Human Rights day: Lets hope for a better and brighter Pakistan

Published: December 10, 2012
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These are only a few examples of the glaring violation of, or failure thereof, to implement the provisions of the UDHR by the government of Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

I hate to be an emissary of doom and gloom. Unfortunately, when I often look around to seek inspiration for my write-ups, I find the wretched in much greater numbers than the elated souls. My quest then becomes one of bringing forth the voice of those derelict yet quiet masses.

It is on this note that I would be talking about today, December 10, which is celebrated around the world as the Human Rights Day. This exercise was taken up in the 1950s to commemorate the passing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations (UN) general assembly on December 10, 1948, and has been followed ever since.

Pakistan is a signatory of the UDHR.

It is one thing to pronounce something, while quite another to implement it – the same words and actions debate.

So has Pakistan been able to fulfil the objectives that it had set for itself?

Has it been able to walk the talk?

By all perceptible indication – no it has not.

The ubiquitous human right violations within the country would put anyone’s imperturbability to test. The sectarian discord, religious extremism, ethnic contentions, as well as opinions a person possesses are all claiming lives and rights.

If lucky enough to be spared by these, wait until an inferno engulfs your factory – the one with no fire exits and barred windows- and you’ve had it.

It becomes pretty hard for me to incorporate my sentiments in as few words as my editor permits. Thus, instead of rambling any further let me talk about the articles that the state of Pakistan has vowed to follow, and to provide the rights incorporated in them to its people.

Article 2: 

Freedom from discrimination;

Discrimination is omnipresent in Pakistan: religious, gender, ethnic as well as class discrimination. Lawyers banned Shezan on court complex because its owner was an Ahmadi. Similarly, women are discriminated against in all sorts of business matters. While justice does not serve the rich equally right, the case of affluent Bhaila brothers being one in point. Despite having caused the death of more than 250 workers, they can find their way into category B prisons with ‘private rooms, a bathroom, a television and personally cooked meals.’

Article 3- 

Right to life, liberty and personal security;

Drones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bombs throughout its length and breadth, thefts and robberies, the exploitation of the traders in Karachi and the persecution of minorities – welcome to Pakistan!

Rights? What rights?

Article 5-

Freedom from torture and degrading treatment;

Stories keep emanating about the inhumane treatment meted out to the Baloch dissidents. I say stories, because not many, besides Declan Walsh, have dared venture into the mountains of Balochistan to procure the complete truth. Journalists fear torture and death reminiscing Hayatullah Khan as well as Daniel pearl, allegedly through the hands of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies more often than the non-state actors.

Article 7-

Right to Equality before the Law;

The immunity clause in Article 248 of the constitution provides the president, and the governors, impunity in not just civil but also criminal matters.

Article 6, 8 and 10; Right to Recognition as a Person before the Law; Right to remedy by competent tribunal and Right to Fair Public hearing respectively.

Three words, Frontiers Crime Regulation (FCR).

No wakeel (lawyer), no daleel (argument) and no appeal for the people of the FATA region is entertained once they’ve been charged with a misdemeanour. The jirgas get to make the decision, and the people have no recourse to courts owing to the article 247 of the constitution.

Article 18- 

Freedom of belief and religion;

Although, it is a very sensitive matter the above right has been denied to the Ahmadis by the state and to all other religious minorities by the people.

Article 19-

Freedom of Opinion and Information;

Pakistan is ranked the third most dangerous country for media men with seven journalists dying in 2012 alone, while 48 having been killed since 1992. That is for the information, while for opinions examples include, Salman Taseer, Shahbaz bhatti and most recently in Malala Yousafzai.

Lastly,

 Article 25-

Right to adequate living standard;

If living with food insecurity, and lack of sanitation and health facilities suffices as being adequate, then only could a predominant majority of Pakistan possibly qualify as living a ‘marginally fulfilling’ life.

These are only a few examples of the glaring violation of, or failure thereof, to implement the provisions of the UDHR by the government of Pakistan.

There are others that sound quite absurd in our context, being first world problems, such as freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence, right to social security and the right to rest and leisure etc. These, we do not think of ourselves lucky enough to even be considered for.

It is about time we take up the daunting task of ensuring the basic human rights for all and sundry. May some concrete steps be taken to achieve that end by the government this human rights day, and may a foundation for a better and brighter tomorrow be laid. Here is hoping for all that we are capable of achieving.

Read more by Badar here or follow him on Twitter @badarchaudhary

Badar Chaudhary

Badar Chaudhary

An engineering graduate from Cardiff University, Britain, Badar tweets as @badarchaudhary

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.