ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of the slow progress in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, a Senate committee on Monday referred the matter to the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) for a report in two weeks’ time.
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, which met here under independent Senator Mohsin Leghari in the absence of the committee’s chairperson Nasreen Jalil, asked the NCHR to inquire from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as to how long would it take to complete the trial in the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
In another development, the committee also referred to the NCHR the issue of 28 missing persons from an internment centre in Malakand.
The issue of the Benazir Bhutto murder case was raised by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Babar Awan who drew the attention of the committee members towards the inordinate delay in completion of the trial by the FIA, the main prosecutor in the case.
Takes up issue of 28 missing persons from Malakand; recommends civil award for Rashed Rehman
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had been killed with over two dozen PPP activists in a gun and bomb attack after a public meeting at the historic Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007.
Senator Awan termed the delay a grave human rights violation of not only the Bhutto family but of the entire nation. He regretted that more than nine years had passed but the case marked by frequent transfers of trial judges, assassination of a prosecutor and repeated changes of the prosecutors had still been lingering on.
The committee also discussed the issue of 28 persons missing from the internment centre in Malakand and decided to call the home secretary and the inspector general prisons from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for a briefing in the next meeting.
The officer in-charge of the internment centre, Malakand, through a written statement informed the committee that the army authorities had produced seven out of 35 undeclared internees before the Supreme Court three years back and that the whereabouts of 28 others was not known to the jail authorities.
PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, who had also raised the matter in the Senate, called for referring the matter to the NCHR to investigate as to what had happened to the remaining 28 internees. He recalled that sometime back, it was Defence Minister Khawaja Asif who had himself lodged an FIR with the police. He said the NCHR should investigate progress in that FIR and report to the committee.
The members of the committee also expressed their displeasure over the absence of the commissioner Malakand and other officials of the KP government.
Committee’s acting chairman Mohsin Leghari said the parliamentary committee had the powers of a court and could summon any person. He also declared that the committee would move a privilege motion against those officials, who had skipped the meeting.
Meanwhile, the committee recommended conferment of a civil award on the Multan-based human rights defender Rashed Rehman, and directed the ministry concerned to prepare a summary for the government in this regard.
The issue was also raised by Mr Babar who bemoaned that no progress had been made in the trial of Rashed Rehman’s murder case. He demanded that efforts must be stepped up to apprehend the killers who had reportedly fled the country and at the same time the late Rashed Rehman be awarded a high civil award as a mark of recognition for his pioneering work to defend human rights in the course of which he himself was killed by extremists and militants.
A senior official of the Punjab police informed the committee that one of the murderers of Rashed Rehman had been killed in a police encounter sometime back while the other two had fled the country and reportedly they were present in Afghanistan. He said efforts were being made to apprehend the absconding accused in the case.
The committee was also informed that a comprehensive security plan had been devised for the security of the family of the late Rashed Rehman and the complainant and witnesses of the case.
The committee deferred consideration of a private members’ bill seeking protection of the rights of the transgender persons and decided to invite representatives of the community to hear their views on the proposed legislation.
The bill titled Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2017, had been moved by Babar Awan in the Senate.
An official of the law ministry informed the committee that another bill on the same subject was under consideration of the government and proposed that the two bills should be clubbed together.
Those who attended the meeting included Babar Awan, Nisar Khan, Sitara Ayaz, Samina Abid, Mir Kabir Shahi, Sehar Kamran, Farhatullah Babar, NCHR Chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan, the AIG Punjab Police and the RPO Multan.