By Rehan Piracha
9 November 2022
LAHORE: As Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party is set to resign from his seat, Voicepk looks at some of the work he did as Chairman of the Senate for Human Rights. Khokar has announced quitting his seat in Senate after developing differences with the party over “political positions”. During his term from 2018 to 2021, the soon-to-be former Senator took note of various cases of human rights abuses as chairman of the Senate Human Rights Committee from 2018 to 2021.
In a tweet on November 8, Khokhar announced that he had “gladly” agreed to resign from the upper house of parliament after a senior party leader had conveyed the leadership’s unhappiness with his “political positions”.
“Met a senior leader from the party today. He conveyed that the party leadership wasn’t happy with my political positions and wanted my resignation from the senate. I gladly agreed to resign,” he tweeted. “As a political worker, I cherish my right to express my opinions on matters of public interest. Thankful to the party leadership for giving me the senate seat from Sindh. Differences aside, It’s been a wonderful journey with them and wish them the best,” he said in another tweet.
Sources told Voicepk.net that Khokhar’s meeting with the senior party leader took place at the Parliament Lodges, adding that the PPP senator was told to resign from Senate.
Leaders from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf extended support to Khokhar, even offering him to join their party.
“Your principled positions on human rights issues have been unwavering and beyond party politics. Senate will be poorer with your resignation,” PTI leader and former human rights Minister Shirin Mazari tweeted.
In his tweet, PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan hinted at an invitation to join Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) by saying that the doors of PTI were open for “brave and righteous people like you”. Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said that although Khokhar lost the senatorship, he had gained “unmatched respect”.
Forced conversion of Christian girl
The senator took note of various cases of human rights abuses in his tenure as chairman of the Senate Human Rights Committee from 2018 to 2021. On a story reported by Voicepk.net about the forced conversion and abduction of a girl in Faisalabad, Khokhar was instrumental in ordering a fresh inquiry into the case after the Human Rights Committee took notice of the incident in 2021. The committee also sought an explanation from police over the murder of Dr Tahir Mahmood, a member of the Ahmadi Jamaat in Nankana district.
Arrests in Students Solidarity March for revival of unions
In 2019, the Senate Committee on Human Rights, headed by Khokhar, directed the vice chancellor of Punjab University to sit down with students to settle their differences. Half a dozen students and teachers were nominated in an first information report during the Student Solidarity March demanding restoration of student unions last month. The students accused the university administration of harassment by threatening them of expulsion and cancellation of their registration for participation in the Student Solidarity March.
Incidents of sexual harrasment
Under Khokhar’s chairmanship, the Senate Human Rights Committee took notice of sexual harassment incidents at the Lahore Grammar School in 2020. Khokhar had urged “parents of the students who were concerned with the way investigations have progressed so far” to appear before the committee and share their concerns in this regard.
Policy over INGOs
In March 2020, Khokhar also took note of international non-governmental organisations being told to leave the country by the interior ministry. He said the government has been asked to draft a new policy and seek approval from the cabinet in line with the Supreme Court judgment. He termed the policy drafted by bureaucrats as arbitrary, unlawful, and without legal effect.
Political worker’s detention
As chairman of the Senate Committee for Human Rights, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar voiced concerns over the arrest of Chairman Labor Union Utility Stores of Pakistan in 2018.
Khokhar said that the initiation of cases against political workers is a violation of human and democratic rights. He viewed that lawlessness in the country would not be tolerated, adding that police along with the government would have to be held accountable for illegal actions.