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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Human rights issues in Pakistan: Predicament of a common man

There is sinful silence from all quarters on human rights issues, even the courts are not raising their voices; why? Do we not want an educated nation? Who is involved in this conspiracy to spread ignorance amongst the masses? Answers to these questions are anxiously awaited.

A society in which inhumanity becomes the norm is in serious turmoil. According to the great humanist: Abdul Sattar Edhi, “Humanity is the biggest religion”. All his life, he served humans; mostly downtrodden and the destitute. From burying unclaimed dead bodies or raising abandoned children, he did it all. It is mind boggling that in the 21st century, which is known as the ‘Information Age’ why have human beings been ignored? There must be some underlying reasons that have been overlooked.

For some, it is the best of times while for a vast majority it is the worst. While the democratic United States claims to have a high per capita income, the autocratic regime in China claims that no one is rotting below the poverty line in the People’s Republic. These are interesting times. Despite its hiccups, technology has produced restraint in the world. Currently humanity is battling with the pandemic that has claimed several lives both in the developed and developing world. US and India are the hardest hit nations. The recently developed vaccines have kindled some hope, their large-scale administration is now anxiously awaited.

Read more: 61% Nations put democracy or human rights under threat during pandemic

Humanity: A Pakistani experience

Our journey as a nation started on very humane grounds. Despite all the faults, Pakistanis are one of the highest charity-paying nations of the world, yet the poverty line has not gone down. In its over seven decades of existence, the periods of human development have been limited (1947 to 1958, 1971 to 1977 and now a fresh attempt 2018 to date).

The entire state apparatus is built on ‘Inhumane Practices’, where the common man does not count. Just one trip to any police station can reveal the facts. ‘No money, no service’ is the operating principle, no wonder whosoever calls, including the Inspector General (IG) everyone operates independently and has a financial target to meet. Almost the entire staff complains of lack of funds to operate so they are required to fetch for themselves.

What does the constitution say?

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has several human rights clauses which are mostly ignored. The list includes: Article 8, the declaration that any law inconsistent with any of the fundamental rights shall be void; Article 9, ensures security of a person; Article 10, safeguards against arrest and detention; Article 10(A), right to fair trial; Article 11, prohibition on slavery and forced labour; Article 12, protection against retrospective punishment; Article 13, protection against double punishment; Article 14, dignity of man and privacy of home; Article 15, freedom of movement; Article 16, freedom of assembly; Article 17, freedom of association; Article 18, freedom of profession; Article 19, freedom of speech; Article 19(A), right to information; Article 20, freedom to preach; Article 21, safeguard against religion based taxation; Article 22, safeguards to religious based institutions; Article 23, freedom to hold property; Article 24, protection of property rights; Article 25, freedom from gender discrimination; Article 25(A), right to education; Article 26, non-discrimination in public places; Article 27, safeguards to discrimination in service; Article 28, preservation of language, script and culture.

Read more: Pakistan re-elected to UN Human Rights Council with ‘overwhelming majority’

The constitution is a gift of the legislature elected through free and fair elections in 1970. It was the ablest body of elected individuals ever, which formulated not one, but two documents (1972 interim, 1973 permanent version). While Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was the leader of the house, while Abdul Wali Khan was the leader of the opposition. The level of debates was outstanding. Unfortunately since then, we have not been able to protect or even implement what our elected leaders had skilfully prepared for us. Even without implementing the important clauses, a conspiracy is being hatched to abandon the document and replace it with a new form of republic.

Through this article, I demand complete implementation of all the above human rights clauses of the constitution. An implementable roadmap should be a part of the electoral reforms package that is being discussed these days. These are the real issues that directly affect human beings. There should be a voters’ boycott till all political parties agree on implementing these clauses. Ignoring the right to education clause (25 A) is shameful, there is no justification in its continued abandonment. There is sinful silence from all quarters, even the courts are not raising their voices; why? Do we not want an educated nation? Who is involved in this conspiracy to spread ignorance amongst the masses? Answers to these questions are anxiously awaited.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.