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THE revival of the Ministry of Human Rights by the federal government and the appointment of chairperson of the Pakistan National Human Rights Commission augur well for the people. Both these institutions will hopefully set about quickly addressing the multilayered gaps in governance and the provision of social welfare services.
However, it is also important to revive and place under the human rights ministry four important national institutions that were axed by the 18th Amendment — the National Council for Social Welfare (NCSW), the National Commission on Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD), the National Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (NCRDP), and the National Trust for the Disabled (NTD).
These institutions were created to address social evils ranging from beggary, violence against women, drug addiction and child abuse, to providing support for the education, care and employment of the disabled.
Four key institutions must be placed under the HR ministry.
Following the 18th Amendment, the Cabinet Division parked all these national institutions under the newly created Capital Administration & Development Division, stating they “stand merged to make one organisation under CA&D Division”. Later in December 2011, the NCCWD was placed under the law, justice and human rights ministry but the fate of the other institutions was undetermined. Then, on July 14, 2014, the Secretaries Committee met to discuss “the functional integration of NCRPD, NCSW, NTD and other related organisations as the Department of Social Development & Special Education under CA&D Division”.
The recommendations of the committee (approved by the prime minister on Sept 10, 2014) are a reflection of the confusion and bafflement that prevailed in this august body: “The committee was informed that there is a need to make these organisations functional and effective in order to provide essential services to the disabled, socially deprived and vulnerable groups of society …
“The secretary CAD Division stated that the resultant integrated unit, ie the Department of Social Development & Special Education under CADD would cater to the welfare and social protection of the needy from ICT in an efficient and effective manner.” Typically in Islamabad, “society” means the Islamabad Capital Territory only.
The CAD Division was also directed to submit “a piece of legislation for integration of the institutions within three months”. Fortunately for us, the CADD did not have the capacity to draw up the required legislation even after a lapse of a year and a half. In any case, these entities cannot be legally ‘merged’ because they were created under different kinds of statutes and rules.
In India, the National Disability Trust was created in 1999 as The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities. The trust carries out various schemes of capacity building, training, care and shelter.
Apart from organising awareness and training camps with corporate support, participating in national trade fairs and giving special performance awards, the trust also holds an all-India local level committee meeting every year to streamline its schemes and get feedback from persons with disabilities.
After devolution, a plethora of departments and institutions have sprung up in the provinces for disability, special education, children and women’s welfare. In Punjab alone, there are separate departments for social welfare, special education, women development, baitul maal and zakat and ushr. There are attached organisations such as the Punjab Welfare Trust for the Disabled, Punjab Council for Social Welfare, Punjab Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, Child Welfare Bureau, Special Education Initiative, and others. Yet another organisation for disability and social welfare is under the Punjab finance minister.
It has been said time and again that the 18th Amendment was neither properly thought through nor implemented in a rational manner. The then government and senior bureaucracy seemed to be concerned with ‘unburdening’ the centre of its responsibilities and scavenging for spaces in the secretariat block cleared by ministries that stood devolved.
No thought was given to providing guidelines and benchmarks to the provinces, nor was it decided as to who would prepare and send compliance reports for international conventions. In order to reaffirm a sense of ownership by the state of its basic obligations towards the citizens, a unified vision and national-level policies and programmes are required instead of parallel systems leading to nowhere. This can surely be done if all these four national institutions are placed under the new human rights ministry.
The writer is a former federal secretary.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2015