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February 27, 2016

First-ever human rights action plan launched

February 27, 2016

Islamabad

After National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, the federal government on Thursday announced the first-ever ‘Action Plan for the Improvement of Human Rights in Pakistan’ aimed at protection and promotion of human rights in the country. 

Drafted on the directives of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the plan sets strategic direction for government’s future human rights interventions and was formulated after one year of extensive consultation with stakeholders. 

The comprehensive plan consisting of six thematic areas with 16 expected outcomes and 60 actions was announced by the Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights Zahid Hamid. Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed and Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Human Rights Barrister Zafarullah were also present on the occasion. 

The six thematic areas which cover all human rights dimensions include Policy and Legal Reforms, Implementing Key Human Rights Priorities, Cross Cutting Interventions for promotion and protection of human rights, International/UN Treaty Implementation, Institutional Interventions and Implementation and Monitoring Mechanism. 

The Action Plan will lead to a national policy frame work which will be approved by the Federal Cabinet. For legislative reforms, a joint committee will be formulated comprising federal and provincial governments to review legislation with human rights perspective. The committee will also conduct a research study to review and identify legal provisions
to be enacted for harmonisation of legislation and amendments in the PPC and CrPC in line international obligation. 

Under this plan, fund for free legal aid to the poor victims of human rights violations will be established and all possible measures will be taken for speedy justice for victims through strengthening of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors etc. in addition to improve forensic sciences, upgrade physical facilities and equipment to investigate Gender Based Violence (GBV) and crimes on scientific grounds. 

Policy measures for protection of women rights include formulation of National Policy guidelines on GBV, establishment of new Crisis Centers for women and standardisation of existing services at district level and directions for a uniform women’s empowerment package for federal and provincial governments under Article 149 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Zahid Hamid shared that National Commissions will be formed to protect rights of children and minorities and measures will be taken to strengthening the existing ones. He said that legislation regarding both these commission is with the standing committees for review. 

Responding to a question about the clash of mandate between Ministry of Human Rights and National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), as claimed by the Chairperson NCHR, he said there is no clash of mandate. “MoHR and NCHR will work according to their rules of business to ensure maximum protection of human rights complementing the effort of each other,” he said. 

Besides National Commission for Minorities, the government will strengthen and enhance effectiveness of district level Interfaith Harmony Committees, will arrange for special security arrangements for protection of minorities’ worship places and will launch a comprehensive package for socio-economic uplift of the members of the minority communities. 

For children, the government will review Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, ensure implementation of Article 25-A of the constitution, prohibit child labour, enforce laws for protection of children.” We will soon bring the Child Protection Law in the Parliament for approval which covers all these areas,” said SAPM Barrister Zafarullah. 

To protect the rights of disabled persons, Zahid Hamid said that the government will review the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehab.) Ordinance, 1981 and will ensure formulation of building codes to create accessible infrastructure for mobility of PWDs. “We will ensure mandatory Disabled Impact Assessment (DIA) in development,” he said.  

The government will also form Joint Committee of federal and provincial governments to provide recommendations for Jail Reforms and will launch a comprehensive “Jail Inmates Rehabilitation Programme.” 

For human rights education and sensitisation, the government will establish an Institution on Human Rights and will include human rights education in the curriculum of schools, law enforcement agencies and training institutes of public officers. “Social mindset is one of the big hindrances in the implementation of human rights initiatives. Inclusion of human rights in curriculum will lead to change in mindset where it is most needed,” said Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rasheed. 

The government will also work on developing media policy on human rights including code of ethics, responsible reporting, reporter’s sensitisation and award and incentives etc. Special emphasis will be laid on utilisation of 10 per cent free airtime available for Public Service messages. 

An important component of Action Plan will be implementation of international commitments. For that, Treaty Implementation Cells (TICs) will be strengthened and policies, legal frameworks and existing institutional mechanisms will be reviewed in the context of core human rights conventions. 

To prevent human rights violations, a helpline has already been established at the MoHR. “The victims will also be able to receive financial support with the effective operationalisation of Women in Distress and Detention Fund, Human Rights Relief and Revolving Fund and Diyat, Arsh and Damn Fund,” said the federal minister.  

For implementation of the Action Plan, Zahid Hamid said that a National and Provincial Task Force will be established under the chairpersonship of Federal minister for Human Rights and provincial ministers. 

Under the Action Plan, Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2013, Criminal Law Amendment Bill (2014) (Child Protection), Domestic Violence (Prevention & Protection) Bill 2013, Hindu Marriages Bill, 2014, Christian Marriages Amendment Bill,2014, Divorce Amendment Bill, 2014 (Christian), National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill 2014, Compulsory Immunisation Bill 2012, Reproductive Health Care and Rights Bill 2013, Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2013, Anti Rape Law (Criminal Laws Amendment Bill 2014), Women in Distress & Detention Fund (Amendment) Act 2014 and Cost of Litigation Bill 2014 will be immediately enacted.