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Pakistan: Senate Passes Bill on Establishing a National Commission on Human Rights

(Mar. 23, 2012) On March 9, 2012, the upper chamber of Pakistan's Parliament unanimously passed the National Commission on Human Rights Bill, 2012, which will establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Pakistan. (National Commission on Human Rights Bill (2011).) The bill was initially introduced in Pakistan's National Assembly, the lower chamber of the Parliament, which passed the bill on December 21, 2011. (Id.)

Under the bill, the ten-member Commission will be headed by a chairperson who can either be a former Supreme Court judge or a person qualified to be a Supreme Court judge, or a person “having demonstrable knowledge of matters relating to human rights.” (Zahid Gishkori, Landmark Senate Bill: Human Rights Body to Also Scrutinise Armed Forces, THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE (Mar. 12, 2012).) The Commission can inquire into human rights abuses on suo moto notice or on petition received through a complaints procedure. (National Commission on Human Rights Bill, 2011, § 9(a).) The Commission can also investigate “negligence in the prevention of” human rights violations by a public servant. (Id. § 9(a)(ii)).) The bill also allows the Commission to

visit any jail or any other institution or place under the control of the Government where convicts, under-trial prisoners or other persons are lodged or detained for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of the jail Manual and other applicable laws relating to the inmates are being complied with. (Id. § 9(c).)

A news report further stated, “[a]ccording to amendments introduced by the upper house of parliament, this bill will have the power to seek reports from the federal government and make recommendations to the federal government.” (Zahid Gishkori, supra.) The bill was introduced pursuant to U.N. General Assembly Resolution No.48/134 calling upon Member States to establish independent national human rights institutions to help protect and promote human rights within their jurisdictions. (G.A Res. 48/134, U.N. Doc. A/RES/48/134 (Dec. 20, 1993).)

The bill will now be sent back to the National Assembly for approval. If the National Assembly “makes any objections on the amendments, which have been incorporated by the Senate in the Bill, a joint sitting of the Parliament would be held for approval of the Bill.” (Naveed Butt, Spy Agencies, Government's Functionaries to Be Answerable: Senate Passes 'National Commission for Human Rights Bill' Unanimously, BUSINESS RECORDER (Mar. 10, 2012).)