KARACHI: “When talking human rights we speak of the value of independence. But the Constitution talks of only one independence — the independence of judiciary,” said Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday.
He was speaking at a seminar held to mark the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at a local hotel here.
Speaking about the lawyers’ protests in Lahore earlier in the day, he said that sometimes one should also understand that human rights were meant for human beings. “Those who demand human rights should also behave morally and rationally,” he said.
But having said that, he stated that the Sindh government considered upholding human rights as its fundamental responsibility and it would continue to seek civil society’s partnership in bridging the gap between legislation and implementation.
A bill to revive student unions to be tabled in PA’s current session
He was replying to several persons from civil society pointing towards the lack of implementation of laws. “There are always issues in implementation. Our bureaucracy is also not trained for all this. We the politicians are public representatives and the bureaucrats are public servants. They don’t get this,” he said.
Legislation on student unions
About the recent issue of the restoration of students’ unions, the chief minister said that the law pertaining to the restoration of unions would be presented in the Sindh Assembly during the current session. It would then be sent to committees concerned for vetting.
“I would ask the provincial assembly’s standing committee on law to have engagement with student bodies and civil society organisations,” he said, adding that he himself happened to be affected by the ban on student unions.
Coming to the many laws, including pro-women laws, made by legislators in the provincial assembly, he said that the government was committed to comply with the international commitments regarding human rights. “The main focus in the new legislation is to provide equal rights to all sections of society.”
He mentioned the preamble of the Constitution where it was written that it would guarantee social, economic and political justice to all its citizens.
He also said that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari believed in human rights and was striving for the provision of fundamental rights to all. “This was the main reason that he accepted membership, followed by the chairmanship of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee,” he added.
Regarding the Sindh Tenancy Act, he said that he was aware of the problems of agriculture workers as he himself belonged to a farming family. “A meaningful dialogue between zamindars and haris is required,” he said.
PA praised for making ‘progressive’ laws
Earlier, Piler’s executive director Karamat Ali recalled that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was the first document which provided citizens of the world equal fundamental rights.
He emphasized on the ‘Right to Expression’ and ‘Right of Association’ and urged the CM to conduct an honest assessment of whether these rights were accessible to the province’s citizens or not.
He appreciated the advances in provincial legislation on labour rights, since labour was a provincial subject.
Anis Haroon, a former member of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided rights to every section of society and every sector.
“The Sindh Assembly has made the largest number of progressive laws including the child marriage law,” she said, adding that there was also a need for a functional child protection unit here.
“Child marriages remain a challenge despite the Child Marriage Restraint Act. Functional child protection authorities can provide shelter and assistance to the victims of child marriage,” she added.
She also said that there was a need for a complete package for women empowerment. “Merely passing of a domestic violence law is not adequate,” she said while reminding the CM of the provincial government’s earlier plan on land distribution to local women.
“The initiative has to be picked up and plugged into other initiatives necessary for women’s empowerment,” she added.
Several other speakers in the audience were also encouraged to highlight their issues of human rights before the chief minister.
Karachi Union of Journalists secretary Ahmed Malik spoke about the job losses and pay cuts in the media industry.
Kami Chaudhry, a transgender person, spoke about jobs for transgender people as they also needed acceptance in society.
Zahid Farooq of the Urban Resource Centre highlighted the plight of 1,100 families who were living under the open since Ramazan when their homes were bulldozed as part of the KCR’s (Karachi Circular Railway) anti-encroachment drive.
Zehra Khan, general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, asked to implement the Home-Based Workers Act.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2019