ISLAMABAD - Waking up from deep slumber over growing criticism against the government’s decision to allow the visit of UN Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Wednesday tried to shift the blame and insisted that the matter was discussed with “all major stakeholders” and finally after an inter-ministerial process, the summary was sent to the prime minister who gave approval for the visit. However, her long statement failed to make any impact as following her statement, she was confronted by two treasury lawmakers who rubbished her stance and dubbed it a “diplomatic answer”.
The UN Working Group is currently is in Pakistan on the issue of missing persons. It has held several meetings with various leaders and human rights organizations including the family members of the missing persons.
Making a policy statement during the national assembly session, the minister insisted that the UN Working Group on human rights was not mandated to conduct any investigation or fact finding. Furthermore, she added, that the group had also visited over a dozen countries while 91 countries had extended invitation for a visit. “The working group is visiting Pakistan on our invitation,” the minister made another startling revelation.
She rejected the notion of fact finding or investigation by the UN group and said there was no need to “overemphasize” the visit as the government was taking all measures for protection of human rights. “This group is neither mandated to fact finding nor investigating,” she remarked. “There should be no ambiguity about this visit. It has a clear mandate. Pakistan has also been the member of UN Council on Human Rights and presented two reports,” she added.
She said that Pakistan had a mechanism in place for protection of human rights and the commission on missing persons was working, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice of the issue and the government was all sincere in protection of human rights. Khar said Pakistan has also ratified many protocols and conventions of the UN regarding human rights and that shows the commitment of the government to protect rights of women, children, minorities and other vulnerable segments of the society. “The mandate of the working group is to engage with the governments to promote human rights. It is not mandated to fact finding or investigation,” she added.
She mentioned three phases of the special procedure regarding the visit and said that the first step was a visit in May 2012, the second one was the arrival by UN Human Rights Council Chief in June 2012 and the arrival of working group was the third one. “After the visit, the UN Human Rights Council Chief had appreciated Pakistan government’s steps and also raised the drone attacks issue with the US government.” Terming the visit in conformity with the global norms, Hina Khar said head of Pakistan’s Commission on Missing Persons, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal had also met with the group at Geneva. “We should not be defensive to the visit. We are a democratic and pluralist country where judiciary is independent, media is free and civil society is robust. All these features manifest that we protect human rights,” she added.
She said Pakistan was doing a commendable job and it should be proud of the mechanism in place and the steps taken to meet the human rights challenges. She reiterated that the working group had a clearly crafted mandate, adding, “We are sure that they will work within their mandate”. “Pakistan remains committed to protect the human rights regardless of color, creed, race and social status,” she said and cautioned that the parliamentarians especially needed to be careful and take the visit in its true context. “We need not be confused about it and mention it in the right context,” she asserted. However, the foreign minister was confronted by two treasury lawmakers who rubbished her stance and dubbed it a “diplomatic answer”.
Raza Hayat Heraj, the PML-Q MNA who had raised his concerns about the UN working group’s mandate in the House on Monday, requested the chair to take up his adjournment motion on the subject. I had submitted an adjournment motion over the matter, it should be taken up in the House, he maintained. However, the motion was not allowed. The richest MP from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Noor Alam Khan, also a PPP jiyala, following the policy statement about mandate of UN working group, stood up and confronted the foreign minister with a volley of questions about the inability of the United Nations working group over the status of parliamentary resolutions on drone attacks and about the atrocities committed by the Indian forces against innocent people in the Indian-held Kashmir. He also termed the policy statement as a diplomatic answer.
A senior legislator from opposition benches Ayaz Amir, on a point of order, raised serious concerns about Balochistan’s law and order situation. “We should learn lesson from the past. Situation in Balochistan has reached to such a level that Pakistan’s flag hoisting had become difficult. When are we going to take cognizance of the situation in Balochistan?” he asked.
Relating the East Pakistan crisis with the situation in Balochistan, Amir was of the view that military leadership was not focused over this issue. PML-N legislator Lt General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the deteriorating law and order situation in Balochistan should be the top priority of the government.
“Creation of new provinces could be discussed later but first take care of the provinces you already have. Stop ridiculing the federation. We need protection of our rights,” asserted the retired general who also served as corps commander Quetta.
Shazia Marri of the PPP ridiculed those criticizing the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance 2012 and said that most of the critics, including the members of the PPP and its allied parties, had not even read the ordinance. She said that the ordinance was not different from other provinces and it should have been given due importance.