Shiza Tareen

The father of the Nation, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947 said the following:

“As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste, creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. “

The founder of Pakistan had always dreamt of a unified Pakistan with no discrimination on the basis of cast, creed or language. However, things turned out to be the opposite in the real world.

The Baluchistan Province, the largest province of modern-day Pakistan, encountered several human rights violations noticed by the international community. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the violations which have taken place during the ongoing Baluchistan conflict between Baloch nationalists and the Government of Pakistan, over the rule of Baluchistan, have reached ‘epidemic proportions’. Brad Adams, director of the Asia branch of HRW has said that the Pakistani government has not done enough to stop the violence, which includes torture, enforced disappearances of those suspected of either terrorism or opposing the military, ill treatment of those suspected of criminal activity, and extrajudicial killings. The issues regarding human rights violations in the province are as follows.

Missing Persons:

In the period between 2002 and 2005, it is estimated that 4000 people were detained in the province, of which only 200 were taken to court. The rest have been held incommunicado.

Recoveries of Bodies and Torture:

The HRW encountered massive human right abuses with enforced disappearances of hundreds of nationalists and activists. In 2008 alone, an estimated 1102 people were disappeared from the region and there have also been reports of torture. An increasing number of bodies are being found on roadsides having been shot in the head.

Threat to Human Rights Activists:

Many human rights activists have been affected because of the recent issues. The recent assassination of Sabeen Mehmood, an ethnic Punjabi human right activist who had campaigned against human rights violation in Baluchistan, comes to mind.

Human rights violations are common in a province with few promotions and initiatives by provincial and federal governments. The so called nationalist coalition partners had hardly done anything on hardcore issues since the formation of the government. Moreover, the parliament is legislative and still no ordinance or law has been passed regarding the human rights issues. Similarly, the provincial Government is guilty of reverting on their promises regarding several issues, especially the mainspring of the province.

Human Rights Laws passed after the 18th Amendment

Human rights are becoming one of the major issues, especially in Baluchistan, as the rights of individuals are not safe in the province. Even the enforcement and implementation of constitutional and other judicial rights are lacking in the province. Pakistan has a legacy of military interventions in the constitution. Military elites have always abrogated the constitution according their needs right from regimes of Ayub till Musharraf. Baluchistan has witnessed several operations on the nationalists to nullify everything against the state. Though it is sometimes necessary to take actions like that, every individual having a Pakistani nationality should have the right to go through the judicial system rather than be immediately punished by the law enforcement agencies.

The international community is quite cautious about human rights and several cases have been registered in the International Court of Justice. The recent development of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) sabotages the human rights of citizens of Pakistan. According to the ordinance, the law enforcement agencies have the liberty to investigate and detain any suspect. The approval of this ordinance from the senate will hinder the liberty of the citizens enormously. The human rights laws in the constitution of Pakistan along with the major amendments are as follows.

Fundamental Rights

  1. Security of a person:

No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law.

  1. Safeguards as to arrest and detention:

No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before a magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the nearest magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.

  1. Slavery, forced labor, etc. prohibited.

Slavery is non-existent and forbidden and no law shall permit or    facilitate its introduction into Pakistan in any form.

All forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings are prohibited.

No child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or any other mine to avoid hazards.

It’s required by any law for public purpose provided that no compulsory service shall be of a cruel nature or incompatible with human dignity.

  1. Protection against retrospective punishment.

No law shall be authorize punishment of a person until judicial system may not a give a clear verdict similarly no law allows double punishment.

The dignity of a man, subject to law, privacy of home shall be inviolable.

  1. Freedom of movement, etc.

Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof.

  1. Freedom of assembly.

Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order.

  1. Freedom of association.

Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality.

  1. Freedom of trade, business or profession.

Subject to such qualifications, if any, as may be prescribed by law, every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct any lawful trade or business.

  1. Freedom of speech, etc.

Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence.

  1. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions.

Every citizen shall have the right to profess , practice and propagate his religion along with every religious denomination have the right to establish and maintain religious institutions.

  1. Provision as to property.

Every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property in any part of Pakistan, subject to the Constitution and any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the public interest.

Provincial Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) is the sole commission for the safeguard of human rights in the nation. The HRCP is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1987, which is not associated or affiliated with Government or any other political party. It is committed to act with impartiality and objectivity in all matters. Among its main aims is spreading awareness of human rights among the people, mobilizing public opinion, collecting information and disseminating knowledge about human rights abuses, and to monitor and defend human rights in Pakistan.

A provincial Human Rights Commission has been proposed several times but never introduce. It seems like it is the need of the hour. Moreover, the efficiency of a dissolute commission may create a difference to some extent.

Human Rights Cell

To provide an expeditious and inexpensive remedy in matters relating to infringements of Fundamental Rights enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution, a Human Rights Cell has been established in the Court. The Cell functions under the direct supervision of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. It is mandated to expeditiously process the complaints and grievances received from the general public by post addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Reports and comments are called from the concerned quarters under the orders of the Chief Justice and the matters disposed of. The cases requiring hearing are fixed in Court and are decided there. Relief is provided to the poor persons without going through the traditional protracted litigation process.The public interest litigation in this form paved way for bringing various statutory reforms in matters of general public importance, e.g., the enactment of the Human Organ Transplantation Ordinance 2007, Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places Ordinance, etc.Quick provision of relief to the common man without any expense has generated a high degree of trust and confidence of the general public in the judiciary as a whole and the apex Court in particular. The Human Rights exercise has also played a pivotal role in eliminating social evils like Vani, Karo-Kari, dangerous kite-flying etc, which were rampant in the society to the detriment of the common man.

Quetta Branch Registry

In order to provide speedy justice to the people living in remote areas of Baluchistan the branch registry was established on 19th November, 1978 in a borrowed wing of the High Court of Baluchistan. Efforts are, however, being made to acquire a permanent site for the Registry. A Rest House for lodging Judges during Court sessions has also been set up at Shahra-i-Zarghoon, Quetta.Petitions, appeals and miscellaneous applications are instituted in the Branch Registry arising out of judgments and decisions of: -1. Balochistan High Court, Quetta/Sibi.
2. Federal Shariat Court at Quetta.
3. Federal Service Tribunal at Quetta and
4. Balochistan Service Tribunal Quetta.Subject to any special order of the Chief Justice or the Court, all civil, criminal and jail petitions instituted in the Branch Registry and appeals arising therefrom except the appeals in taxation, customs and revenue matters are heard at the Branch Registry.

Important Human Rights Cell Cases

  1. Missing persons cases
  2. Murder Cases
  3. Rape Cases
  4. Torture/Harassment Cases
  5. High Handedness Cases
  6. Abduction/Acid Victim/Constitution Petitions
  7. Abduction/Kidnapping
  8. Important Human Rights Cases Decided at Lahore Branch Registry
  9. Important Human Right/Public Importance/Kidnapping for Murder/ Encroachment/Human Liberty/Missing Persons & Environmental Cases Decided/Pending at Branch Registry, Karachi.

Unique Provincial Initiatives for Promotion or Protection of Human Rights

Recently the Baluchistan government has passed several resolutions and bills mostly regarding human right issues.

  1. One of the major bills was regarding the education and the protection of women rights in the province. The bill was named Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University ( amendment ) bill, 2014. The aforementioned bill and the Baluchistan Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection bill, 2014 were passed by the assembly.
  2. In an attempt to promote breastfeeding and protection of public health by raising food standards, the Baluchistan Breast Feeding Protection and Nutrition for Infants and Young Children Bill, 2014 and the Baluchistan Food Authority Bill, 2014 were passed, respectively. Additionally, the House passed a Bill each for the introduction of local languages as an additional subject at primary level, rehabilitation of victims of terrorism, and mandating free and compulsory education for children from the age of five to 16 years in primary and secondary levels.

No law has been passed regarding the missing persons, disappearances and illegal detentions which are one of the major issues of Baluchistan.

[Ms. Shiza Tareen is Civic Educator based in Quetta]