ISLAMABAD: Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday suggested that the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) should take suo motu notice on social and environment issues of the country, including atrocities being committed against minorities, corporal punishment at madrasas, minimum wage, use of plastic bags and floods in Balochistan and their effects on the mental health of people. “Section 9 of the National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012 gives the right of suo motu to the commission on the violations of human rights and it should exercise its powers on human rights violations in the country, including corporal punishment at madrasas, which is a serious area of concern. Corporate punishment in madrasas is very depressing. It is high time that we should be brave and strong enough to look at what is happening to the minorities, including Hazaras and Ahmedis, in the country,” Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said while speaking delivering his keynote address at the launch of a NCHR report on mental health.
The report titled ‘Malpractices in Mental Health in Pakistan: A Call for Regulation’ was formally launched at a ceremony at a local hotel, and it was attended by lawyers, diplomats, parliamentarians, human rights activists, officials from the national and international agencies and civil society representatives. Speaking about the right of mental health, Justice Shah said the Constitution of 1973 ensures the right of life. He remarked that the right to health is the right to life, and preamble and several articles in the constitution ensure provision of social justice to each and every citizen of the country, which means that those facing mental illnesses also have equal right. Justice Shah also spoke in detail about the rights and abilities of the differently-abled people, especially those visually-impaired, saying that with the help of technology, such persons were doing wonders, including a judge who was running a court and doing justice with the help of technology.
Chairman National Standing Committee on Human Rights Senator Walid Iqbal spoke about the poor status of mental health facilities and unavailability of trained and qualified psychiatrists and psychologists in the country, saying there were hardly 500 mental health specialists for the 22 million population of the country. He maintained that Sindh is the only province which has established a mental health authority although other provinces — Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — have also passed laws for safeguarding the rights of mentally unwell people. He also spoke about the poor mental health facilities for thousands of prisoners in the country, saying that although the number could be alarmingly high, authorities only claim that only 200 of the 8,000 prisoners on the death row are mentally unwell.
MNA Shaista Pervaiz, while lauding the National Commission for Human Rights, deplored that quacks were practising as mental health specialists in the country and urged the authorities, including the Islamabad Healthcare Commission and the NCHR, to take action against such people.
Chairperson National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Rabiya Javeri Agha presented the key findings of the report, including gaps in the mental health legislation, regulations and licensing, issues with the confidentiality and privacy, misrepresentation of credentials and qualifications, inappropriate or unethical provider behaviour, issues in diagnosis and treatment as well as problems faced by women and girls in seeking mental healthcare. UNFPA country representative in Pakistan Dr Bakhtior Kadirov also spoke, while a short film on issues facing women in seeking help for their mental health was shown at the launching ceremony.
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