Bureaucratic hurdles drive human rights minister furious

Mian Abrar - courtesy Pakistan Today
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ISLAMABAD: Bureaucratic hurdles have triggered ire of Federal Minister for Human Rights Senator Kamran Michael, as the ministry has surrendered a huge amount allocated for the National Action Plan (NAP) implementation.

NAP implementation has been a huge challenge for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, which has miserably failed in achieving the targets it had set for itself since the year 2014—soon after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar which had left around 150 children and staff members martyred.

“The situation has driven Human Rights Minister Senator Kamran Michael furious, who has decided to fix a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take up the issue of non-cooperative behaviour of the Ministry of Human Rights Federal Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha and some others,” a source told Pakistan Today.

This would be a second successive federal minister to take up the issue of non-cooperation of bureaucrats with the prime minister. Last month, Federal Minister for Interprovincial Cooperation Mian Riaz Pirzada had written a letter to the PM, offering resignation due to the bureaucratic interventions in his ministry. Till date, the minister has not attended his office in protest to the PM’s cold shoulder.

The sources said that since taking over the ministry in May 2016, Kamran Michael has been involved in hectic efforts to improve the implementation of NAP and improvement of human rights situation in across the country, with a specific reference to helping the needy and destitute women, children and religious minorities.

The source said that the non-implementation of the human rights charter can badly damage Pakistan’s GSP Plus Status in the European Union (EU), as the ministry had failed to even arrange a meeting with the minister with the EU’s delegation for a proper briefing over the issues.

The sources said that successive directives of the minister had not been implemented by the newly appointed secretary at the ministry, who was taking advantage of her chemistry with the secretary to the prime minister.

“Due to bureaucratic hurdles, most of the minister’s directives are yet to be implemented despite repeated reminders. Not only the minister has conveyed his concerns to the secretary of the ministry, he has also put his reservations on record through an official letter addressed to the secretary around two weeks back,” the source added.

“Ever since I have taken over the portfolio of this ministry, I have faced a number of hindrances with regards to compliance with my directions in official matters,” reads the letter, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today.

Likewise, the letter says, a number of activities had been arranged by the ministry without his knowledge or approval. The minister further directed that the secretary to furnish a compliance report of file directives he had earlier issued to the ministry without fail.

The compliance sought by the minister was about establishment and operationalisation of a helpline at Lahore for needy; status of clearance of outstanding payments of events held on human rights day, Christmas Train, human right song, and poetic symposium as most of the payment was still pending and the ministry was going to surrender the amount to the exchequer at the end of the year. The minister also pointed out the ministry has failed to fix a meeting with the European Union delegation in April.

“Such situation in the office will affect the overall working spirit of the ministry. Compliance report update on the following may be intimated,” the letter added.

The secretary, in a defiant tone, noted down her response to the same letter, stating that due attention is always given to standing directives of the minister.

“The above issues—including meeting the EU delegation—have been brought to my knowledge for the first time through this letter,” noted the secretary.

However, repeated efforts made to seek comments of the secretary failed.

When contacted Joint Secretary of the ministry Humaira Azam Khan confirmed that the ministry had surrendered Rs124 million allocated for the NAP implementation.

“The amount has been surrendered because the institute could not be established due to the non-provision of the land by the Capital Development Authority (CDA). Though we have surrendered the amount, we have requested the finance ministry to reallocate the surrendered amount during the next fiscal year and they have agreed,” she added.

Humaira was asked whether the ministry has put the concern in black and white for non-compliance of his directive. Defending her senior, the joint secretary said that she came to knew about the presence of the letter recently; however, she said that the secretary of the ministry was a very proactive and committed officer, and soon all the issues would be resolved within the ministry. She said that since the secretary was new, there were some ‘teething problems’ and the same would be resolved amicably.

Humaira Azam said that the ministry had demanded Rs3020 million, which had been allocated. She said that another Rs800 million had been allocated for the development purpose.

She said that the ministry was working diligently to set up two commissions: Women Commission and National Commission Human Rights. She said that another Rs307 million has been allocated. She said that the ministry had also established a development wing; all matters would be sorted out soon.

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