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Dr. Shireen Mazari’s befitting reply to human rights watch for its ‘selective’ criticism


News Analysis |

Dr. Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister for Human Rights, responded to a letter by Human Rights Watch (HRW) director to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Dr. Mazari has accused the New York-based rights group of ‘selective’ criticism. She also reminded the HRW director of Pakistan’s efforts and intentions to protect human rights, and, at the same time, she urged the watchdog to monitor human rights violations in other states as well.

“We are well aware of our obligations and committed to ensure and protect the human rights of our citizens in pursuance to the constitution of Pakistan and international commitments; not by any external pressure,” she wrote in her letter to the HRW.

Prominent political commentator Dr. Moeed Pirzada argues that Pakistani policymakers do not understand the difference between two major categories of the NGOs. “Most NGO’s that work on social or societal issues are simply put: ‘foreign paid lobbyists’; the under-development of Pakistani laws and naivety and selfishness of Pakistani political elite allows these ‘foreign paid lobbyists’ to operate under the ‘neutral sounding name of NGO’s”.

The minister asserted in a reply to HRW that “since you mentioned that you monitor human rights violations in over 90 countries, I hope that you would also raise your voice against a massive human rights violations, carried out in Indian-Held Kashmir, Palestine and in some European States against Muslims citizens”.

Furthermore, she also clarified to the watchdog that Pakistan respects positive suggestion, but it also looks into the credibility of the organization. “We will always welcome positive suggestions and inputs which can help further our government’s human rights agenda as we have many challenges confronting us, but a non-governmental organization’s institutional credibility will rest on its commitment to ensuring human rights across the globe not just in selective states,” Dr. Mazari wrote.

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Letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

The HRW wrote a letter to the PM Imran Khan a few days ago. “As your government takes charge, we write to you about the human rights situation in Pakistan and urge that you take some key steps to help address current and longstanding problems. Human Rights Watch is an independent nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. We monitor and report on human rights violations in over 90 countries around the world, including Pakistan,” the letter reads.

The letter urged PM Khan to take concrete steps to ensure the human rights in the country. “We urge you to take concrete steps to protect fundamental civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in the areas specified below. A proactive human rights agenda is essential for Pakistan’s development,” it said.

Politics of NGOs

It is important to mention here that some International NGOs including International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House (FH) were recently found guilty of anti-state activities and directed to register themselves as “foreign agents” in Russia and Egypt. The US and EU reposted that it would have “chilling effect” on Russia’s civil society. India has also banned several NGOs which were persistently working against India’s interests and sealed their offices immediately.

The befitting reply of Pakistan’s minister for Human Rights is the beginning of a new era where a sovereign state has declined to get any dictation from any non-state actor.

It is interesting to note that after a long time Pakistan’s government woke up and put a ban on the notorious NGO ‘Save the Children’, but then-Interior Minister had to uplift this ban after international and domestic pressure. The NGO was allegedly working beyond its scope.

Analysts in Pakistan argued that “almost all Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in Pakistan are funded by the West (US and EU), but there is a general perception in our country that civil society and NGOs always intend to work for the welfare and well-being of the ordinary citizen. The same is instilled in the minds of students at educational institutions. In actuality, this is not the case.”

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Prominent political commentator Dr. Moeed Pirzada argues that Pakistani policymakers do not understand the difference between two major categories of the NGOs. “Most NGO’s that work on social or societal issues are simply put: ‘foreign paid lobbyists’; the under-development of Pakistani laws and naivety and selfishness of Pakistani political elite allows these ‘foreign paid lobbyists’ to operate under the ‘neutral sounding name of NGO’s”.

Pakistani bureaucracy has not shown any understanding or inclination to differentiate between NGO’s that work on issues like health, polio, water, sanitation, and transport etc to differentiate them from NGO’s that are ‘lobbyists for societal transformation’ NGOs working on legal reforms, madrassas, education, gender relations etc etc,” Dr. Pirzada wrote it.

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The befitting reply of Pakistan’s minister for Human Rights is the beginning of a new era where a sovereign state has declined to get any dictation from any non-state actor. Pakistan has, at the same time, ensured that it will make efforts to overcome the shortcoming in the area of Human Rights.

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