Activists are pushing lawmakers in Gilgit-Baltistan to enact laws to streamline the mechanism of providing financial assistance to victims of terrorism.
“There are no laws at the moment. It is at the discretion of the government to decide who to pay and how much to pay,” said Bilal Hussain, a coordinator at Institute of Social and Policy Science (I-SAPS).
I-SAPS is an Islamabad-based NGO that has drafted the bill and shared it with lawmakers recently as part of a consultation process to seek their feedback. It will be tabled in the G-B legislative assembly in the coming days.
“The government shall, by notification, establish the civilian victims fund within the Provincial Consolidation Fund for timely payment of grants to civilian victims. The government shall ensure availability of sufficient amount in the civilian victims fund in order to discharge its obligations under the Act,” read the draft of the bill.
The document also calls for a mechanism for the rehabilitation of victims’ families, with special emphasis on education of dependent children, their healthcare and provision of livelihood to the family members.
Terrorism and sectarianism has featured many times in the recent past in G-B leaving hundreds of civilians dead and many more injured.
Families of the victims of the Kohistan incident in February 2012, for example, were paid Rs1 million each by G-B and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments, said Hussain. He added, however, none of the families of the 15 civilians killed in targeted incidents in 2011 were paid a single penny.
“This needs to be streamlined through a mechanism endorsed by legal backing,” Hussain said on Saturday, a day after I-SAPS held a policy dialogue in Gilgit to seek input from experts.
Speaking at the forum, Minister Excise and Taxation Muhammad Naseer appreciated the initiative and said the government will support channelising the system. “Anybody suggesting any improvement in the existing mechanism would be welcomed,” said Naseer, adding that victims of terrorism had been paid in the recent past though there were certain difficulties. He hoped the document will soon be tabled in the assembly for debate and enactment.
Home Secretary Attaur Rahman said a number of civilians have been killed in the past in acts relating to sectarian violence and urged the police to improve its performance.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.