ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that his government has taken several legislative and administrative measures to protect and promote human rights in the country in the short span since assuming the charge of government three months ago. The Prime Minister was talking to Ms. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who called on him at Prime Minister’s House on Friday. The Prime Minister congratulated Ms. Louise Arbour on successfully completing her tenure as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Prime Minister said the government is committed to resolving the judicial issue and has presented a comprehensive constitutional package to the political parties and the public which aims at making the judiciary independent. Talking of the various steps taken by him to improve the human rights situation in the country, the Prime Minister said his government has decided to convert death penalty of thousands of convicted prisoners into life imprisonment. Similarly, jail sentences of prisoners have been reduced especially of women and children.
The Prime Minister said that the government is also trying to build consensus on ending the practice of imprisoning the under-trial persons without proving their cases in the court. The Prime Minister said that his government is taking institutional measures to bring about jail reforms with a view to turning jails into reformatories so that prisoners, instead of becoming hardened criminals, leave the jail as reformed individuals ready to join the mainstream life as useful citizens.
He said his government is also committed to protecting the rights of women who constitute 50% of the population. He said that despite all the differences with the previous government, his party while in opposition supported the Government’s Women Protection Bill which would not have become a law without our support in the Parliament.
The Prime Minister said that the top most priority of the government is eradication of violence against women and in this regard a Bill on Domestic Violence is currently before the Parliament. The Prime Minister said that education is the basic right of all and the government is determined to ensure that no one disrupts the process of imparting education to girl students anywhere in the country.
The Prime Minister said his government has also regularized 14000 madrassas out of the 17000 which are now equipped with computers and have regular educational curriculum. He said that Pakistan also recognizes the role of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting respect for human rights and we are fully committed to establishing an independent Human Rights Commission in the country consistent with international standards.
The Prime Minister told the High Commissioner about his initiative on fighting hepatitis and setting up basic health units throughout the country and sought the help and assistance of relevant UN agencies in this regard. The Prime Minister said that the international community does not fully realize the extent of damage Pakistan’s participation in the war of terror is doing to its economy. He said that only one incident of terrorism in the country either triggers flight of foreign investment out of the country or discourages its flow into Pakistan.
He said since Pakistan is fighting this war in its own interest and his government has adopted a three-pronged strategy combining political dialogue with the moderate elements who have laid down arms, accelerating economic development and resorting to military means if agreements are violated.
He said Pakistan will never negotiate with terrorists nor allow them to use its soil to achieve their objectives.
The High Commissioner said that it is indeed very encouraging to see the leadership given by the Prime Minister on human rights issues and the concrete measures taken by him to improve the human rights situation in the country, especially his decision to convert death penalty into life imprisonment, the remission granted to various categories of prisoners especially women and children and payment of fines by the Prime Minister for the release of prisoners who have completed their jail terms.
She said she also finds the willingness of the new government to improve human rights very encouraging as it is in contrast to the position taken by Pakistan earlier on human rights forums. She assured the Prime Minister that the Human Rights Commission will extend full support to Pakistan’s position on several human rights issues. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Rory Mungovern, Area Coordinator and Ms. Cynthia Veliko, Human Rights Officer.-SANA