A view of Pakistan's National Assembly. On May 4, 2012, the NA had passed a bill forming the National Human Rights Commission. The bill, however, still requires President Asif Ali Zardari's assent to go into effect.—File Photo

KARACHI /NEW YORK: The Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the President of Pakistan not to sign a bill to authorize a newly formed national human rights commission until it is revised to “authorize investigations of the military and the intelligence agencies for human rights violations.”

“The National Human Rights Commission if given teeth can play a critical role in improving Pakistan’s dire human rights situation. President Zardari should tell parliament he will only sign the bill when it gives the commission authority over abuses by the military and intelligence agencies,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the international human rights’ watchdog, in a press release issued today.

Pakistan’s National Assembly had passed a bill – the National Human Rights Commission Act – on May 4 for the commission’s formation, but the act requires the president’s approval before it goes into effect.

The Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that the bill would prevent the commission from addressing or investigating “human rights violations by members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies.”

“Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agencies have a long and well-documented history of serious and systematic abuses,” said Adams. “A primary reason to create a national human rights commission should be to address longstanding impunity for the army and intelligence services.”

The HRW has repeatedly called for more accountability of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, which it says, manages the country’s security policy.

Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was mysteriously killed in May last year, had told the HRW that he had been getting threats from intelligence agents. The government had formed a commission to investigate the death, but it was unable to specifically hold anyone responsible for the killing. The HRW had blamed the commission of being “fearful of confronting the ISI over Shahzad’s death.”

“The commission’s failure to get to the bottom of the Shahzad killing illustrates the ability of the ISI to remain beyond the reach of Pakistan’s criminal justice system,” Adams had said earlier in January.

Thursday’s press release adds that the bill creating the National Human Rights Commission contains many positive elements to promote and protect human rights in Pakistan. “A strong and independent National Human Rights Commission can be a key institution in aiding Pakistan’s transition to a truly rights-respecting democracy.”

But a commission that cannot take on cases involving the army and intelligence agencies would perpetuate a cruel joke on Pakistanis whose rights have been violated.”

Opinion

Editorial

1971 in retrospect
Updated 28 Nov, 2022

1971 in retrospect

The point of no return came when the military launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971.
Gender-based violence
28 Nov, 2022

Gender-based violence

IT is a war without boundaries and seemingly without end. A UN report on femicide released on Nov 25, the...
Battle against dacoits
28 Nov, 2022

Battle against dacoits

THE Punjab police is clearly fighting a formidable, and so far losing, battle against the criminal gangs based in ...
Policy rate hike
Updated 27 Nov, 2022

Policy rate hike

The decision to hike the policy rate by 100bps is a step in the right direction, even if intended to appease the IMF.
Vawda’s reprieve
27 Nov, 2022

Vawda’s reprieve

FAISAL Vawda should be relieved. After years of running from a reckoning for submitting a false declaration in his...
Gujarat’s ghosts
27 Nov, 2022

Gujarat’s ghosts

TWO decades have passed since the bloody Gujarat riots, one of the worst spasms of anti-Muslim violence witnessed in...