ISLAMABAD: Failing to submit a mandatory report on the Covenants against Torture (CAT) to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by the stipulated deadline of July 23, Pakistan is likely to lose its UNHRC membership.
Islamabad seeks re-election as member of the 47 states of the UN body as its current term expires in 2012, a Foreign Office senior official informed a parliamentary panel on Tuesday. The UNHRC elections will be held in May next year for the third term. “It is difficult to represent the UNHRC without submitting an obligatory report on CAT,” he informed the panel.
Pakistan is a signatory of two conventions – CAT and International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Islamabad ratified the conventions in 2010. According to this ratification, it is obligatory to submit an overall report on human rights in the country. But the ministry of human rights was unable to even prepare a draft of the report.
Since it hasn’t drafted the report on ICCPR as yet, the ministry may not send it to the UNHRC by the set deadline in September, Secretary Human Rights Ministry Batool Qureshi informed the committee. However, she did not provide reasons as to why the report was not prepared as yet. “Blatant violation of human rights laws is a real threat to our membership in the UNHRC,” National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights chairman Riaz Fatyana said. “Officials working for human rights did not bother to prepare reports in time to help Islamabad serve the UNHRC as an Asia-Pacific member.”
An inter-ministerial meeting to discuss Pakistan’s reservations on two international covenants was convened in June this year but its recommendations have not been implemented by the law and justice ministry so far.
Adviser to the prime minister on human rights Mustafa Khokhar, after thorough discussion on the desirability of retaining or withdrawing reservations on both conventions, passed some recommendations. It was decided that the ministry of law and justice will re-draft Pakistan’s reservation in precise legal words, but there has been no further development, officials informed the NA panel.
The ministry concerned expressed its reservations over eight of the 18 proposed suggestions in the conventions, they added. All concerned departments, with regard to the report on International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, had been requested to supply the material for the preparation of Pakistan’s report.
Expressing deep concern over the inefficiency of the ministry, Fatyana said Pakistan had to submit an initial report after four years. “My utmost effort is to prepare reports and later submit them with the UN to improve the image pertaining to human rights in the country,” he added.
According to details, members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The first election of members was held in May 2006. The term of each seat is three years, and no member can occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
The seats are distributed among the UN’s regional groups as follows: eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, seven for Western Europe and other groups, 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia and six for Eastern Europe.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.