Landlords holding illegal jirgas have been issued notices: moot told

* Politicians, lawyers and activists endorse implementation of human rights

LAHORE: Sindh Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice (r) Majida Razvi said on Friday that the provincial Commission is issuing notices to the influential landlords, many of whom are in the assemblies, who have recently held jirgas which are illegal, to stop this practice.
She was speaking at a seminar on Access to Justice for All: Constitutional Rights and Legal Protection for Vulnerable Populations, organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a hotel on Friday.
Justice (r) Majida Razvi said that the Commission has noticed that recently many influential landlords have been holding “illegal” Jirgas in Sindh to decide cases. We have taken serious notice of this illegal practice and Supreme Court has also declared Jirgas to be unlawful.
Talking about deaths of children in Thar Desert, she said recently, the commission has conducted investigation on drought in Thar. “We visited Thar and met with the people, government officials and visited hospitals, temples and other places,” she said adding that during the visit to hospitals the commission members found that most of the children were sick because of pneumonia and lack of medicines in the government hospitals. “Facilities to the human being are absent in Thar Desert. Majority of the population don’t have food to eat and even drinking water was unavailable to most of them,” she added.
Majida Razvi said that there is a big gap between haves and have-nots in Pakistani society. “We need to take care of the poor,” she added.
Speaking on minorities’ rights, senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said the Supreme Court’s recent decision on minorities’ rights was a landmark verdict in the history of Pakistan, which interrupts the Article 20 of the Constitution to ensure equal religious rights to each citizen of Pakistan. “A permanent three-member bench has been established by the Supreme Court to implement its decision,” he said.
“The main implication of this decision is that now no one can forcibly convert any citizen of other beliefs to any other community’s beliefs,” Siddiqi added.
He equated the recent Supreme Court decision with the 1954 US Supreme Court’s decision in which the US court declared the state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
“The judicial activism started from that decision of the US Supreme Court. To implement the decision, the US Supreme Court sent army men to the schools to implement its decision,” he continued.
In the June 19, 2014 decision, the Supreme Court has given a series of detailed directions and orders for a number of specified steps to be taken by the state so that the relevant fundamental rights are appropriately enforced.
The basis of this decision was Manifesto of the Supreme Court, which emphasises justice for all. The Supreme Court’s judgement has provided seven landmark directions including setting up of a task force to develop religious tolerance, setting up of National Council on Minorities, a special police force for protection of worship places of minorities, implementation of the job quotas in government departments for minorities, asking the state to stop the hate speeches, registered of minorities cases immediately, changing the school curriculum to teach children the religious tolerance.
Human rights senior lawyer Noor Naz Agha spoke on discrimination against women in Pakistan.
She said there is discrimination in many laws including family laws, and evidence act. “No legislation is present in Pakistan on honour killing. Honour killing should be declared as a crime against the state so that the perpetrators are punished. Presently they take benefit of the loophole in the existing laws and are not punished,” she said.
Noor underlined the need to increase legal awareness among the masses. She commented on the present situation and said “Change in the mindset and in the attitude is essential. Start from your own home and treat your boys and girls equally. There should be a change in our educational system, which is creating hatred for minorities.”
Human rights activist and lawyer Advocate Tahir Iqbal spoke on disability rights. In his presentation, he said a Convention on the rights of disabled persons has been signed by Pakistan and it is responsibility of the government to implement its obligations to ensure and promote the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedom for all persons with disabilities. “The Convention on the Child Rights has an article on the rights of disabled children,” he added.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA Dr Shahida Rahman, said Islam has provided equal rights to every human being. She said her party has always worked for upholding the rights of minorities and disabled persons.
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) Social Sciences head Dr Riaz Ahmed Sheikh, said that the social justice has roots in European history.
PILER Joint Director Zulfiqar Shah said, under the Constitution and the relevant laws, every citizen has equal fundamental rights. “In Pakistan, it is difficult to access justice for all people and religious minorities in Pakistan are facing problems,” he said.
Shah said Dastagir Centres have been set up by independent organisations in 10 major cities of Pakistan. “Insaf Network would develop capacity of these centres. The centres would provide help to the vulnerable sections of the society including minorities and disabled persons,” Zulfiqar Shah added.
Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Deputy Chairperson Waseem Zafar said a woman complaint cell has been established at CPLC. He said besides this, a Police Complaint Cell and a Medico Legal Complaint Cell are also working at CPLC. The 24/7 Call Centre is working round the clock and every day around 6,000 calls are received on average basis.
Dastagir Centre Karach Advocate Ishrat said the centre is providing assistance to vulnerable population through face-to-face and telephonic counselling, referral services, legal aid assistance to clients, facilitating clients to access laws enforcement agencies and to make court appearance in relation to the case filed. 

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