SHARP and Action Aid
Pakistan, being a member of the United Nations, is bound by the standards on which the UN is founded, as expressed in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, which is considered as the “Bible of Human Rights”.
Presently there is no existing training or educational programme in the country. The human rights subject is yet to be recognized as academic theme in the syllabi of educational institutions. There is only one university which is offering certificate course on different HR issues, but a lot has to still be done. The Government of Pakistan has created a human rights division, under the Ministry of Law & Justice but it lacks resources to activate its activities.
In this situation it is very much needed to train and educate at least lawyers of the country, who form a vital part of the judicial system of Pakistan, about the importance of basic human rights, international legal frame work and its compatibility with domestic legislations.
To create awareness among legal fertility with the aim of establishing a network of committed human rights activists, SHARP, has revitalized the series of training workshops for Attorneys of Human Rights. SHARP has been providing legal aid to the victim of human rights violations but it realized that the institutions responsible for sanctity of basic human rights are not sensitized and aware of the core instruments of protecting HR. the organization then focusing on training the judiciary and lawyers for effective protection of HR, has so far conducted 3 workshops for judiciary of N.W.F.P. and Balochistan. Very recently it initiated the idea of training a group of HR lawyers who will not only protect the ill fated segments of society from Human Rights violation, but will also monitor the situation in their locality and advocate for better laws, standards and practices.
The purpose of this training was to equip lawyers with knowledge of the international legal framework and standards, which are legally binding on Pakistan. The workshops were aimed to achieve the idea of embedding a bed of Human Rights Attorneys across Pakistan for the promotion and awareness of legal and constitutional rights at grass root level.
It is pertinent to mention here that SHARP floated the idea of establishing the net of Human Rights Attorneys, which has long lasting effects on national HR arena, and Action Aid Pakistan very kindly agreed to help and support the project.
SHARP and Action Aid Pakistan have agreed to sponsor 5 workshops in all the four provinces in Pakistan. It is proposed that after organizing 4 provincial workshops a nationwide conference of all the attorneys would be conducted at the end of the trainings to strengthen the network of the attorneys at national level.
The training workshops were designed with the aim to focus on the basic HRs, constitutional, children, women, refugees and labor / workers rights. Special efforts are made to familiarize and introduce participants to the international obligations of Pakistan as a member of United Nations and state party to different conventions. It was made acquaint to the binding effect of customary international law and how the ratification of any international convention entail responsibility on the contracting state to implement its provisions.
In 2005-2006, 4 trainings on the platform of SHARP and Action Aid Pakistan have been conducted at Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta:
The potential workshops were designed to meet the following goals and objectives;
• To embed a network of lawyers who are committed to HR activities
• To utilize the expertise of the attorneys of HR for promotion of HR in Pakistan
• To create awareness about HR at grass root levels through Attorneys of HR
• To ensure speedy legal assistance to victims of HR violations through the network of Attorneys of HRs
• To establish a mechanism of referral handbook of HR attorneys
• To maintain contact with attorneys of Human Rights on sustainable basis
• To enhance awareness about the core HR instruments
• To augment the understanding of basic fundamental rights in the constitution of Pakistan
• To apply the International Conventions in domestic courts proceedings
• To provide orientation on the rights in light of International instruments
• To increase responsiveness about the workers rights
• To educated the attorneys of HR on different international and national legislations concerning rights of the target population.
On 22 December 2006, “National Conference” of all those trained Attorneys of Human Rights was held at Best Western Hotel, Islamabad to accord them with “ID Cards” and to formulate group network in the country. The first ever network of Attorneys of Human Rights in Pakistan has been introduced in order to improve the overall HR scenario. SHARP expects that this network will be functioning to help the needy people into protecting their rights and will also monitor the violations in their respective areas.
SHARP also expects that the training of legal fraternity will be continued as a regular feature and SHARP will get more support from other agencies to widen this group in the remaining parts of the country.
SHARP also envisions that if legal fraternity is motivated and equipped, the violations will reduce and support to the victims will increase considerably. SHARP rightly expects support from other organizations working for the promotion of human rights for further expansion of such trained network.
It is pertinent to mention here that Mr. Sher Bahadur, Attorney of Human Rights in Haripur voluntarily provided services to the victims of the torture cell run by Maulana Ilyas Qadri. Haripur Police broke into the cell and recovered 115 persons, including 7 British nationals. Similarly, the other Attorneys are also rendering services in their respective areas.