HR violations in Pakistan under-reported, says Rehman
KARACHI: “Human rights violations in Pakistan are always greater in number than what has been reported,” said veteran journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman. He was delivering a lecture during a seminar on ‘The State of Human Rights in Pakistan’ as part of the Sheikh Mutahir Ahmed Memorial Lecture Series organised by the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi, on Thursday.
“The topic of human rights is broad with several dimensions to it,” he said before listing a few of the positive or good things that have happened in Pakistan recently in the context of human rights.
“There was the merging of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018 and the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act by parliament to guarantee basic rights for transgender citizens outlawing discrimination by both employers and private business owners against them, which also happened in 2018. The Sindh government too passed various labour laws including laws for benefiting home-based workers,” he said, mentioning some of the good things that happened in the name of human rights laws.
“But side by side,” he added, “there are so many violations of human rights taking place here such as enforced disappearances, the murder of six-year-old Zainab in Kasur, the Higher Education Commission funds slashed in 2018 and then again in 2019, taking away the younger generation’s right to higher education, over 4,688 people on death row, over 150 attacks on media persons in 2017/18, the suppression of trade union activities, children dying of undernourishment in Tharparkar, forced conversions of Hindu girls, bonded labour, Pakistan being the second worst country in the world when talking of gender equality,” he said.
“Human rights violations happen in many countries but there are also punishments for them there. Redressal of violations is also very important but Pakistan is behind there too. How many people have been punished for violation of human rights? There is little access to justice here. Women wanting to report a crime against them are turned away by the police who refuse to file FIRs. We have a sluggish redressal mechanism,” he said.
“Enforced disappearances should be declared a crime. The previous government even drafted a bill in 2014 in reference to this but this government didn’t pursue the bill. When presented in the Senate it was said that the bill was the previous government’s concern not this government’s. Likewise, there have been many praiseworthy things left hanging,” he said.
“The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a verdict on minority rights and proposed a special force for the protection of the people of various faiths and their places of worship. But nothing happened,” he observed.
“Human rights are still evolving. Two new rights include the right to development and the right to environment. The Constitution of Pakistan includes almost all the human rights of the United Nations declaration. Still, there is a need to enlarge, enrich and upgrade the fundamental rights chapter in our Constitution,” he said.
“The European Charter of Human Rights is better than the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human Rights is even better as it accepts the rights of communities. If a country wants to build its people, it should protect their rights,” Mr Rehman observed.
Earlier, acting Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Khalid M. Iraqi said freedom of speech and freedom of the press were the most important human rights in his view as the media serves as a watchdog and thus protects the rights of the people. “Today, India has taken away Article 370 from the people of India-occupied Kashmir but we have to put our own house in order.