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December 12, 2019

CM Murad Ali Shah seeks civil society’s help to bridge legislation-implementation gap


December 12, 2019

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Wednesday the provincial government considered upholding human rights as its fundamental responsibility and would continue to seek the civil society’s partnership in bridging the gap between legislation and implementation.

He was speaking to a seminar to mark the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), a labour support body, organised the seminar at a hotel in Karachi.

Speakers at the seminar included Karamat Ali, executive director of PILER; Justice (retd) Majida Razvi, chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission; Anis Haroon, human rights activist and former member of the National Commission for Human Rights; Veerji Kohli, adviser to the CM on human rights; and Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the CM on law.

The programme incorporated interventions from the floor that allowed civil society members from various sectors from all across the province to highlight their concerns over rights violations.

These included the tenancy act, rights of agricultural workers, media workers, transgender rights, human rights for women, workers rights, trade unions, bonded labour, forced conversions, rights of minorities, displacement of people due to the Karachi Circular Railway project, Empress Market evacuation victims, a representative structure of student unions, operationalising of child protection units and appointments of women protection officers.

Participants particularly highlighted the gap between progressive legislation and a slow pace of implementation. The chief minister said the proposed bill for the restoration of student unions would be presented to the Sindh Assembly during the current session, and it would later be sent to the relevant committees for vetting.

“I would ask the provincial assembly’s standing committee on law to have engagement with students’ bodies and civil society organsiations,” he said. He said he himself was a victim of the ban on student unions, as when he joined the university a ban had been imposed on student unions in 1984. The government was committed to complying with the international commitments regarding human rights, he said, adding that a large number of laws had been made by Sindh.

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari believed in human rights and was striving for the provision of the fundamental rights to all, he said and added this was the main reason that he had accepted the membership and then chairmanship of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee.

Regarding the Sindh Tenancy Act, Shah said he was aware of the problems of agriculture workers as he himself belonged to a family of growers. My late father (Abdullah Shah) used to provide all facilities to his agriculture workers, including the timely settlement of their accounts.

PILER’s Ali recalled that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first document that provided the citizens of the world equal fundamental rights, which were not available to the people. He emphasised the importance of the right to expression and right of association, and urged the chief minister to conduct an honest assessment of whether these rights were accessible to the province’s citizens or not.

He appreciated the advancement in the proposed provincial legislation on labour rights since labour was a provincial subject. He however stressed that despite improving legislation and the exclusion of labour due to inadequate the IRA and implementation mechanisms remained a reality. He congratulated the government on the proposed bill on the restoration of student unions.

Anis Haroon, a former member of the National Commission for Human Rights, said that UDHR provided rights to every section of society and every sector. The Sindh Assembly has made the largest number of progressive laws, including the law against child marriage.

She stressed the need for a functional Child Protection Unit, adding that child marriages remained a challenge despite the Child Marriage Restraint Act. Functional child protection authorities can provide shelter and assistance to the victims of child marriage, she added.

Later talking to media, Chief Minister Shah brushed aside the impression of any deal for the release of PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari, saying that he had been granted bail on medical grounds.

Talking about the next CCI meeting, the chief minister said there were a lot of outstanding issues, including water, at source deduction, provincial government share in federal corporations, to be discussed and settled in the meeting.

He said the water committee had submitted its report in the CCI and it had to be discussed and decided in the CCI meeting, but it had not been held for the last 13 months.

To another question, Shah said the inspector general of police (IGP) was reporting to him and the impression of a tug of war was totally baseless. He said the IGP had gone to attend a meeting of the prime minister on the day of the Sindh Public Safety and

Police Complaint Commission.

In the other meeting of the safety commission, the police chief would be asked the reason for his absence, he added. Talking about the Dua Mangi kidnapping case, the chief minister he could sleep the whole night she was kidnapped. ‘Thank God, she returned safely and “I have directed the police to arrest the gang involved in her kidnapping.”