, the posts of the chair and members were advertised at the end of March, and April 14 was the last date for filing applications for the posts.

“The process was completed and names were shortlisted. However, later while discussing the matter in the federal cabinet an objection was raised that the federal government had to give permission for the advertisement and as per order of Supreme Court the federal government meant the federal cabinet. So again permission was sought from the federal cabinet for the re-advertisement of the posts. But so far the process could not be completed,” he said.

Mr Shafique said at the time he left the NCHR there were 61 employees but some of them have left as their contracts were not extended.

“I believe that after expiry of the tenure of the chairman NCHR retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan and the members, all decisions having financial and other implications for the commissions would be considered illegal. We were expecting that the new chairman and members would be finalised by July but the process could not be started so far,” he said.

When contacted, Justice Chowhan said the NCHR was also one of the requirements of the General System of Preferences (GSP) Plus. Moreover, a functional NCHR would be helpful for Pakistan to take up the issue of Kashmir at the international level, he said.

GSP Plus is a mechanism introduced by the European Union (EU) to grant non-reciprocal preferential treatment to imports from developing countries.

Mr Arshad said the four-year tenure of the commission expired and as per directions of the government the posts of chairman and seven members were to be re-advertised.

When asked about the process, he said after verifying the applicants the prime minister and leader of the opposition in National Assembly would have to reach a consensus and finalise three names for the post of chairman and three for each post of members.

The names would be forwarded to a parliamentary committee for finalisation.

“If they fail to develop consensus both the PM and the opposition leader would send three names, on their own, for each post and the names would be discussed by the parliamentary committee. The committee would finalise the names for the chair and members but past experience shows that it may take six to seven months,” Mr Arshad said.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019