ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday informed the National Assembly that the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID) had arrived in Pakistan on the government’s invitation and it was not mandated as a fact-finding or an investigation mission.
She said there should be no ambiguity about the visit as it had a clear mandate, adding that the group had also visited over a dozen other countries, while 91 countries extended standing invitation for a visit.
“Pakistan has a mechanism in place for protection of human rights. The commission on missing persons is working, while the Supreme Court has taken suo moto and the government is all sincere in protecting the human rights,” she added.
The minister clarified that the mandate of the working group was to engage with the governments to promote human rights.
She said Pakistan had 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.
Talking about the approval of the visit, Khar said the matter was discussed with all major stakeholders. Later, it underwent an inter-ministerial process and the summary was sent to the prime minister for approval, she added.
Hina mentioned three phases of the special procedure regarding the visit and said the first visit was conducted in May 2012 followed by the UN Human Rights Council chief in June 2012, while the present was the third one.
She said after the visit, the UN Human Rights Council chief had appreciated Pakistani government’s steps and also raised the drone attacks issue with the US. She said the visit was in conformity with the global norms and the head of the commission on missing persons, Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, had also met the group in Geneva.
“We should not be defensive to 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.
Hina reiterated that “we are sure that they will work within their mandate”. She said Pakistan remained committed to protect human rights regardless of colour, creed, race and social status. “We need not to confuse it and be clear and mention to it in right context.”
Though, it was private members’ day, but the point of orders mainly focused on Balochistan situation, floods destruction in different parts of country and mandate of UN working group.
PPP legislator Noor Alam Khan, on a point of order soon after the policy statement about the mandate of UN working group , posed volley of questions to foreign minister. He questioned the status and progress on the resolutions about drone attacks and Kashmir, and also termed the policy statement as a ‘diplomatic answer’.
Having some serious concern over the arrival and mandate of UN working group, MNA Zafar Baig Bhatani said the group would pave the way for appearance of foreign forces.
PML-Q’s Raza Hayat Hiraj, who had actually raised the issue about UN working group’s mandate other day (Monday) in the house, requested to take up his adjournment motion on it.
“I have submitted adjournment motion, it should be taken up in the house for discussion,” he said while speaking on point of order.
Earlier, the house offered fateha for the victims of fire in Lahore and Karachi that claimed several lives.
A senior legislator from opposition benches, Ayaz Amir, raised serious concerns about the law and order situation in Balochistan. “We should learn lesson from the past,” he remarked.
“Situation has reached to an extent that hoisting the national flag is now difficult there. When would we realize the sensitivity of situation?” he added.
Relating the East Pakistan crisis with Balochistan, he was of the view that the military leadership was insensitive towards the matter.
Another PML-N legislator Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said the deteriorating situation of the Balochistan should be the first priority as further division of provinces could be discussed later. “Stop ridiculing with the Federation we need protection of our rights,” he added.
Taking the floor on point of order, PPP legislator Shazia Marri spoke in the favour of ‘Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance 2012’.
“Those criticising it are actually unaware of its contents,” she said, adding that an academic debate should be carried out on the initiative, which had replaced the dictatorial system of Musharraf.
She said there was no demand of new province in Sindh in the past and it would not be raised in the future.
The legislators from treasury and opposition benches warmly welcomed Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza who reoccupied her seat after treatment. They also prayed for her better health and long life. Those who welcomed her included Haider Abbas Rizvi, Aftab Sheikh, Dr Attiya Inayatullah, Yasmeen Rahman, Ayaz Amir, Bushra Rehman and others.