Sindh govt’s performance in implementing human rights legislation questioned

Updated October 21, 2019

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Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah addresses media. — DawnNewsTV/File
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah addresses media. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: Although the record of the Sindh province with regard to legislation pertaining to human rights — that ranges from protection from underage marriages to initiating a law against forced conversion — is much better than other provinces, the performance of the provincial government with regard to implementation came under criticism during a recent meeting, it emerged on Sunday.

Provincial lawmakers were informed by a top bureaucrat that the “attitude on part of the provincial government hinders the process of human rights work in the province” and due to various reasons several laws related to human rights “could not be implemented” as yet.

A recently compiled report of a meeting of the Sindh Assembly’s standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs and human rights painted a bleak picture of the state of affairs when it comes to the government role on human rights in Sindh.

The govt has allocated just Rs3m for the human rights department in budget 2019-20

“The provincial government has done legislation but as far as the funding is concerned, it is not equal or parallel to the tasks assigned to the department. Hence the department is not able to perform effectively and efficiently,” human rights secretary Lubna Salahuddin briefed the committee, according to the report.

“Due to financial constraints of lack of funding the department-related laws could not be implemented. The laws can always be framed but its implementation can only be guaranteed or assured through financial means and not only by mere legislation. This kind of attitude on the part of the provincial government hinders the process of human rights work in the province.”

Her strong comments over the performance of the human rights department have exposed the state of human rights affair in Sindh, which has always been a key part of the manifesto of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has been ruling the province for a third consecutive term.

The comments of the secretary followed a detailed presentation.

“The department is facing serious financial constraints as for the current financial year [2019-20] the government has allocated only Rs3 million,” said the report. “These funds too are released on a quarterly basis by the finance department, which is totally insufficient for any kind of human rights work being done in the province of Sindh.”

The department has a [sanctioned] working strength of 48 people, but presently it had only 10 people working due to lack of funding and incentives, proper offices, vehicles, fuel for the officers to work and move, it added.

The meeting, which was chaired by its chairman Pir Mujeeb-ul-Haq, was also informed that annual funds worth Rs3 million for the year 2019-20 included the budget of all district offices, which would hardly be able to meet the requirement.

A proposal to enhance the annual funding was also sent to the finance department by the human rights secretary but she had not received any response yet, the meeting was informed.

“The department is not in a position to provide them [workers, volunteers and staff] any incentives or any kind of facilities to work, therefore, one can imagine what kind of human rights work is being done around,” the secretary of the human rights department was quoted as saying in the report.

Her briefing and presentation sent ripples in the 15-member committee having elected members from different parties.

“The chairman suggested that the law adviser and special assistant for human rights and representatives of all NGOs working in the field may be invited to the next meeting of the standing committee, so that their input can come on record and the issues, problems and difficulties identified by the secretary may be discussed and resolved at the forum of standing committee,” said the report.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019