New Pakistani Government wants to do away with Ministry of Human Rights

August 5, 2013

Several newspapers and NGOs, including the Asian Human Rights Commission, have criticized the new government of  Pakistan for deciding to do away with the Ministry of Human Rights and merge it with the Ministry of Justice. However, the human rights portion of the new ministry is to be relegated to a small unit. The justification given by the government is that it has re-organised the Federal Secretariat, but the civil society of Pakistan accuses Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that he has never been happy with the existence of Human Rights ministry, which was established by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and whenever he came in power he abolished the ministry. Civil Society thinks this decision will have an adverse impact on the state of human rights in Pakistan, for several reasons: 

– The mandates of the two ministries [Ministry of Law and Justice (MoLJ) and Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR] are in direct conflict with each other. The MoLJ’s mandate includes defending the existing laws and representing the state in court cases pertaining to human rights violations by the state, while the MoHR is expected to redress the grievances of survivors/victims and to protect and safeguard their rights and interests. As a unit of the MoLJ it will not be able to perform these functions independently.

– Pakistan, as a Member State of the United Nations, accepts the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and is also a State Party to several Human RightsConventions. After the establishment of the MoHR, Pakistan secured membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The merger will cause Pakistan’s image to suffer.

– Consequent to the merger, both the National Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on Human Rights will stand dissolved. This would result in the issue of human rights no longer being closely watched and monitored by the Parliament, which would further undermine the importance of human rights and their violations in Pakistan.

– After devolution the subject of Women’s Development was retained as a Federal unit in the MoHR. After the merger, women’s issues will lose priority and focus; as will the rights of non-Muslim citizens, children and youth.

– The MoHR’s Human Rights Defenders Mechanism initiative; preparation of the UPR report and others (CRC/CEDAW) will be neglected.

– The MOLJ simply cannot handle the representational functions of the MoHR at the UN, EU and other international fora, nor will it be able to respond to queries from foreign delegations visiting Pakistan, especially with reference to the current ongoing cases against the State institutions in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

– The important function of the MoHR to harmonize national laws, regulations and practices with Pakistan’s international human rights covenants and agreements will be halted or adversely affected.

– The National Human Rights Commission legislated by the previous assembly has not yet been constituted and this delay is a further cause for concern.

via Daily Times – Leading News Resource of Pakistan – Civil society seeks restoration of HR ministry.


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