PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities have begun responding to complaints received on a toll-free hotline established last month in which citizens can call to register complaints over human-rights violations.
As of July 7, the hotline had received 12 complaints and "our department has arranged meetings of complainants and respondents in the respective areas," said Sikandar Ali Khalil, assistant director at the KP Directorate of Law and Human Rights.
Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Sultan Khan launched the toll-free number -- 0800-11180 -- at the KP Directorate of Law and Human Rights on July 2 by receiving a call.
"We will take strict action and will provide justice to victims after we register their complaints," he said at the event.
"The idea to launch a toll-free number was conceived because victims of human-rights violations deserve assistance," said Khalil. "Now each and every citizen is free to register complaints freely" using the toll-free number.
"Human rights" is an umbrella term that includes all the rights that an individual enjoys in life, said Khalil.
Extrajudicial killings in KP along with acts of violence and harassment committed by extremists and militants are some of the human rights violations routinely faced by residents.
The majority of complaints received in the directorate come from remote areas, Khalil said, adding that great distances make it difficult for victims to come to major cities for assistance.
Now, victims can file their complaints at the directorate, where staff is available around the clock, he said.
Mehboob Latif, a schoolteacher in Abbottabad, said he lodged a complaint using the number. The system "provides hope for us because it gives us the opportunity to seek solutions for problems", he said.
The process "is a little slow, but steady and heading in a positive direction", he added.
Confidence in government
"Though complaints can be filed on the public website, the ... toll-free number will help residents of remote areas and those who are not familiar with the use of the internet and modern communication techniques," Khalil said.
A computer operator logs the complaints and compiles them for supervisors' analysis and consideration, Khalil said. After an evaluation and analysis, the directorate informs the victim and forwards reports to concerned authorities for any necessary action.
"If someone finds relief through our efforts, it will disseminate the message to others about the efficacy of efforts by the directorate to improve public welfare," he said.
"This new development speaks of a social change that will affect the life of each and every citizen, strengthening his [or her] confidence in the systems and institutions of the state. The reaffirmation of public confidence in government is in itself our success," he added.
"The government should be lauded for launching the toll-free number," said Khurshid Bano, chairperson and founder of Da Hawwa Lur, a Peshawar-based women's rights advocacy group.
"The program will help ordinary residents who are unable to prevent the infringements of their rights because of complications in the system," she said.
"It should be deemed a sincere effort by the government to serve those who are unaware of their rights or too weak to prevent the violation of their rights," she added.
Disrupting the agenda of extremists
Ordinary Pakistanis "will avoid resorting to violence if the government ... ensures the inviolability of their rights", Bano said.
"Distress, uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the government are some of the factors that encourage many social evils like extremism, violence, pessimism and militancy," she said. "A satisfied, optimistic and hopeful person will believe in the system and certainly avoid the taking law into his [or her] own hands."
Citizens' confidence in state institutions and programmes is key to stemming extremism, agreed Haji Ibad-ur-Rehman, a KP lawyer and human-rights activist.
"Human rights ... provide a conducive environment for citizens to prosper and progress," he said.
"It will be very difficult for elements of extremism to penetrate the social edifice when citizens have firm confidence in the functioning of their institutions," he added.
"The agenda of extremists and terrorists is to destabilise government, cast the public into persistent confusion and attract innocents by ... deceit," he said.
Extremism will suffer another blow when society rejects those who propagate negativity, according to the lawyer.
"This will be possible only in a society where the masses are assured protection of their basic rights," Rehman said.