Asma seeks good governance as basic public right
LAHORE: Rights activist Asma Jehangir has suggested good governance as basic right of the citizens so that they are able to hold their rulers accountable in case they fail to deliver.
“The people should be given good governance so they are able to hold their rulers accountable when they fail to ensure them provision of basic human rights,” she said at the 8th South Asian Free Media Conference on Tuesday.
She said good governance would ensure a mechanism to ask the rulers why huge funds were being spent on nuclear and conventional arsenal instead of on the provision of education and health facilities to the masses.
She said many laws had been framed as this was the easiest thing to do, and their duplication created hurdles in the provision of justice. She demanded that instead of issuing new decrees the existing laws be implemented.
She said that women and religious minorities were facing both the institutional and the non-institutional discrimination. She said the situation of human rights was linked with democratic level in a specific society.
Along with good governance, Ms Jehangir said, the people needed a skilled and sensitive judiciary for the protection of their rights. She opposed the setting up of a National Human Rights Commission, adding that such an agency would have a government’s agenda and would become home to retired bureaucrats and judges.
At least, she said, no former judge should be a member of any such institution. Instead, she suggested, there should be South Asia Charter of Human Rights driven by the masses of the region and not the governments. She also touched on the New Delhi gang-rape incident, and suggested either the accused be hanged or their sexual organs chopped off.
She said there was a culture of impunity connected to violence and crimes against women and the killings and disappearances of minorities. “Both India and Pakistan are involved in shared activism which needs non-political solutions.”
Earlier, Ravi Nair, Rita Manchanda and Dr Farzana Haniffa also spoke while known columnist Ghazi Salahuddin moderated the session. In the final session, SAFMA Secretary-General Imtiaz Alam spoke about the association’s history and achievements. He said that terrorism was the biggest threat in South Asia and if all governments and security agencies in the region did not work together, it would destroy our way of life.
Norwegian Ambassador to Pakistan Cecil Landsverk said that “we all must care about human rights no matter which part of the world we are from and that it is the duty of civil society to confront and fight human rights abuses”. Alf Arne Ramslien, Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal, said that SAFMA had achieved far more than it set out to do and it had now become a great facilitator for journalists of South Asia.
Nils Haugstveit said SAFMA had the ability to open hearts, minds and even borders and helped raise awareness about all important issues in the region. Lief Holger Larsen said he hoped that SAFMA would help draw new lines of communication in the South Asian region.