Islamabad: Amidst an uproar in Pakistan's political circles over a visit by a UN Working Group on enforced disappearances, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday said the panel is not mandated to conduct any investigation or fact finding work.
"This group is mandated neither for fact-finding nor investigations," she said, while making a policy statement regarding the visit of the UN Working Group in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament.
"There should be no ambiguity about this visit. It has a clear mandate. Pakistan has also been the member of UN Council on Human Rights and presented two reports," she said.
The UN panel has visited over a dozen countries and 91 nations have extended standing invitations to the group, she said.
"The Working Group is visiting Pakistan on our invitation," Khar added.
Pakistan has a mechanism in place to protect human rights. A commission on missing persons is investigating cases, the Supreme Court has taken suo motu notice of such issues and the government is sincere about protecting human rights, she said.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances arrived in Pakistan last week on a 10-day visit. This is the panel's first visit to Pakistan and it will travel to several parts of the country and meet officials, representatives of civil society organisations, relatives of disappeared persons and representatives of UN agencies.
The Working Group is represented by Olivier de Frouville and Osman El-Hajje. The independent experts are accompanied by members of the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN panel's visit has already triggered an angry reaction from some politicians.
Minister of State for Housing Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj told the National Assembly that the group's visit amounted to interference in Pakistan's internal matters.
However, Khar rejected notions about fact-finding or investigation by the UN Working Group and said there is no need to overemphasise this development.
Pakistan has ratified many UN protocols and conventions
on human rights and this shows the country's commitment to protect the rights of women, children, minorities and other vulnerable sections of society, Khar said.
Khar contended that the Working Group's mandate is to engage with governments to promote human rights.
The approval for the visit was given after the matter was discussed with all major stakeholders. Later, it underwent an inter-ministerial process and the proposal was sent to the Prime Minister for approval, she said.
"We should not be defensive about this visit. We are a democratic and pluralist country where the judiciary is independent, media is free and civil society is robust. All these features manifest that we protect human rights," she said.
She said she was sure the UN Working Group would work within its mandate.
Pakistan's Supreme Court is currently investigating the cases of hundreds of members of Baloch nationalist groups who have allegedly been detained without charge by security and intelligence agencies.
Rights groups have alleged that over 200 of these "missing persons" have been killed while in detention.
First Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 23:54