KARACHI: To counter human rights violations and take up issues of public interest in South Asia, the lawyers and civil society of India and Pakistan have decided to establish a ‘South Asia Tribunal of Justice’ through a ‘Peoples’ Network’ in all countries of the region.
They made the decision on Wednesday, the second day of the two-day regional workshop on ‘Judicial Activism, Public Interest Litigation and Human Rights” jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Hamdard School of Law, Karachi, in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). The tribunal will keep checks on human rights violations and other public interest issues, including minority rights, missing persons’, terrorism, and share them with other people.
Advocate Colin Gonsalves from India and advocate Faisal Siddiqui from Pakistan were nominated as focal persons for the ‘Peoples’ Committee’ in which representatives of the South Asian countries will raise cross-border issues of public interest.
According to him, around 400 million people are facing hunger in India. The country of Mahatma Gandhi, who followed the principles of non-violence, is itself inflicted with violence, he said, adding that 90 per cent complaints were against the police. “It is a tragedy in India that the National Human Rights Commission seems to be ineffective and weak.”
In Maharashtra, hundreds of people have completed their prison terms, but they are in jails because there is nobody to take up their cases and they do not have any surety to pay and come out of jail, he added.
Another lawyer from India, advocate Mukul Sinha, discussed judicial intervention in state-sponsored encounters with reference to the encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi, in which Gujrat police top officers were involved.
Housing in Pakistan
From Pakistan, architect and urban planner Arif Hasan talked about housing rights in the country. The housing crisis started in 1947 due to mass migration, which totally changed the demography of the urban cities. Around 1.2 million people were added to urban centres of Pakistan, he said. “The population of some of the cities in Punjab and Sindh increased between 50 to 100 per cent while, in some areas, the population went down because of the migration of Hindus.”
The government launched massive and effective housing schemes in the beginning but they were affected by a shortage of resources, he explained. According to Hasan, Karachi has around 5.2 million people in katchi abadis, which are not even declared slums. The government has regularised katchi abadis that allowed people to own their houses, but there is no physical or social infrastructure in these settlements, he said.
Public interest litigation
On labour rights issues, advocate Faisal Siddiqui gave the example of the Baldia factory fire. It was a complete lack of enforcement of labour laws, he said, adding that the 1,500 workers working in the factory were not even registered with the labour department.
“There were no safety measures and the factory laws were being violated,” he said. “Even labour inspection has been suspended in Sindh.” Siddiqui regretted that there was no social mobilisation to bring those factory workers and the authorities to justice.
Source: The Express Tribune