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Government of Pakistan must protect National Commission for Human Rights

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(Bangkok/Kathmandu/Islamabad, 15 May 2017) – Bytes for All, Pakistan (B4A), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), and other undersigned organisations express deep concern and condemn an incident during a parliamentary committee meeting, which undermines the independence of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) of Pakistan. The undersigned organisations offer strong solidarity and support to the Commission and its members, especially the Commission Member from Islamabad, Mr. Chaudhry Mohammad Shafique.

On 12 May 2017, DAWN[1] reported that a complaint was filed with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Ayaz Sadiq by the Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Ms. Zahra Wadood Fatmi, against Mr. Shafique, member of the NCHR, on 11 May 2017. Ms. Fatmi alleged that she was embarrassed by the NCHR member, when he disagreed with her on government policy. Ms. Fatmi alleged that Mr. Shafique contradicted her during a lunch and questioned the ability of the Government and State to counter terrorism during an official visit to the USA.

The NCHR is Pakistan’s premier National Human Rights Institution constituted by Parliament. The Commission’s independence, including that of its staff, is ensured under Section 16 of the NCHR Act, 2012. This guarantees it can function without political interference or other bias, and be independent from any Government institution, or any other functionary or body directly or indirectly representing the interests of any such entity.

The passing of the NCHR Act of 2012, which led to its establishment in 2015, has been one of the most important achievements of the Government of Pakistan, since it pledged adherence to the Paris Principles at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. Although, at the time of the passing of the NCHR Act, the institution’s mandate was significantly compromised, when the country’s armed forces and intelligence agencies were granted immunity from the NCHR, it still remains a critical component, as it autonomously strives towards preventing all forms of human rights violations in Pakistan.

Adhering to its international obligations, it is the duty of the Government of Pakistan to fully enable the NCHR to remain independent and able to work to restore and protect human rights in Pakistan, and to have its own voice in these efforts.

We strongly condemn any overt or covert act to undermine the independence of the commission, and demand the following from the Government of Pakistan:

  1. Take action against the maligning of human rights activists and institutions in the name of national interest;
  2. Reinforce the importance and mandate of the NCHR in Parliament;
  3. Adhere to the Paris Principles;
  4. Facilitate for the NCHR to remain well resourced, independent, and effective;
  5. Enhance the mandate of the NCHR to be able to hold all government institutions accountable, so that none remain above the law; and
  6. Prioritise the enforcement of actions prescribed by the NCHR in order to improve the state of human rights in Pakistan.

Statement signed by:

  1. Bytes for All, Pakistan
  2. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  3. Asian NGO Network on Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)
  4. Democratic Commission for Human Development
  5. National Commission for Justice and Peace
  6. National Human Rights Defenders Network, with 250 human rights organisation across Pakistan
  7. Women in Struggle for Empowerment
  8. Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation