Why the delay in NCHR formation?

Pakistan on 26 March 2014
Location : Pakistan | Source : Daily Times. Image Source: Flickr user Ramesh Lalwani

The law in Pakistan is weak and so it is subject to frequent abuse at the hands of powerful people. This state of the law allows powerful people to violate human rights. The declining human rights situation in Pakistan, if the reports of international and domestic human rights NGOs, the international and domestic press, and the documentation of the United Nations human rights mechanism are to be believed, is extremely serious. In a statement issued on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement: “Girls and women continue to face many challenges across Pakistan. Their dismal human rights situation is aggravated by failure to implement some positive legislative changes as well as undue delay in adopting proposed changes to the law.” The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Pakistan People’s Party central government ratified the Human Rights Declaration in 2008. In a positive development, in May 2012 the former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari signed the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Act into law. It was proposed in the law that there would be a chairperson of the commission and there would be a member from the minorities. The law further states that the commission, either on its own or after receiving a petition concerning violations of human rights, will be eligible to seek a report from the federal government. Also, the commission members or any other individual authorised by the body, are entitled to visit the country’s jails as well as any other detainment centre falling under the authority of the government or the intelligence agencies. The commission should have the legal authority to summon witnesses and obtain documents, including government documents.

Unfortunately, despite nearly two years passing, the NCHR has not been established and the many cases of human rights violations are being shelved without being redressed. Corrupt elements within the police and other departments have always favoured human rights abusers. Amina, 18, a student, was gang-raped on January 5. The police prepared a false report in favour of the suspects and a court released the accused on bail. The victim took multiple rounds of the police station for justice, but did not receive it. Ultimately, when she found no chances for justice in the faulty justice system, she doused herself with petrol and set herself alight earlier this month outside a police station near the city of Muzaffargarh, in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab. After her death, the Chief Minister Punjab visited the victim family and announced just the meagre amount of Rs 500,000 as ‘compensation’ for the family. This incident and many others like it are just the tip of the iceberg. The HRCP expressed sadness and pain over her death: “HRCP is pained beyond words by the death of the 18-year old gang-rape victim in Muzaffargarh. Her sacrifice has exposed the ordeals that rape victims in the country face when they try to bring their tormentors to justice.” It is common knowledge that only courageous rape victims in Pakistan take the matter to the police or courts. The girl went to Bet Mir Hazar police station in Muzaffargarh on Thursday to lodge a protest with an investigation officer for helping the main accused get bail by favouring him in his report. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz PML-N government in the Centre has been around for ten months. It has not yet shown any intention of establishing the NCHR despite the enactment of the NCHR Act. The PML-N did not even allocate a budget for the commission’s establishment in the 2013-14 federal budget. 

There has been a huge rise in incidents of human rights violations across the country. The establishment of the NCHR can play a pivotal role in lessening human rights abuses. This commission must cover cases related to domestic violence and all other forms of violence, including incidents of rape and the unfair treatment of women, and can take measures on a war footing to address them. The absence of the commission is fertile ground for perpetrators to exploit and abuse women. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is a private organisation with limited sources and offices, not sufficient to cover all the human rights abuses, not to mention it has no power to address grievances. The government-established NCHR could have offices in every city of the country and powers to punish human rights violators. It is incumbent on the PML-N government to implement the NCHR law by establishing the Commission. This will be a real service to the weaker and poorer segments of Pakistani society. There is also no justification for a delay in the Commission’s formation. The inordinate delay so far simply benefits the tormentors of the weak segments of society — women and minorities. 

Post Comment
0 comment(s)
No Comment added yet.

join the network

Sign Up to our Newsletter

To subscribe to our quarterly newsletter simply add your email.