In what came across as an unconvincing gesture, the government decided it would approach the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council against ‘unsanctioned’ drone strikes being carried out in the country by the CIA. The announcement lost all sincerity when Prime Minister’s Adviser on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokar quickly added that the UN’s human right panel had “very limited scope and powers”.
“We are gathering data on collateral damage, figures of innocent people getting killed and property being destroyed … and we will take this issue to the UN,” Khokar told the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“These are extra judicial killings … a clear violation of human rights and we will raise this issue at international forums,” the adviser added in response to a barrage of criticism on the government by opposition members on what they called a dismal condition of human rights in Pakistan.
Though top government officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, have been opposing drone strikes through public statements, whether convincing or not, it is the first time that the administration announced it would take the issue to the UN.
Khokar did not comment on how, and through which authorities, data was being collected, or even when the government was planning on formally approaching the UN council. It’s been over half a decade since drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been pounding alleged al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in North and South Waziristan.
The UN Security Council that allowed international forces to attack Afghanistan back in 2001 after 9/11 to flush out the Taliban regime did not approve a hot pursuit or any sort of other attack inside Pakistan.
Reports in the past suggested Pakistan’s top political and military leadership have a tacit understanding with US authorities regarding the deadly drone strikes. Islamabad considers these strikes illegal and publicly opposes them.
Earlier in the National Assembly, several members from the opposition, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), rallied against the government for what some of them termed “a miserable failure” on the administration’s part to stop drone strikes from killing innocent people.
“This [drone strikes] is a violation of not only the established human rights, but also the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” PML-N MNA Pervaiz Malik said.
Healthcare for pregnant women
On a separate note, the government agreed to a suggestion made by two female members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) asking to declare healthcare for pregnant women a basic human right through a house resolution.
Maternal mortality rate in Pakistan is among the highest in the world, MNA Yasmin Rehman said, proposing to carry out a legislation to make it binding on the state to provide healthcare to pregnant women.
MNA Dr Azra Fazl endorsed Yasmin’s proposal and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah agreed to bring a resolution in the house in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2011.
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