HRCP general meeting: Asma blames media for growing intolerance
LAHORE: Intolerance cannot be checked without providing justice to all segments of society.
This was consensus among speakers at a seminar `Growth of intolerance in Pakistan’ by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on the occasion of its annual general meeting.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jehangir said the media had played a negative role in fanning intolerance as it had misinterpreted the concerns of governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti over a woman victim of the blasphemy law.
All peace-loving forces should join hands and persuade media owners and anchor persons that “enough is enough” and “the glorification of the assassin by the media helped increase the level of intolerance”, she said.
Ironically, not even a single statement in favour of Salman or Shahbaz was witnessed on behalf of the government in the media, she said.
Former federal minister Dr Mubashar Hasan said that intolerance had its roots in nationalism that had been on the rise after 1940s. The United Nations had some 40 members when it was established but now the figure crossed 200. Intolerance would continue to increase if provision of justice, security of life and property and equitable distribution of wealth were not ensured to all people in the country.
Earlier, outgoing chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan said intolerance had religious, political, social and economic dimensions. “A helpless person is prone to intolerance. The culture of intolerance started gaining roots in Pakistan in 1948 when Majlis-i-Ahrar revived itself and launched a vicious campaign against the Quaid, Liaqat Sahib and other movement leaders.”
Columnist Khalid Ahmad called for separation of religion and state. “Our condition is like the ethnocentric tribes of 1870s,” he said.
Psychologist Dr Haroon Ahmad said that intolerance had no genetic basis. “It is a behaviour we learn from culture and society and can be undone through the same culture and society,” he said.
Poet Fehmida Riaz spoke on religious intolerance while Saba Gul Khattak threw light on the impacts of intolerance on the social sector with reference to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.
Provincial coordinators Saleema Hashmi presented reports on state of human rights in Punjab and Ghazi Salahuddin on Sindh. Outgoing treasurer Zafar A Chaudhry presented the financial statement.
HRCP REPORT: Presenting the annual report, HRCP Secretary-General IA Rehman said the 18th Amendment marked a big leap towards a genuine federal polity. He said Pakistan had become a party to six key UN human rights instruments.
“Much, by way of framing of domestic laws and development of a culture of sensitivity to human rights, remains to be done,” he said.
“But at least the human rights activists will be considerably facilitated. Needless to add that the responsibility of the upholders of human rights to carry the process forward has greatly increased.
“Unfortunately, the gains for human rights were less concrete than the losses. The people had little time to ponder the positive implications of the 18th Amendment due to a protracted debate in the Supreme Court on the new procedure for judges’ appointment. Even otherwise little was done to address the provinces’ lack of capacity to discharge their enlarged responsibilities or the impact of the transfer of subjects on matters of national concerns, much as education and labour. These matters are of obvious concern to human rights activist.
“Otherwise too, the past 12 months have offered a little comfort to human rights defenders. The war against terrorism created myriad problems for them. These matters included the loss of innocent lives in military operations and in drone attacks, the heavy loss of life in suicide attacks and resort to terrorist of acts in sectarian conflicts,” said Rehman.
The situation in Balochistan, he said, remained highly explosive as cases of involuntary disappearance, a spate of target killings and the appearance of bodies of people killed after torture, and many of them bodies of missing people, continued to fuel discontent and deepen the people’s alienation from the state.
Other matters of concern were extra-legal killings, allegations of targeted and revenge killings in the conflict zones, and detention without trial of a considerable number of people in the tribal belt. At the same time in 2010, the plight of the minority communities became worse, with the killing of Ahmedis setting new records.
Also, suicides increased along with a shaper rise in the number of people existing below the poverty line. The other problems which haunted the people included shortage of energy, unemployment diseases, and violence against women.
The HRCP was granted special consultative status by the United Nations ECOSOC. This will enable the commission to raise issues at the UN forums.
The last year, HRCP core group coordinator Naeem Sabir of Khuzdar was shot dead and another coordinator, Eidoo, joined the ranks of involuntarily.