Human Rights Program


Throughout Pakistan’s checkered political history, no Prime Minister has been able to hold office for a full term. The recurrent political crises in Pakistan prevent the state from launching a concerted provincial and federal effort to eliminate human rights violations.

History suggests that members of government and even opposition remain occupied with short-sighted policies for political gain instead of working effectively to break down systematic and structural barriers to the implementation of human rights legislation. the man.

With each new government, Pakistan witnesses the adoption of several human rights legislations. Several federal laws on the rights of women and children have been enacted under the government led by the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. These legislations require significant systematic changes in the criminal justice system (CJS) and massive budgetary allocations to be implemented effectively. These include the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Act 2018 (“Zainab Act”), Legal Aid and Justice Authority Act 2020 (“Aid legal”) and the Combating Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 2021 (the “Combating Rape Act”). Law’).

Zainab law is named after a seven-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and brutally killed in January 2018 in Kasur district. Zainab’s case has sparked massive public outcry and protests across Pakistan over police ineffectiveness and shortcomings in protecting missing children in the CJS. The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), mandated under Section 3 of the Zainab Law, was launched by the Ministry of Human Rights on October 15, 2020. However , the powers and functions of ZARRA, as set out in Article 5 of the Law, have not yet been effectively implemented; coordination between ZARRA and local police stations has also not been effective.

Many police officers are still unaware of the existence of the Zainab law. Moreover, the wide range of parallel systems and the duplication of mechanisms across various legislations have created confusion among the various SJC actors on the right course of action. Funding for ZARRA must come from federally allocated funds. However, the budgetary allocations necessary for the effective implementation of the Zainab law have not been specified. It remains to be seen whether this inspiring law will ever come to effective implementation.

The Legal Aid Act was enacted to establish a Legal Aid and Justice Authority to provide legal and financial assistance for access to justice to poor and vulnerable segments of society in criminal cases. It was passed by Parliament on March 24, 2020. Former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari informed the Senate during Question Time in February 2022 that legal aid was provided by pro bono lawyers after the establishment of the Legal Aid and Justice Authority. However, the powers and functions of the authority provided for in Article 8 have not been effectively implemented. In order to implement the law, one relies on a fund (which also includes grants from the federal, provincial and local government). How long will a system of pro bono lawyers work and what will be the quality of lawyers providing legal aid? These important questions remain unanswered.

The Anti-Rape Act was originally enacted as an ordinance titled “The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020” on December 15, 2020. It was enacted in response to public outcry and protests urging the government to eliminate sexual violence against women and girls and guarantee their human rights, after the horrific case of rape on the Lahore highway that had terrorized the entire nation. The Anti-Rape Ordinance was renewed and then later passed as an Act of Parliament in 2021.

The purpose of the Rape Law is to provide prompt redress for crimes of sexual violence through special investigative teams and special courts that provide efficient procedures, speedy trials and evidence. The anti-rape law contains several special provisions and applies specifically to women and children. These include the creation of special courts (section 3), rape crisis cells (section 4), legal assistance to victims/survivors (section 6), special prosecutors (section 7), victim and witness protection mechanisms (section 8), sexual offenses investigation units (section 9), independent support counselors (section 11), closed trial (section 12) and sex offender register (section 24). In addition, article 20 of the law against rape stipulates that the Prime Minister must establish a fund to carry out the objectives of the law. In accordance with Article 20 (3) (a), the sources of the fund also include grants from the federal government and provincial governments.

While special prosecutors and Special Sexual Offenses Investigation Units (SSIOU) have already been warned by some provinces, they have yet to be trained on the new definition of rape, introduced by an amendment to Pakistan’s penal code. Moreover, none of the provinces has set up an anti-rape crisis unit.

Once again, we are witnessing a duplication of laws. A register of sex offenders has also not been established. The rules relating to the management of the Fund have not yet been made public. Without significant budgetary resources, it is impossible to implement the anti-rape law. The important question is this: will the protection mechanisms provided by the Anti-Rape Act be put in place when there is so much political instability and confrontation between the federal and provincial governments?

Despite the enactment of various inspiring and robust laws on the human rights of women and children, Pakistan consecutively ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. The impending political instability only adds fuel to the existing fire. The fate of the aforementioned legislation hangs in the balance. The crucial question that arises is: will adequate budgetary resources be made available for their effective implementation, or will they be swept away by the newly formed government? Only time will tell.

The writer is a lawyer. She tweets @RidaT95 and can be reached at: [email protected]


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