ISLAMABAD: The government told the National Assembly on Tuesday it was planning to complain to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against frequent deadly US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas to target militant hideouts, but held the Punjab government as the main culprit for most domestic human rights violations.
“Drone strikes are definitely a human rights issue,” the prime minister’s adviser on human rights, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said while winding up an opposition-sought discussion on what 13 lawmakers of the Pakistan Muslim League-N called in a joint motion “the dismal condition of human rights in Pakistan”, with some who spoke largely blaming the Pakistan People’s Party-led federal coalition government, which they also said failed to halt the strikes by unmanned spy planes targeting suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries but also killing local civilians in parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) bordering Afghanistan.
“We are collecting data” about the civilian killings and other collateral damage so the government could take the issue to the UNHRC, the adviser said. But he acknowledged the council, made up of 47 states as an inter-governmental body within the UN system, had a “limited mandate” not providing for direct intervention.
But he gave no timeframe when Islamabad will go to the council, which was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as a successor to the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
A PML-N member from Punjab, Mohammad Pervaiz Malik, as a sponsor of the motion for the discussion, accused the federal government of failing to guarantee human rights to the country’s citizens and called the drone strikes as “the biggest human rights violation by US forces”, while some of his other party colleagues echoed the same theme.
Adviser Khokhar said it was not right to hold the federal government responsible for incidents related to law and order and considered as rights violations because the law and order was a provincial subject, and then quoted province-wise figures of cases of murder, rape, kidnapping for ransom and even vehicle thefts for last year showing the largest number of such crimes taking place in Punjab.
This, he said, reflected “poor governance” of the PML-N government contrary to its claims and advised Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to better concentrate on good governance.
The adviser also cited overcrowding in the country’s 91 jails, which he said now housed about 86,000 inmates, more than double the authorised capacity of 42,671, with under-trials being more than convicts because of trial delays – a situation he said could be remedied by judicial reforms to provide for expeditious trials.
Earlier, in response to a call-attention notice from five PPP members complaining of “non-availability of urea fertiliser and its high prices” in the country, the parliamentary secretary for industries, Pir Haider Ali Shah of the government-allied Awami National Party, also blamed the Punjab government for allowing most of the fertiliser hoarding that created a crisis, on which a detailed debate is due on Wednesday, when the house meets at 5pm.
Amid the usual barbs between the PPP and PML-N, the PPP’s managing director of Pakistan Baitul Maal, Zamurrud Khan, received an unlikely praise from a PML-N member, Ms Qudsia Arshad, who described him as “the only person who listens to us” to alleviate sufferings of the needy people, but regretted that funds of this state charity had been depleted by diverting them to flood relief.
While a PPP member, Justice (retd) Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, was able to introduce a private bill seeking some amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure after receiving a no-objection from the government, most of the agenda of the second private members’ day of the current session, which began on Nov 14, went by the board because most authors of other bills, motions and resolutions, mostly from the opposition side, were absent from the house.