ISLAMABAD: The fate of hundreds of pending cases hangs in the balance as the government decides on whether to make the recently-abolished human rights ministry a division or wing under the law and justice ministry, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Since being sworn in, the government has placed human rights and women development issues low on its priority list.
A bureaucrat formerly affiliated with the Human Rights ministry requesting anonymity said that over 300 employees working for the human rights and women development ministries were eagerly awaiting the government’s next step.
According to the 18th Amendment, human rights issues were never a subject of devolution, said an International Labour Organisation official.
Former federal human rights minister Mumtaz Alam Gilani said progress was made on human rights issues over the past five years, citing the formation of National Commission on Status of Women and numerous MoU’s signed by the ministry with the UN and other donor agencies as examples.
While provincial level work on the matter was satisfactory, human rights should ideally be dealt with at district level, Gilani said.
Police departments need to increase their capacities to counter major human rights violators including religious extremists, he added.
Gilani said district-level cells should be established and the expenditure on generating awareness on such issues needs to be increased.
“The decision to replace the ministry with just a division or wing highlights that the government lacks political will and maturity to deal with core issues,” he said.
There are also concerns that the Human Rights Relief Fund, which provides federal-funded legal and financial assistance to kidnapping, rape and torture victims among others, may be placed in the wrong hands and funds misappropriated, Gilani noted.
Post-18th Amendment, the Women Development ministry was devolved and clubbed with the Human Rights ministry, a decision which has put women’s rights issues on the backburner.
Human Rights activist Rakshinda Perveen echoed these sentiments, stating that no one had taken responsibility to address these issues at the federal level.
Pakistan had signed several treaties mandating female representation on international platforms, she added. “If no one is willing to be accountable, how do we expect the plight of women to improve?” she said.
According to PSDP allocations for the fiscal year 2013-14, Rs78 million has been earmarked under the Human Rights head.
The funds will finance ongoing schemes to establish women centres in twelve cities across Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.