September 3rd, 2020
Mehmood Khan, Chief Minister (CM), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) announces the formation of district committees to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens and ensure the provision of basic amenities.
Citizens of KP are faced with an extremely dysfunctional administrative setup. District hospitals fail to provide the much-promised free medication to poor patients, local Police stations have not been able to provide the community care they are supposed, many local schools are destitute, jails are overflowing with ignored inmates and the list goes on.
The Chief Minister KP has come up with a “one size fits all” solution for all these problems. Committees have been formed at the District level to address the issues plaguing local governance. In addition to the provision of services, a core task of these committees is to safeguard the fundamental human rights of all citizens without discrimination. The committees comprise representatives of the education, health, and the police department. Moreover, civil society representatives have also been made part of the committees.
“Chief Minister Mehmood Khan has taken the visionary step of making human rights committees in the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These committees will be headed by the Deputy Commissioner of the area, representatives of other associated formations like the health and education departments will also be given a seat at these committees. These committees will act as human rights watchdogs in their areas”, says Kamran Bangash, an Information advisor to the Chief Minister KP.
On the other hand, opposition parties have strongly criticized the formation of these committees.
“There is already a standing committee on human rights in the KP assembly, where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf commands an overwhelming majority, but not even one case of human rights violations has been allowed to reach the assembly in the last 7 years. This is why I think these district human rights committees are nothing but a political gimmick”, says Sardar Aurangzaib Nalutha, member of the Pakistan Mulsim League Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Humaira Khatoon, member of the KP assembly from the Jamiat Ulema Islam F (JUI-F) party also criticized the formation of these committees “Opposition parties were not consulted before the formation of these committees and our input was not demanded which is against the spirit of parliamentary democracy”.
Civil Society organizations have welcomed the formation of these localized bodies but they have also expressed reservations about some aspects of these committees.
“Giving representation to members of the civil society is a positive step taken by the government but we think it is not enough. The government should seriously consider increasing the number of human rights activists on the committees so that they can properly fulfill their purpose”, says Shahid Mehmood, regional coordinator of a Human Rights Organization.
Members of the different minority communities residing in KP have also expressed concerns about the lack of representation of minorities in these committees.
“We think this is an extremely positive step by the government but the officials should not forget that a large number of minorities reside in KP. Members of the Christian, Hindu, Kailash, and Sikh communities are facing severe problems. The government should invite representatives of these groups to be a part of these committees so that the plight of provincial minorities can be addressed”, says Haroon Dayal, a human rights activist.
These committees will oversee local governance institutions and will send performance reports to specialized national and provincial bodies which will take further action to resolve pending issues.