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Senate committee questions Council of Islamic Ideology, Asks for Law Ministry’s opinion

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*Okara farmlands, anti torture legislation and missing persons also on agenda

Islamabad June 28, 2016: Expressing concern over some recent pronouncements of the Council of Islamic Ideology which it said tended to promote violence against women the Human Rights Committee of the Senate today questioned whether after having submitted its final report in 1997 to the Parliament the Council was still required to give opinions and submit reports to the Parliament and referred the issue to the law and justice division for advice.

The Committee met in the Parliament house today under the Chairpersonship of Senator Nasreen Jalil and attended by Senators Mohsin Leghari, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Ms Sitara Ayaz and Farhatullah Babar. Senior officers from the Ministry of Defence, Law, Justice and Human Rights, ministry of Interior, field officers dealing with Okara farmlands and other relevant departments also attended. Representatives of the Anjuman Mazareen Punjab also attended the meeting to present their point of view on the farmlands.

The issue came up during discussion on agenda item pertaining to violence against women particularly the recent incidents of burning in the name of honour. It asked the government to pass the anti honour killing Bill, passed unanimously by the Senate and referred to the national Assembly but which was now with the Joint sitting of the Parliament which could not adopt it at its last session for want of consensus.

Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that all political parties in the senate including the ruling coalition and religious parties had unanimously passed the Bill and it was strange that now the government was back tracing on it in the joint session in the name of consensus and asked whether this change of heart had something to do with panama leaks.

The Committee expressed dismay that tenants of farmlands had been charged with terrorism merely for trying to hold a public meeting on the international day of peasants on April 17 and asked the administration to review its highhanded approach. Farhatullah Babar said that by turning a blind eye to the militants in south Punjab and trying and torturing tenants with terrorism charges had made a joke of the National Action Plan and anti terror drive under it. The issue of military farmlands was referred to the human rights committee by the Senate Chairman on a motion moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.

The Committee today called upon the government to get passed from the National Assembly the anti torture Bill that was unanimously passed by the Senate in March 2015 and transmitted to it the very next day.

The Committee took note of incidents of enforced disappearances which it said was bringing bad name to the country and its agencies. It asked the government to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Enforced Disappearances and the directions of superior courts from time to time to bring the state security agencies under some legislation. The members also advised the government to sign the international Convention on Enforced Disappearances and asked for comprehensive briefing on it and the government reservations against signing it.

Noting that the sun set clause in the constitutional amendment for trial of militants by military courts had forced a decision on the political parties to give a thought to whether to extend it or not, the Committee held that military courts  militated against justice and asked the political parties to carefully weigh the consequences and not give blank check to the security agencies.

Farhatullah Babar said that the experience of the past two years of the military courts had thrown up some very disturbing questions and some stark lessons had been learnt.

Announcing executions by tweets and in the absence of even minimal information about the defendants, the narratives of the prosecution and defence, where and when the trial was held and the verdict there were real dangers of miscarriage of justice. He said that it was promised that only jet black terrorists will be executed but record showed that even ordinary criminals had also been executed since the lifting of moratorium.

He proposed that the representatives of the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) which was authorized under the law to become a party to court cases involving human rights violations should sit through the proceedings of military courts as rapproteurs, if nothing else.

It was decided to examine the proposal in depth by seeking the views of relevant stake holders including the ministry of law and justice and human rights and defnece ministry..

The NCHR also briefed the committee on the kidnapping of Mir Muhammad Zehri in balichistan and asked the relevant authorities to expedite giving complete information about the incident in the background of the allegations leveled by the complainant in the petition.

Yet another case considered by the committee pertained to the mysterious disappearance of a Pakistani national in the UAE without trace over two years ago. The Committee formulated a set of questions and asked the interior ministry to seek replies to these questions from the relevant UAE authorities.

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