Senators gave the National Commission for Human Rights Bill, 2012 a ringing endorsement during Friday’s session – which marked the end of incumbency for many members.
The rights bill was moved by Leader of the House Nayyar Bukhari. However, a unanimous agreement was reached only after the house made some key amendments to the legislation passed earlier by the National Assembly.
Clauses for establishing an ‘eligibility’ criterion for the appointment of the panel head, as well as additions to the interpretation of human rights abuses, were added to the bill.
The bill will now be sent back to the lower house. Once it is re-endorsed by the National Assembly, it will go to the president for final assent.
Features of the panel
According to the legislation, the federal government would constitute a commission, headed by an individual with sufficient judicial or human rights expertise; in the case of the former, he must either be a retired Supreme Court judge or one qualified to be so.
The commission includes the chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women, as well as a member from minorities.
The panel, either on its own or after receiving a petition concerning violation of human rights, will be eligible to seek a report from the federal government.
Also, panel members or any other individual authorised by the body, will be 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.
However, according to the bill passed, the panel cannot inquire directly into the acts of intelligence outfits.
If a complaint is made regarding any human rights abuses on the part of the agencies, it is bound to refer the complaint to the concerned authority.
The legislation also calls for the establishment of human rights courts for ensuring prompt trials for violations.
To make the commission financially independent, the bill makes it binding on parliament to make due allocations for it in its budget.
No contributions from any foreign source can be made to the body, except after gaining approval from the federal government.
Determining the members
After a public notice from the government to fill up the posts of chairperson as well as members of the body, the names of prospective candidates would be forwarded to the prime minister and the opposition leader in the National Assembly for approval.
The prime minister, after holding consultations with the opposition leader, shall forward three names to a parliamentary committee comprising of two members from the Senate and the National Assembly each to finalise the candidates.
The house also passed another unanimous resolution in its final session, condemning terrorist attacks on public rallies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) after it was moved by ANP’s Haji Muhammad Adeel.
In their farewell speeches, members pointed out that the present Senate took several landmark decisions that will ensure the country’s prosperity.
In his final address to the house, the outgoing chairman Farooq H Naek thanked all members for extending their support during his tenure.
(With additional reporting by Sumera Khan)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.