Civil Society expressed grave concern and dismay in that the newly elected Government of Pakistan has merged the federal Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) with the Ministry of Law & Justice (MoLJ). The important subject of Human Rights is now to be relegated to a unit in the MoLJ. This ill-advised decision will have a serious adverse impact on the MoHR and, consequently, on the state of human rights in Pakistan due to several reasons listed below:
The mandates of the two Ministries are in direct conflict with each other. While the MoLJ’s mandate includes defending the existing laws, and representing the State in court cases pertaining to human rights violations by the State, the MoHR is expected to redress the grievances of survivors 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.
The Constitution of Pakistan (1973) lays down the Principles of Policy and Fundamental Human Rights that are protected and promoted through several Articles. In addition, 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 a number of UN Human Rights Conventions. After the establishment of the MoHR, Pakistan secured membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN/HRC), and its merger will causePakistan’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 unit at the Federal level in the MoHR. After the merger, women’s issues will be relegated even further back. The same will happen to the rights of non-Muslim citizens, children and youth.
The MoHR’s initiation of establishing a Human Rights Defenders Mechanism, and its preparation of the UPR report, and others, e.g. CRC, CEDAW, will be neglected. .
The representational functions of the MoHR at the UN, EU and other international fora simply cannot be handled by the MoLJ, 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 the international human rights covenants and agreements will be halted or adversely affected.
In May 2013, the people of Pakistan voted for a change, for progress and development; not for a retrogression of the gains achieved. In order to protect and promote our Constitutional rights, the MoHR must be restored. As Pakistani citizens, we want a strong Pakistani human rights agenda, based on the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, transparency and responsibility. We need the relevant measures, institutional mechanisms, structures and resources to ensure this. This entails a fully restored and strengthened MoHR and a functioning National Commission on Human Rights, free of politicization, pressure and influence.
We demand the immediate restoration of the MoHR as a separate, independent Federal Ministry, along with the appointment of a Federal Minister who is recognized and respected for her/his views, work and track record on human rights.
Endorsed by: IHI, NHN, HRCP,EVAW/G,FADAM. HRCP,PRJM and WAF
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