Stories about human rights

Demanding equal rights in Pakistan can turn even model citizens into traitors

For too long, the faction of Pakistani society that upholds the principle of equal citizenship as a fundamental human right has been in despair. This is because human rights are an ideal no one disputes in theory but which, in essence, depend on the non-discrimination of individuals, whether based on religion, language, political opinion or socio-economic standing. However, human rights often becomes a provocative term when applied to a blogger with a dissenting political opinion, or to those we celebrate as symbols of our diversity on Easter and Christmas, or to those listening to speeches about their heroic contributions to the war on ...

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When charitable organisations don’t believe in only giving anymore and barter sex for food

This year is definitely a year for women. At the start of 2018, the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes (now deceased), Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey (although the allegations were from men) decimated due to sexual assault allegations. It seems the propensity for women to come forward and report indecent behaviour by powerful men is now on the rise.  Now it seems every faucet of life, from sporting events and Larry Nassar’s incarceration, to Hollywood and now the world of charities and NGOs, is slowly turning on. Recently, atrocious allegations were revealed by news outlets of the use of prostitutes by ...

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There could only be one Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s valiant moral compass

Last year, I wrote an article praising a person who I consider to be my most favourite Pakistani, Ms Asma Jahangir. In that article, I wrote how courageous she was and how she had taken principled liberal stances throughout her life. Due to this, her support for any political party or institution was not constant. She supported the judiciary during the lawyers’ movement and was its fiercest critics later on when she found out that judiciary under former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry was overstepping its constitutional authority. She supported Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) point of view ...

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Can Shahid Khaqan Abbasi #BringZulfiqarHome so he can spend his remaining few days with his family?

“We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” – Robert Houghwout Jackson Conflicting interests and balancing human rights with state laws lie at the heart of the sentencing process. Judges may arrive at decisions based on either restrictive or broader interpretation of laws. Hence, the plight of terminally ill prisoners can only be resolved by having concrete laws and policies formulated to create exceptions to cases like that of the Pakistani death row prisoner in Indonesia, Zulfiqar Ali who is suffering from chronic liver and Diabetes Mellitus. Ali was taken into custody in 2004 on drug-related charges. ...

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16 years after 9/11: Its tragic memory, surreal aftermath and the insecure world it left behind

In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, young men like me who had posed as ‘Marxists’ across the 80s were overwhelmed by a sense of both sadness and dread. And yet we knew that things in our beloved Soviet Union were not quite like what we had imagined – a socialist Utopia in which the working classes (the proletariat) had risen above economic, religious and social biases to consolidate their own rule according to the noble dictates of Marxist-Leninism. I was 22 in 1988 and about to head out to a university in Moscow on a scholarship. The plan was ...

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Basila & The Street Crew: A much-needed humanised portrayal of the transgender community

Growing up, I always wondered about different genders. I was curious and after talking to different people, I learned that there are some really alarming misconceptions about transgender people. Especially in Pakistan, they have long been denied basic human rights and are usually seen as “different”, abnormal, lowly, dirty and mere objects for entertainment. I was really young when I first encountered a transgender individual yet I remember it so vividly. This incident was as normal as any other daily interaction but there is still something about that moment that I find really bizarre. We were staying at our grandmother’s place during summer holidays ...

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Anti-honour killing and acid attacks bills: More laws to be buried in the graveyard of good intentions?

This past week, the Sindh Assembly passed two laws against honour killing and acid attacks. It is a commendable initiative and the first such act against honour killings in all four provinces and territories. The laws are adequately severe with stipulations such as no blood money is allowed to be granted, acid attacks are unbailable offences and suggesting that the capital offence may be given to those killing in the name of honour. Furthermore, they are reflective of a humanistic mind-set and the architects of it will have to do far more than merely draft it and push it through the red tape of senates and assemblies to receive accolades ...

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After all, Kabul is no Manchester, and the media and world’s reaction proved it

At some level, I do understand why no Facebook profile picture filters appeared or why no hashtags dominated the social media landscape after a bombing in Kabul or Baghdad. It is assumed that cities like these must be acclimatised to the reign of terror; to towering plumes of smoke; to children’s blood being spilled on the city’s pavements; and to mangled corpses strewn on the dirty streets. It is assumed that they must be used to mothers wailing in a strange cacophony; to rundown ambulances whirring past shocked onlookers, who in turn are used to their unacknowledged existence; and used to the ...

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Pakistan isn’t the only country that bestows injustices to its transgender community

Pakistan isn’t the only country that bestows injustices onto minority groups residing in its country. We all are aware of the recent violent acts that have taken place against the transgender community, all thanks to social media for spreading awareness on the issue. Donald Trump’s win as the 45th president of the United States has brought about many conservative and anti-human rights thoughts, which seem to retract the liberal and more inclusive laws set in motion by the former democratic president of the United States, Barack Obama. Obama ordered public schools in May 2016 to allow transgender students to use bathrooms according to their chosen identity, further threatening to hold back federal funding if ...

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The child marriage legislation is a step in the right direction, but will it be implemented?

Marriages are big business in Pakistan. It is a time of hope, happiness, faith and love. Such a memorable event can easily turn sour when the parties getting married are underage. To curb this heinous act, legislation has been passed by the National Assembly, aimed to reduce child marriages by ramping up the severity of the punishment.  Instead of being imprisoned for up to three years, individuals involved in arranging child marriages face a 10-year imprisonment with a one million rupees fine. This new change in the law seems to be a serious effort on part of the government to tackle this insidious practice. Although on ...

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