Posts Tagged ‘The News on Sunday (TNS)’

Pakistan: summary justice by the police is widespread

February 10, 2018

On 4 February 2018 the Pakistani newspaper The News on Sunday carried the story “Punjab police has a history and reputation of staging fake police encounters. Has anything changed?

A solution for speedy justice
Fake police encounters are said to be more rampant in Punjab province and some urban centres of Sindh, including Karachi. If one takes the case of Punjab, one finds such encounters to be a popular and preferred method of ‘dispensing justice’ adopted by the police. Police encounters have been staged for long but their number is said to have skyrocketed during the tenures of Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab. This has led to the perception that he has full trust in this method of controlling crime and patronises police officers known as encounter specialists. Prized postings and out-of-turn promotions for such officers strengthen this perception.

After tracing the history of police encounters in Punjab the article states that “Killings through police encounters got an exponential boost after Shehbaz Sharif came to power in Punjab in 1997. It was in July 1999 that BBC carried a news story that 850 suspected criminals had been killed by the police in encounters since the PML-N government had taken over in the province. The fact that 20 of them had been killed in just one week in May 1999 had disturbed human rights defenders all over the world. This killing spree was also observed during his second tenure that started in 2013. In 2015 alone, 440 suspects were killed in police encounters in Punjab.

Ejaz Butt, a crime reporter based in Lahore, recalls the time when he says police was said to have been asked by the Shehbaz Sharif government to decimate the top 10 gangsters of the city. He says police would stage encounters without any fear and hold press conference a day before with the criminals in handcuffs. “The officers would tell reporters to ask questions from criminals, saying they would be killed in shootout the next day,” he adds. The need for this clean-up operation was felt when the trader community of the city became fed up with excessive demands for extortion money and paid assassins who were operating everywhere.

Butt says the encounter experts are very much clear about who to shoot down. “The criminals who have fired at policemen, raped female inmates during robberies, killed abducted children even after getting ransom, molested minors, indulged in multiple murders, including those of witnesses are not spared,” he adds. He says they opt for this method as it is difficult to establish these crimes in courts and letting them go will make them commit the same crime again.

Every time there is an encounter there is a judicial inquiry but most of the time fake encounters are hard to establish. Why is it so? Butt explains the reason is that “encounter specialists are also expert in making the encounter plan and executing it. They prepare a sketch of the crime scene beforehand and fire bullets at police van with unlicensed weapons, claimed to be owned by the criminals. Besides, there is no eyewitness because all the roads and pathways leading to the venue of the encounter are blocked for public before it is carried out.”

Sarmad Saeed Khan says the fake encounters are not probed properly because they are done at the behest of the government. “Not even a single fake encounter can be staged by a police officer on his own”. He says not “every police officer is ready to take these orders and only those agree who get the blessings of the government”.

Though these police officers got out-of-turn promotions, he says, “the Supreme Court reversed these which is a good step. But despite this, these officers obey unlawful orders from the government to kill people in encounters. These dreaded officers are also used to pressurise political opponents whenever needed,” he adds.

If there are any demands for investigation, complainants are warned that they can be taken as those attackers if they keep on demanding an inquiry. Moreover “The problem unfortunately is that even the blood relatives disassociate themselves from such cases and disown the deceased due to the stigma attached to them.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/solution-speedy-justice/#.Wnni02Z7GV4

 

Will Pakistan pass again the human rights progress test in the EU parliament?

February 6, 2018

, in a piece in The News on Sunday (TNS) refers to the upcoming debate in the European Parliament about whether or not Pakistan will get a prolongation of its ‘Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status‘ by the EU (giving easy access to the EU market for textile). The second periodic review has been done and the report will be discussed in the EU Parliament shortly. The continuation or discontinuation of the status for Pakistan is crucial:

Some of the important observations made by the EU team:

It points out the government of Pakistan has established a system of Treaty Implementation Cells (TICs) at federal and provincial levels, tasked with coordinating the implementation of treaty obligations between different line ministries and departments and between the federal and provincial levels. The National Commission of Human Right (NCHR) has been established though its functional and budgetary autonomy is yet to be fully materialised. Besides, it says, the federal and provincial Commissions on the Status of Women have also played an important role in promoting human rights in Pakistan. It also praises the government’s intention “to improve data collection by establishing a Human Rights Management Information System, which will be anchored in a National Human Rights Institute.”

On the other hand, it identifies outstanding issues and points out that the right to a fair trial remains a major concern, stemming from weaknesses of the judicial system. “A large backlog of cases resulting in defendants spending years in jail before their case is heard continues to be a problem. The registration process of international NGOs (INGOs) continues to be slow and nontransparent.” The issues of forced marriages, forced conversions, forced disappearances, custodial deaths, death penalty etc have been taken up in the report as well. The concerns about freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, the situation of human rights defenders and civil society activists, and the overall ‘shrinking civil society space’ are also there.

Regarding the eight conventions on labour rights, the review report talks about the formation of a national labour protection framework by the federal and provincial authorities, the ongoing labour force and child labour surveys, improvements in the area of tripartite dialogue, formation of trade unions in the informal sector etc but calls upon the government to address the persistent obstacles for the registration and functioning of trade unions. The issues of child labour and bonded labour have also been discussed along with the efforts to curb these…

Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director Homenet Pakistan, says it is a mix picture and the report seems to have categorically analysed the present situation of Pakistan’s executive and legislature. She finds the review report an eye-opener and urges the government functionaries to do the needful. For example, she says, “The number of labour inspectors has been stagnating countrywide and the whole labour inspection system is in need of reform, which is essential to improve the enforcement of labour rights and working conditions. Without an effective labour inspection system it is impossible to ensure labour rights.”

Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director Pakistan Institute for Labour Education & Research (PILER), hopes the GSP Plus status will continue as the report seems to be appreciative of the pro-rights legislation done by the government. “Though it highlights human rights violation in Pakistan, it appreciates the measures taken for improvement as well.” However, he says, the review appears to be biased in favour of the government in terms of labour rights in a scenario where only one per cent of the workforce is unionised.

Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), shares it with TNS that the second review is different from the first because this time the third party evaluation has also been done on the behest of EU. Due to this, she says, the findings cannot be termed biased as happens when the civil society of the country gives its input. The government shall seek guidelines from the report and its recommendations for the sake of its citizens as well as the continuation of GSP Plus status. Khaliq appreciates the fact that the government has recently submitted its reports to the UN regarding compliance with its certain conventions, terming it a positive trend. Earlier, there would be reluctance and delays in this regard. Lastly, she thinks even the EU Parliament is answerable to the highly vigilant civil society in Europe and cannot ignore it while deciding on the continuation of this preferential status. “So, it is equally important to convince the civil society that we are taking these issues seriously.”