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Standing for others’ rights

HUMAN Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December throughout the world. In 1948, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), “inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day”.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message said “On Human Rights Day, let us recommit to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all.” This year, Human Rights Day demands that everyone has to stand up for someone’s rights. Unfortunately, the practice of disrespect for basic human rights still continues in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance, violence and hatred prey on our fears. The day also calls that wherever we are, we can make a real difference through extending support and standing for others rights especially weak segments of the society even in the street, in educational institution, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media and at home. Wherever there is injustice, inequality, discrimination and human right violations, we should step forward to help safeguard others’ rights to live free from fear and abuse. We can raise our voices peacefully and can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, effective implementation of constitutional provisions related to fundamental rights, formation of better laws and greater respect for human values.
Constitution is considered as social contract between the state and its citizens. In Pakistan, Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the 1973 Constitution as the entire Chapter No. 1 of the Constitution contains articles about the fundamental rights from articles 8 to 28. It further states that adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities, backward and depressed classes. In addition, Articles No. 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantee equal citizenship and protection of rights of minorities.
The Constitution of Pakistan recognizes free primary education as a fundamental right, and after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, this sector has been devolved to the federating units. Under the law, the four federating units and other territories were bound to legislate on right to education (RTE) in pursuance of Article 25-A of the Constitution. However, despite passage of more than six years, the notification the rules of business to implement Article 25A of the Constitution, is still awaited.
According to the recent report published by Alif Ailaan, with 13 million girls out of school, Pakistan has the second-largest number of out-of-school female students in the world. The report revealed that of the 24 million Pakistani children out of school, 53% were girls. The net enrolment rate for girls was 53% at the primary level, for boys it stood at 60%. Furthermore, of the total 154,918 government education institutions nationwide, only 58,042 (37%) catered to girls and young women only. The World Economic Forum’s global gender gap ranked Pakistan at a dismal 143 with a 0.556 score. Pakistan ranked just above Yemen among 144 countries, performing way behind India and Bangladesh which ranked at 87 and 72 respectively while other South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan secured 100th, 110th, 115th and 121st positions respectively.
Rule of law requires equality of all the citizens irrespective of gender, caste, ethnic background, creed or colour and ensures justice to all in every sphere of life. No civilized society can make progress in absence of a regular system of justice and therefore independent and impartial judiciary is essential to do justice between different individuals, and especially between citizens and the State. The role of fearless Bar and civil society are also very important to audaciously uphold the fundamental rights of the citizens. According to recent World Justice Project report, in terms of Rule of Law, Pakistan has been ranked 106th among 113 countries by getting position only above Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Egypt, Cambodia and Venezuela. The report mentions that out of 113 countries, Pakistan ranks 97th on account of absence of corruption; 79th in terms of Open Government (whether basic laws and information in legal rights are publicized, and assesses the quality of information published by the government.
Even after long passage of 69 years, colonial laws are still being implemented and youth are not being taught about the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan. Class, creed and feudal structure are still existent as great hindrance to materialize equality of citizenship in the society. There is also need to address multiple root causes of extremism and violence in the society i.e weak rule of law, bad governance, inequality, injustice, absence of merit and transparency and shrinking political spaces especially for youth and marginalized segments of society. Policies to counter violence and extremism should be diverse and holistic.
Pluralism, religious tolerance, respect for human values, protection of rights of weak segments, improving governance, accountability of ruling elite and freedom of expression should be engrained in our strategies. The effective functioning of existing institutions i.e judiciary, Functional Committee on Human Rights constituted by the Senate of Pakistan, National Commission for Human Rights and Human Rights Cell of Supreme Court of Pakistan can be greatly helpful in improving state of human rights in Pakistan.

Source: Pakistan Observer

Byline: Murtaza Noor

December 11, 2016

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