The Functional Committee on Human Rights in its meeting on Friday at Parliament House took serious notice of the protests against the Dawn Media Group Office in Islamabad and registration of cases in Thana Civil Lines against students rallying in Lahore. Other agenda items taken up in the meeting included briefing on sacking of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) staff despite length of service of more than a decade. The Committee was also briefed on the procedure of procuring employment of Mr. Sohail Ayaz in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for two tenures despite his paedophilic status
The meeting was chaired by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar and was attended by Senator Kesho Bai, Senator Usman Khan Kakar, Senator Qurat ul Ain Marri, Senator Kamran Michael and senior officers of the Ministry of Human Rights, Home Department Punjab, Punjab Police, ERRA and Representatives of the KPK Government. Ex-Senator Farhatullah Babar was a special invitee.
Deliberating the plight of the ERRA employees and the stance taken by the organization, the Committee was of the view that an out of court settlement of the matter must be sought as these employees had given a good part of their lives serving the organization. It was directed that the Establishment Division be summoned in the next meeting to get an overview of the letter that was sent to them two months ago. The matter was disposed off on the directions that a Committee be formed to review the matter closely. Chairman ERRA, General Afzal responded positively to the queries of the Committee and assured to resolve the matter at the earliest.
Discussing the besieging of the Dawn Office in Islamabad, the Committee took strong notice of the matter and was of the view that this is a dangerous trend and must be curbed. Determining the difference between a protest and a threat is essential. Members of the Committee ascertained that in view of its fearless reporting Dawn is a small ray of light in the country, which must be preserved. It was further stressed, as alleged, if the protestors thought that the paper had misreported an event, the matter should have been taken to court. The Committee directed that this is an important issue and as requested the organization must be given ample security so that no untoward incident takes place. There is a strong perception nationally and internationally that the media in Pakistan is being stifled; the Committee, it was emphasized, will play its role to curb this trend. The Committee also, stressed the need for law enforcement agencies to identify the protestors and check whether or not there is a criminal connection.
Reviewing the matter in which cases against rallying students in Thana Civil Lines was registered, alleging that those involved made anti-state remarks, the Committee stressed that this matter must be resolved amicably and all charges against Mishal Khan’s father must be dropped. The students were urged to refrain from making such statements. It was asserted that before slapping charges, sedition and patriotism must be defined. DIG Investigation on behalf of IG Punjab assured the Committee that an amicable solution would be sought. The Committee asserted that it takes very seriously allegations of harassment made against Chief Security Officer of the University and that these must be investigated thoroughly.
While being briefed on the procedure of procuring employment of Mr. Sohail Ayaz in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Committee asserted a system must be formulated to make available criminal records at all Home Departments with access to the Interior Ministry. Secretary Interior and DG FIA are to be summoned in the next meeting.