FOR a government that is very vocal about human rights elsewhere in the world, the fact that the National Commission for Human Rights has not been functioning for the past six months should be downright embarrassing. The tenure of the chairman and six out of seven members of the NCHR expired on May 30, but the present government, amidst all its tall claims of upholding the rights of citizens, appears to be dragging its feet on new appointments. The PTI government’s year in power has been marred by bureaucratic delays or mismanagement, especially in KP and Punjab; the situation also exposes the serious lapses on part of the federal human rights ministry. Since its formation, the commission has played a key role in investigating human rights abuses in the country. For some time now, the NCHR had been looking into NAB’s alleged misuse of powers, and this unusual delay in the appointment of its members reflects badly on the government’s promises of across-the-board accountability while also giving credence to criticism that NAB is being used for political victimisation.
On the other hand, the PTI-led government has been so caught up with the ongoing political turmoil that major incidents of human rights abuses in the country have not received the kind of attention they deserve other than the customary statements issued via Twitter. Be it incidents of police brutality in Punjab, the sexual abuse of young boys in Kasur, the Tezgam tragedy, the Balochistan University harassment scandal or people dying due to the shortage of rabies vaccine, the response by the federal government has been lackadaisical at best. It would be useful for the government to recall that one of the hallmarks of an ideal society is its justice system; the present state of affairs with regard to human rights in the country is contrary to many of the tall claims the PTI has made before and after coming to power. It is time for the government to stop the talk, and walk the walk.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019