23 February, 2012

Pakistan's manner of compensating its Terrorism Victims commended

Sana Jamal

Islamabad – Pakistan's positive side came to light surprisingly at a report launch on Wednesday, when speakers noted that the terror-hit country is ahead of many states in delivering compensation to the victims of terrorism and conflict at a massive scale. This point of concern was highlighted at the launch of research report on “Compensating Civilian Victims of Conflict and Terrorism in Pakistan.” The research on the existing policies and practices being adopted by Federal and Provincial governments for award of compensation to the civilian victims was conducted by Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute (OSI). 

The report refreshingly highlighted a positive side of Pakistan. “The conflict-hit country is doing better than many states to provide relief to the victims of conflicts,” remarked Michael Shaikh, Director Country Program of Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict (CIVIC). Erica Gaston, Program Officer of OSI, appreciating the efforts of the country administration, said that “the concrete steps taken by Pakistan government in providing compensation to victims of conflicts are commendable and an exemplar for many countries.” 

Speakers, however, pointed out that although the Pakistan government has been successful in reaching most of the victims, “compensation mechanism largely operates on ad hoc and thus inequitable basis,” leading to a number of inadequacies in providing monetary compensation. “Current procedures determining compensation allocations and payment disbursements are often time-consuming and multi- layered,” said Ahmad Ali of I-SAPS. Riaz Fatyana, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, acknowledged the discrepancies within the system, and said that “the existing practice can be improvised by introducing proper legislation, simple procedure, and uniform policy in all provinces.” 

“Formulation of comprehensive policy and supporting legislation is necessary to introduce uniform compensation procedures at both federal and provincial levels to provide financial safeguards for civilian victims of aggression” stressed Dr Salman Humayun, executive director of I-SAPS. According to the research, absence of independent budget lines at the federal and provincial levels raises serious concerns over transparency and accountability in terms of financial management.“Instead of releasing compensation funds from general and lump sum grants, transparency can be strengthened by devising dedicated budget lines specifically for the purpose” observed Ahmad Ali. 

 Dr. Ata ur Rehman, former DCO Malakand, highlighting the shortcomings of the report said that “the addition of FATA areas and the comparison of the amount that government spends on terror victims with the spending on the prevention of possible terror attacks would have made the report more comprehensive” he said. 
It was also noted that there is a significant dearth of available and verifiable official data detailing types of conflicts as well those of injuries suffered by civilians. In some cases, provincial and federal government data fail to tally. The state of affairs of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) is dismal as there is neither a framework for award of compensation nor any notified standards. As in the case of Shakrial Shrine blasts (24-12-09) the victims got compensation in about two months (63 days) however the victims of Melody Chowk incident (6-7-08) had to wait for 225 days to receive compensation. The delays are symptomatic of absence of a functional framework to address issues.

A comparison of the compensation paid in case of the two attacks in Multan in 2004 occurring within seven days, Sialkot Mosque blast and the blast at Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) rally, revealed that the response of government is often politically motivated and differs from event to event. The families of deceased in Sialkot attack were paid as per the policy, Rs. 100,000 for deceased and 50,000 for the injured. However, the families of those killed in SSP rally were given 500,000 and injured were given Rs. 50,000 “which indicate that the state does not lack the required competence or funds to deliver financial assistance.”