KARACHI: A provincial consultative conference was organized by Oxfam in Pakistan in collaboration with SAFWCO (Sindh Agriculture & Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization) on improving rule of law at Movinpick Hotel, Karachi. The conference convened members of provincial assembly, policy makers, legislators, academia, justice providers to collectively reflect and review the challenges women, minorities, and marginalized communities face in accessing justice in Sindh and a need for effective legal and policy reforms to increase citizen’s access to justices.
Oxfam in Pakistan is implementing its project, “Improved Access to Fair, Legitimate and Effective Justice in Pakistan’’, with SAFWCO Hyderabad, Sanghar and Hyderabad districts. The project focuses on citizen’s legal empowerment and strengthens confidence-building measures between citizens and formal justice institutions.
Aijaz Ali Kkooharo Chairperson Board of Directors SAFWCO warmly welcomed all the distinguished guests, OXFAM team on participation in the rule of law in Sindh province. He added that by virtue of this intervention communities got the opportunity to have a liaison with different stakeholders which has contributed in image building of the institutions which are primarily responsible for ensuring justice in our society.
Suliman G. Abro, Founder of SAFWCO greeted the participants. He applauded Oxfam’s contribution in improving citizen’s access to justice through improving confidence and trust between citizens and justice providers. He claimed that our journey of last 32 years journey for the rural development is proving beneficial not only for the community but also engaging them with relevant stakeholders to ensure claim their constitutional entitlements.
Addressing the conference, Ms Asma Kiran Team leader Programme Manager, Governance and Economic Justice Oxfam in Pakistan spoke on the importance of rule of law and inclusion of women and marginalised groups in the justice system, who are often ignored in their pursuit of justice. In her address, she stressed on the paramount need to open spaces where marginalized groups can access justice and engage duty bearers and justice providers. She stressed the need for a collective approach to strengthen the rule of law across the province, which is only possible if all levels of justice mechanism are involved, to ensure an equal and fair justice system for all.
Ms Shehla Raza, Provincial Minister for Women Development in her speech shared government’s pro women policies and said that the government is committed to bring more reforms in laws and policies to improve the access to justice of women and other marginalised sections of the society. He committed to advocate at policy level to increase number of women employees in every provincial department to better facilitate more than half proportion of our population.
Pir Mujjeb Ul Haq, Chairman of Standing Committee on Law and Parliamentary Affairs said that the provincial government has passed a number of record laws, majority of them are focussed on women, children, minorities and other marginalised sections. He said that improving rule of law and access to justice initiatives are priority for his committee and any stakeholders’ recommendations would be welcome in this regard.
Sharjeel Kharal, Deputy Inspector General, Sindh Police said that the police in recent years have taken several initiatives to ensure access to police services to marginalised sections. Human Rights Cell has been established at the IG office and human rights cell and women complaint cells are also working at DIG and SSP offices across the province. “Reporting on crimes against women and minorities is now a part of regular police reporting to high officials,” he added.
Advocate Ali Palh said awareness about fundamental rights empowers the communities especially women to claim their share in property, maintenance expenses and return of dowry items in case of khualla or talaq, this all is possible if a women is empowered.
Ms. Anjum Iqbal Jumani Secretary Women Development Department, Government of Sindh said that there is dire need to ensure women representation not only in the women department but also in police and other departments.
Others who spoke at the conference included Suhai Aziz, Senior Superintendent Police, Ms. Mangla Sharma, Member Provincial Assembly, Jami Chandio Social Expert, Justice Providers and community representatives.
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