Three in race for office of NCHR chairperson

Pakistan on 22 July 2014
Location : Pakistan | Source : Dawn. Image Source: Dawn

Two retired judges and a woman civil rights activist are in the race for the office of the chairperson of the first National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) to be set up in the country.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after consultation with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, has sent the names of retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, retired Justice Mehta Kelashnath Kohli and Rehana Bibi Khilji to a parliamentary committee for selection of one of them for the post.

However, a meeting of the committee presided over by Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-F on Monday found the list incomplete and deferred the matter.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Shah said the committee had asked the government to provide more details about the nominees, particularly about their contribution to the cause of human rights. He said the committee would meet again on August 12 to take up the selection of the chairperson and members of the NCHR.

When contacted, member of the committee Senator Kamil Ali Agha said the government had provided a list which contained no names for members from Islamabad, Fata and Balochistan.

The committee is required to select one of three nominees for appointment as a member from the four provinces, Islamabad, Fata and the minorities.

The nominees are Riaz Fatiana, Kishwar Shaheen Awan and Shaigan Sharif Malik from Punjab; Anees Haroon, Aneesa Sattar Silat and Fareeha Abbas from Sindh; Rahatullah, Mohammad Akmal and Dr Yahya Ahmed from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pandit Channa Lal, Dr Araish and Ishaq Masih from the minorities.

The law seeking to create the state-funded but independent NCHR had been passed by parliament on May 4, 2012, after almost three years of deliberations at the committees’ level.

The bill was tabled in the National Assembly by then minister for human rights Mumtaz Alam Gilani in December 2008, two months after its approval by the federal cabinet.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, headed by Riaz Fatiana of the PML-Q, approved the draft bill with major amendments in August 2011.

The law empowers the federal government to appoint members of the NCHR under a procedure involving a public notice to invite suggestions, consultations between the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly and approval by a bipartisan parliamentary committee before a presidential confirmation.

The NCHR will comprise a chairperson who has been or is qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court, or has demonstrable knowledge of, or practical experience in matters relating to human rights, one member each from the provinces, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad Capital Territory with demonstrable knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights, the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, one member from minority communities and a secretary to be appointed by the commission.

Its functions will include inquiring into violations of human rights or abetment at its own initiative or on a complaint, intervening into court proceedings on allegations of violation by seeking to become a party in the case, visiting jails or other places of detention, review factors – including acts of terrorism – that inhibit enjoyment of human rights, spreading human rights literacy, submitting independent reports to the government on the state of human rights in Pakistan and developing a “national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights”.

After establishment of the NCHR, every citizen will have the right to register a complaint about human rights violations against an individual or institution. The commission, while inquiring into complaints, will have all the powers of a civil court and can summon any individual, public or private department.

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