ISLAMABAD     -   The Functional Committee on Human Rights in its meeting yesterday took strong notice of lack of focus of the Foreign Office on issue of Kashmir and recommended stringent measures to step up efforts for world powers engagement to curb human rights violations by India in Held Kashmir.

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights that met with Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar in chair also took notice of deaths and torture of detainees by police in Punjab.

Briefing the committee on human rights violation in Indian-occupied Kahmir (IOK) Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari asserted that according to two reports published in July 2019, by human rights commissioner, there were concerns of excessive use of force by Indian security forces. The basic demand in both these reports was that the Human Rights Council must establish an independent investigation commission to probe human rights violations in IOK. She said that Pakistan had stressed incessantly that recommendations of the report be implemented. However, India went a step ahead by revoking special status of the valley on 5th August. She added as per policy, Pakistan had never accepted special status of IOK. Mazari said that most Pakistani governments had not pushed the point that India took dispute to the UN Security Council under chapter 6; which states that this was a dispute between two member states and that it must be resolved peacefully. This, she asserted, made null and void claim of this being an internal matter of India. She said it would help the cause if certain issues are highlighted. She said it was imperative that Pakistan focus on R2P - the responsibility to protect - introduced by the UNRIC in order to address its four key concerns to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Mazari added that an envoy of the Ministry of Human Rights had met the Vatican representative in Pakistan to highlight the issue and request the Pope to be taken on board and for him to issue a statement on the blatant abuse of human rights in the valley. This, she said, would have a huge impact on Latin American states who were members of the United Nations. She said gender-based violence in the valley must be highlighted, along with violence on children and freedom of worship. She said that once siege of IOK was lifted, it had the potential of an enormous bloodbath. This was of great concern to Pakistan, she added, asserting, that the war crimes in the 4th Geneva Conventions must be emphasised and that ICJ advisory must be consulted in this regard.

The committee lauded efforts of the ministry and recommended that in addition to the Vatican, the Arch Bishop of Canterbury must be taken on board. The need to set aside austerity measures for now and visit the capitals of major states was stressed as well.

The committee took stringent notice of the absence of foreign secretary and as recommended decided to take up the issue in the next meeting scheduled to be held on 18th September. Committee Chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said if the secretary foreign affairs failed to attend, a privilege motion would be moved against him.

Taking up the issue of death and torture of detainees in Punjab, the committee took serious notice of the absence of IG Punjab Police. It, however, took briefings from DPO Rahim Yar Khan on the issue of custodial torture and killing of Sallahuddin Ayubi, who broke into an ATM machine in Rahim Yar Khan. The committee recommended that a JIT be formed to investigate the matter independently. The committee was informed that various organs of the victim had been sent for testing to ascertain reason for his death, results for which were awaited. Chairman committee was of the view that there were various questions pertaining to this case that could only be answered by IG Punjab Police. He stressed the need for IGP to be present in next meeting when this issue would be taken up once again in more detail as forensic reports of the victim would be available as well. Measures for police reforms were stressed, to thrash a way out to curb custodial killings in Punjab. Taking up the case of Amir Masih, the committee was of the view that this was a gross violation of human rights as he was taken to an unknown place for interrogation and in an attempt to flee the place he jumped down from the second floor where he was detained. The committee was assured that strict action would be taken against sub-inspector involved. Amir Masih was detained without fulfilling legal formalities. The committee was of the view that a strong recommendation must be sent from this forum, after detailed discussions with the Ministry of Human Rights and the interior ministry.

About Anti-Torture Bill, the committee was informed that it was currently with the interior ministry for review. The committee decided that the bill introduced by former senator Farhatullah Babar on the same issue be revived and be tabled in the forthcoming session of the Senate. The committee also resolved to carry out all necessary efforts for passing the said bill from the Senate at the earliest.

The meeting was attended by Senator Kesho Bai, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, Senator Kamran Michael, Senator Shaheen Khalid Butt, Senator Prof. Mehr Taj Roghani, Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif, Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini and senior officers of the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Punjab police.