ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Friday sought from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs details of Pakistani prisoners abroad, including the four detainees and their report of release from Guantanamo prison in a chronological order.
The committee was apprised that two detainees (Rabbani brothers), and Majid Khan were released in February 2023. The Rabbani brothers were repatriated to Pakistan as free citizens.
Expressing concern over the harassment of Pakistani women in the American non-governmental organisation (NGO) working in the health sector in Pakistan, members remarked that if such incidents had happened in the United States, there would not have been silence.
The committee recommended to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs that all private and public institutions should form an Internal Harassment Committee.
Recommends public, private institutions to form harassment committees
The meeting was held at the Parliament House under the chairmanship of Senator Walid Iqbal. Senator Syed Waqar Mehdi, Abida Azeem, Falak Naaz Chitrali, Dr Humayun and Senator Seemee Ezdi were present in the meeting. Federal secretary for human rights, foreign ministry officials, and other officials concerned also attended the meeting.
Ministry officials told the committee that one of the prisoners, who was held in Guantanamo had reached Pakistan on Feb 24, 2023, and was in Karachi.
Senator Seemee Ezdi said that he had been in jail for 21 years without charges. Senator Humayun Mohmand said that it was a shame that until the senator raised this issue, the government abandoned its citizens and no one asked about it. Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said that in 2008, he took a delegation to the US and went to meet Aafia Siddiqui. It was also highlighted that $1.2 million from the government was consumed for the lawyer in Aafia’s case.
Senator Waqar Mehdi said that the Rabbani brothers should be called to the committee to tell their story. The committee was apprised that Majid Khan had not come to Pakistan. He was imprisoned for 19 years but had now been released, however he did not return to Pakistan.
Officials of the foreign ministry told the committee that the US embassy had highlighted that there was no longer any Pakistani in Guantanamo Bay. Mr Syed questioned what the citizenship of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was arrested in Karachi, was.
Pakistan had never demanded compensation for the loss of life to it as a result of war from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), Mr Syed said.
The issue of sexual harassment of female employees of an NGO was taken into consideration. Chairman of the committee Walid Iqbal said that the law to protect women from workplace harassment in Pakistan had been in place since 2010. Many female employees of the NGO had complained about sexual harassment. So far, five women had filed a written complaint against the NGO. The committee learnt that harassment had been going on in this NGO for five to seven years and complaints to the administration had been in vain.
The head of the NGO in Pakistan presented his position in front of the committee and said that now the harassment committee had been established. It was observed that not forming the committee was a violation of the Harassment Act.
The standing committee passed a resolution condemning the incidents of May 9.
The resolution stated that the committee condemned the attacks on military and civilian installations on May 9. It was further highlighted that strong defence institutions were part of a strong democratic system and action should be taken against the people involved in violence. It was resolved that according to international agreements, these people should be given the right to a transparent trial.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2023