Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was unable to ease the concerns of inquisitive parliamentarians over the visit of a UN team on enforced disappearances, in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“The UN working group on Human Rights is not mandated to conduct any investigation or fact finding and have arrived on an invitation of the government,” Khar said in her policy statement during Tuesday’s session.
She insisted that the visit was in conformity with international norms.
A two-member team of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a 10-day mission.
“We should not be apprehensive of the visit. We are a democratic and pluralist country where judiciary is independent, the media is free and civil society is robust. All these features manifest that we protect human rights,” the foreign minister said.
She added that the group was not going to draw conclusions and would, rather, discuss its findings with the government and interact with the media on the 20th of this month.
However, Raza Hayat Hiraj from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), who had highlighted the issue, insisted on holding debate on his adjournment motion.
In addition, Noor Alam Khan from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party termed the foreign minister’s statement “diplomatic”.
Furthermore, Zafar Baig Bhittni, an independent MNA from the tribal areas said the UN group would pave the way for forces who want to disintegrate the country.
In her statement, Khar said, “Pakistan has a mechanism in place for the protection of human rights. The commission on missing persons is continuing its work; the Supreme Court has taken suo motu and the government is sincere in its protection of human rights”.
She said that Pakistan had ratified many protocols and conventions of the UN regarding human rights, which shows commitment on part of the government to protect the rights of women, children, minorities and other vulnerable segments of society.
She said that the UN working group had received an invitation from 91 countries and had visited over a dozen countries in order to engage with the governments to promote human rights.
Regarding the approval of the visit, she said the matter was discussed with all major stakeholders, and included an inter-ministerial process. A summary was sent to the prime minister for approval, she added.
Head of Pakistan’s commission on missing persons Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal had also met the group in Geneva, she pointed out.
Abdullah Haroon questions visit
Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN also questioned the UN team’s visit, saying that the country should solve its internal problems without inviting foreign intervention.
“The supreme court is hearing the missing persons’ issue. I don’t understand why the foreign office felt the need to invite them at this point,” said Abdullah Hussain Haroon, at a press conference on Tuesday. “I was also approached by the UN (to coordinate the visit) but I stayed away,” he added.
During the proceedings, Ayaz Amir of the PML-N lamented the “apathetic” attitude of the government and military leadership towards the Balochistan issue. “The situation is not different from what it was like in East Pakistan prior to its disintegration,” he said.
Rights for the disabled
Meanwhile, the house approved a resolution moved by Marri, which called for equal opportunities for the disabled and to make it compulsory for all government buildings to have escalators and ramps.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY Z ALI IN HYDERABAD
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.