Event Title: A Meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Walid Iqbal here at Parliament House
Event Date: 2021-09-02
A Meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Walid Iqbal here at Parliament House today.
Meeting commenced with Fateha Khawani for deceased Kashmiri Huriyat Leader Syed Ali Gillani. Committee members paid homage to the role played by Syed Ali Gillani for Kashmir Freedom Movement.
Committee took up “National Commission on the Status of Women (Amendment) Bill, 2020”, introduced by Senator Kamran Murtaza in the Senate sitting held on 12th of July, 2021. Amendment was related to tenure of Chairperson National Commission on status of Women. Chairman/Chairperson can only serve for one tenure comprising three years and no further extension will be granted and process of fresh appointment will be initiated upon expiry of tenure of the incumbent Chairman/Chairperson. Committee members unanimously passed the Bill after due deliberations.
Committee members were briefed on Pakistan’s inclusion in United States Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) List by Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari. Dr. Shireen Mazari stated that Pakistan Army is a professional Army and termed the act Politically Motivated. Dr. Shireen Mazari stated that recruitment to Pakistan Armed Forces in done through a competitive process voluntarily. Minimum age for recruitment is 16 years and recruited personnel are not sent into combat until they turn 18 years old. Dr. Shireen Mazari said that this is mala fide intent on part of United States.
Senator Mushahid Hussain expressed his disconcert on the ignorance of US State Department. “We should firmly put our case forward jointly with Turkey which has also been included in the list. Joint letter should be addressed to US State Department in consultation with Foreign Office in order to resolve the issue at earliest. This move can have long term ramifications for US-Pakistan diplomatic as well as Economic Relations” Said Senator Mushahid Hussain.
Chairman of the committee questioned the rationale behind inclusion of Pakistan in such a list as there is no concept of any recognized militia or child soldiers in Pakistan. Members also discussed the possibility of approaching relevant committee of United Status Congress on the matter.
Officials from the Ministry of Human Rights briefed the committee members on Harassment/Public assault at Minar-Pakistan, Lahore against Ms. Ayesha Akram on the Independence Day; Progress made in apprehending the culprits and steps to be taken to curb this menace. Director General Human Rights informed the committee that Ministry of Human Right has taken up the matter with Punjab Police and a report has already been received regarding the progress in the case as of now. DG Human rights narrated the contents of the report received from Punjab Police which stated that identification parade of 141 suspects arrested in the case was arranged yesterday subsequently six suspects were identified by the victim. Nine suspects were identified through NADRA. Further investigation is on-going to nab the remaining culprits.
Senator Faisal Sabzwari expressed his deep concerns on the aftermath of this incident. He remarked that victim blaming is unfortunate. “ We need to focus on nation building and create a strong narrative to counter such moral policing. There is a need to create awareness among masses though comprehensive communication/media campaigns on issues related to treatment of women in order to bring about a behavioral change in the society” Said Senator Faisal Sabzwari.
Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari asserted that Constitution of Pakistan accords equal rights to all its citizens regardless of gender, cast, race or religion. Women rights are of paramount importance and women should be free to visit public places without any fear.
Senator Mushahid Hussain lamented that women are not safe even in Islamabad. Widespread prevalence of such cases shows that system has failed to protect citizens.
Chairman Committee maintained that there is need to educate our men on respecting women without any preconditions through inclusion of relevant material in regular curriculum. Chairman committee directed the Ministry Officials to keep a close tab on development in the case.
Committee members were also briefed on growing incidents of suicide in Chitral and surrounding areas, causes and way forward.
Director General Human Rights said that Chitral is notorious for a higher rate of suicide. One of the main reasons of the suicide is poverty as well as lack of job opportunities for youth of that area. Children are being pressured by parents to attain higher marks in examination which is also exerting great deal of stress on minds of younger generation. Mental health issues are ignored and there is no infrastructure available for treatment of such individuals. Among others domestic violence is another big reason for higher suicide rate especially among women of that area.
Minister of Human Rights informed the committee members that Ministry is working on decriminalizing suicide as it is being done throughout the world. Suicide is a medical issue not a criminal issue and it should be dealt accordingly. Chairman Committee lauded the efforts of Human Rights Ministry in this regard
Award winning short film “Darya kay is Paar’ produced by Nighat Akbar Shah on the subject of suicides in Chitral was also screened during the meeting. Producer of the movie Nighat Akbar Shah also participated in the discussion through video link live from United States. Nighat Shah outlined the steps which need to be taken in order to counter this dangerous trend of suicides in Chitral. She recommended that a Task Force should be established and help line created for providing consultation to vulnerable population of that area. Career counseling should be provided to students and parents alike and proper investigation should be launched to probe the reasons for prevalence of such behaviors among masses.
Senator Falak Naz thanked Chairman Committee for his efforts to bring forth issues concerning such far flung areas of Pakistan. Committee also deliberated upon the possibility of physical visit of committee members to that area to get the first hands on ground experience of the prevailing situation.
Senator Abida Muhammad Azeem informed the Chairman Committee regarding currently evolving situation at sit-in in Mangi Dam, Harnai, Balochistan after killing of three levies personnel few days back. Chairman Committee expressed shock and concern over the situation and directed the Ministry Officials to contact the local authorities and report to the committee.
Meeting was attended by Senators, Falak Naz, Faisal Ali Sabzwari, Gurdeep Singh, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Abida Muhammad Azeem, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari and senior officials from Ministry of Human Rights.