Govt deliberately keeping HR bodies dysfunctional: Senate body

Updated 29 Sep 2020

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The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday observed that there is a deliberate effort by the government to keep National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) dysfunctional.
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday observed that there is a deliberate effort by the government to keep National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) dysfunctional.

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday observed that there is a deliberate effort by the government to keep National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) dysfunctional.

It directed the ministries of human rights and law division to address the issue within two weeks.

The committee rejected a briefing by the Ministry of Human Rights and said the minister should attend the next meeting and brief the lawmakers.

Committee Chairman Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the PPP said it was unfortunate that files were moving from one table to another but serious efforts were not being made to address the issue.

He said the bill of NCHR was tabled in parliament in 2011 and later the commission became functional and performed very well.

Ministries of human rights and law division directed to address issue related to non-functioning of NCHR, NCRC within two weeks

“However, now it has become dysfunction and I believe that the prime minister is being misguided over the issue,” he said.

The four-year tenure of NCHR chairman Justice retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan and the members expired on May 30, 2019, but the most important body, which watches human rights and has power to take suo motu notice, could not be revived.

Complying with its international obligations, Pakistan established the NCHR through Act XVI of 2012 in accordance with the Paris Principles.

The NCHR Act 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.

Initially, the posts were advertised at the end of March and April 14 2019 was the last date for filing applications for the posts.

The process was completed and names were shortlisted.

However, 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 the order of Supreme Court the government means the federal cabinet.

So again permission was sought from the federal cabinet for advertising the posts and a new advertisement was placed in the press on September 22, 2019, with October 6, 2019, as the last date for applying.

In the first advertisement, there was a cap on the minimum age - 40 years - but there was no cap on the maximum age limit.

However, in the second advertisement the maximum age for the chairman was fixed at 65 years.

Former NCHR chairman Nawaz Chowhan challenged it in the IHC and the appointment was delayed.

A representative of NCRC told the Senate committee that the commission was established in February 2020 but there was no office for the chairman and officers.

Even funds were not allocated due to which complaints which have been received could not be addressed.

The Senate committee chairman said it was embarrassing that departments were set up and then kept dysfunctional.

“Incidents of child abuse have been increasing but no serious effort is being made to make the commissions functional. We reject the briefing by the ministry and the minister should attend the next meeting to brief the committee,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Khokhar said he believed that the commissions were kept dysfunctional.

“The NCRC became functional eight months ago but has no office, funding and staff. I believe that an enabling environment is not being provided to let it function,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2020