Landmark Senate bill: Human rights body to also scrutinise armed forces

Published: March 12, 2012

Intelligence agencies can also be investigated by commission on suo motu notice. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The armed forces will not be immune from scrutiny by the new National Commission of Human Rights (NHCR) for human rights violations, according to the text of the National Commission of Human Rights Bill, 2012 as passed by Senate. The commission will have to investigate all such cases of abuse, including those committed by intelligence agencies.

“It (the bill) shall empower the NCHR to proceed even in respect of armed forces, which means army, navy, air force and all other civil armed forces including the military intelligence agencies,” said Senator Khurshid Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).  Senator Khurshid, who is also member of the sub-committee that considered the bill including amendments to it, said: “The bill is a major milestone for Pakistanis.”

The NCHR, which will be headed by a judge of the Supreme Court or a person having demonstrable knowledge of matters relating to human rights will be able to “take suo motu notice, or a notice on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, inquire into complaints of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant.”

According to amendments introduced by the upper house of parliament, this bill will have the power to seek reports from the federal government and make recommendations to the federal government. The commission will consist of a chairperson on the status of women and one member from each province,  as well as from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Islamabad Capital Territory and a representative from minorities. The members of the commission can survey any jail or any clandestine prison to check illegal confinements, stated the bill.

The prime minister, in consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, will forward three names for each post to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirming one person for each post. The committee consisting of two members from the Senate and the National Assembly shall forward the names of the nominees to the president. On the advice of the commission, the government shall appoint an advocate from the list prepared by the commission as long as he/she has been practicing for no less than seven years.

NGO funding

Another significant move which will be brought into play by the bill is the restriction of foreign funding for NGOs in the country without prior approval.  The bill will now go to the lower house for voting and if approved, it will be turned into an act of parliament.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who introduced the bill in parliament, said the commission will have an autonomous status with full financial and administrative powers. “This landmark bill will be helpful for the government to take legal action against those who violate human rights in the country,” he added.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairperson Zohra Yusuf termed the passage of the bill a milestone for human rights activists saying, “It will pave the way for poor families seeking justice against violation of human rights.”  She added: “(The bill) has been a long time in the making. The government has fulfilled its promise, abiding by the UN’s compulsion.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Hafeez
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:14AM

    Great Job! We are inshaAllah moving gradually towards an honorable and respectable place in the comity of nations.

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  • Mirza
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:34AM

    It is becoming crystal clear why did the generals did not allow any elected govt to work and finish their terms. In particular the senate is the only institution that can keep the country intact if allowed to work by the generals. It also explains why do some rightwing touts hate democracy using one excuse or the other. A great achievement of the elected govt.

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  • bad boy
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:49AM

    finally …….

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  • DevilHunterX
    Mar 12, 2012 - 12:14PM

    “The government has fulfilled its promise, abiding by the UN’s compulsion.”

    This is a sad statement. This commission should have been made cause WE want it. But all in all, if it does what it says on paper, then good work.

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  • Mar 12, 2012 - 12:21PM

    Human rights organizations only go after small prey’s, why silent over US or Israel, India, France, England’s inhumane crimes ??? Pakistan Army is never involved in such activities , Pak Army ZindabadRecommend

  • NA
    Mar 12, 2012 - 12:25PM

    A big step in the right direction.
    We don’t often say that but ‘Well Done govt’ and long live Democracy!

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  • HRD
    Mar 12, 2012 - 12:57PM

    Maybe Ms. Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the NGO ‘Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’ would also announce changing the name of her NGO appropriately. The name of this NGO is nearly identical to the proposed ‘National Commission’ and it is time the NGO vacate this name squatting. I once saw this NGO representing Pakistan in an international program meant for National Human Rights Commissions; quite amazing for an NGO professing to work for human rights.

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  • sana
    Mar 12, 2012 - 1:02PM

    I always cricise our governments in power, but this time bravo!

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  • DevilHunterX
    Mar 12, 2012 - 1:16PM

    @Pakistan politics:
    Not sure if serious.

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  • A J Khan
    Mar 12, 2012 - 2:15PM

    The expectations of the politicians from the Armed Forces are to lay their lives, face judicial wrath and save the country for them so that they can live peacefully and enjoy all they have made from the exchequer money.
    There has never been any special law which permits the armed forces of pakistan to violate human rights. This is a poop drama.
    If the judges can deliver by becoming head of the ” National Commission of Human Rights ” what stops him from delivering justice when they sit on the bench of a High Court and Supreme court.

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  • MZZ
    Mar 12, 2012 - 2:27PM

    It is quite surprising yet laudable that Jamaat e Islami (JI) Senators amongst all the parties in the National Assembly and Senate had the guts seeking a reduction in powers of intelligence agencies regarding preventive detention. JI should be commended for their efforts to table a bill to rein in the intelligence agencies.

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  • Humza
    Mar 12, 2012 - 2:41PM

    If the politicians can rein in the Pakistan army, it would be considered a great victory. It is time the military took their orders from the leaders of the country. This government may be ineffective but at least there would be a template for democracy for the future.

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  • Mirza
    Mar 12, 2012 - 6:57PM

    Army officers are the highest paid govt servants with all the perks for life. Why should they not follow the laws of the land? Unlike the other paid servants when they join the force they take the oath to uphold the constitution. They cannot be allowed to be a loose canon and act as if they are working for free and above their oath.

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  • MarkH
    Mar 13, 2012 - 8:33AM

    That is not a fully thought out concept. Yes, they can scrutinize the armed forces and that sounds good but there have been so-called investigations in the past. Whenever they’re accused and a commission is setup, they also, superficially, are scrutinizing them but the reality of it is quite different.

    The missing part to the complete concept: giving that humans rights body authority superior to the armed forces in those investigations and also be able to do so without their permission ahead of time or to even notify them they’re investigating something.

    If that is not given to them the armed forces will easily just cut them off from evidence or buy enough time to clean it up.

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