Landmark legislation ushers in new era of human, child rights


A new era of human and child rights has been ushered in by the provincial government, with Sindh becoming the first province to form its human rights commission. Another law has also been formed, that will set up an authority with the mandate to protect child rights in the province. The Sindh Protection of Human Rights Bill-2011 and Sindh Child Protection Authority Bill-2011 were two of the four bills passed by the Sindh Assembly on its last day of the current session. The third sought to extend the service of Sindh Prosecutor-General Shahadat Awan, who has represented President Asif Ali Zardari in different cases in the past. The fourth was the Sindh Financial Management and Accountability Bill-2011.
The government also introduced the Sindh High Density Development Board (Amendment) Bill-2011.
The first bill, Sindh Protection of Human Rights Bill-2011, is a landmark piece of legislation. According to Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, an eight-member Human Rights Commission would be set up under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Bill-2011, which would be headed by a judge of the high court. The commission will also have representation from minorities. The commission would inquire or take suo moto action on violation of human rights, negligence in prevention of such violation by a public servant, and take remedial measures including action against persons involved in the violation. The commission would formulate and implement human rights policies, and visit any jail or institution under control of the government where persons are kept or detained to see living conditions of the inmates, and make recommendations in this regard.
The second bill sets up an 11-member authority with the mandate to protect child rights in the province. The authority would coordinate and monitor child protection issues at the provincial and district level. It would ensure the rights of children in need of special protection measures, support and establish institutional mechanism for child protection, make necessary efforts to enhance and strengthen existing services of different children welfare organizations, etc. The authority will also set minimum standards for all other institutions relating to children, including educational institutions, orphanages, shelter homes, remand homes, certified schools, youthful offender work places, child parks and hospitals, and ensure implementation.
The third bill, however, was passed to provide benefit to a single individual. The bill, an amendment to the Sindh Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, functions and powers) Bill-2011, grants Sindh’s prosecutor-general, Shahadat Awan, an extension in service since his three-year tenure was drawing to a close and there was no constitutional stipulation to prolong his service. Through the amendment passed in the bill, the government can now extend his tenure by another three years.
“There is no provision for further extension of the term of prosecutor-general in the Sindh Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, Functions and Powers) Act -2009, and therefore, to empower the government to extend such period in a appropriate case, it is expedient to make a suitable amendment in law,” reads the “statement of objects and reasons” of the bill.
Shahadat Awan is among the band of senior lawyers representing President Asif Ali Zardari in different cases in the past. Awan is also President of the People’s Lawyers Forum, the lawyers’ wing of the ruling PPP.
The fourth bill, “Sindh Financial Management and Accountability Bill-2011”, was passed to regulate custody of the Provincial Consolidated Fund, the payment of moneys into that fund, the withdrawal of moneys received by or on behalf of the provincial government. Under the law, a public servant who commits a breach of any provisions of this Act would be guilty of an offence and punished with imprisonment up to three years, or fine up to one million.