A Senate committee would take up next week the issue of the killings of Hazara community members in Pakistan and discuss how a fresh piece of legislation might help protect religious minorities in the country.
According to official records, an estimated 1,456 members of the Hazara community have lost their lives in different areas of Balochistan in the past seven years. For the first time, a group of senators will meet the affected families in Quetta.
The committee on human rights, headed by Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, will also meet government functionaries from the areas where people have gone missing in Quetta, according to an agenda posted on the Senate website. The committee is also likely to take up with officials of the law enforcement agencies another key issue of the discovery of mass graves in Balochistan.
Officials said the 13-member Senate panel will stay in Quetta for two days (July 27 and 28) to meet representatives of political parties and the lawyers’ community. The lawmakers will also visit the Central Jail in Quetta to meet prisoners and police officials.
The committee will prepare its recommendations on how the government can deliberate upon fresh legislation to protect the minority communities facing persecution, the officials said. These suggestions will be shared with the ministry of law and justice and human rights and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
“Our aim is to think how to protect minority communities,” said Senator Samina Abid while talking to The Express Tribune. “Their persecution is a stigma.”
The senator, who represents the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the committee, said the lawmakers would prepare recommendations to guarantee a better human rights situation across the country.
Senator Mohsin Leghari, another committee member, was glad the Senate was taking up this issue in a proactive way. He hoped the committee would be able to collect facts. “Let the facts come out and then our thoughts about it will be more credible,” he said. “This meeting will help us [realise] what exactly the issue is.”
The officials said the Balochistan Home Department would brief the Senate committee about the mass graves, missing persons and extrajudicial killing.
The HRCP and European Union have already expressed concerns over the mass graves unearthed recently and the issue of missing persons in Balochistan.
Defence of Human Rights Chairperson Amina Masood Janjua claims the total number of missing persons across the country has crossed 5,000. Nasrullah Baloch, the chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, believes the majority of them belong to Balochistan.
The Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances has recorded over 1,300 cases so far. The Supreme Court has been told that the majority of these cases have been resolved while 122 missing persons have been traced in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.