Remembering our rights – 11 Dec 2022

December 10 is observed as International Human Rights Day in most countries of the world. Human rights organizations and human rights defenders work tirelessly through the year to highlight the way states treat their citizens in terms of their fundamental freedoms. Pakistan is a country where human rights have never been on the priority list of any government or even state institutions. Be it freedom of expression or equal treatment of minorities and other marginalized groups, we have little to mark on the human rights index. The freedom of expression has especially seen a steady decline in the country with frequent attacks on journalists, and even attempts on the lives of Pakistani activists and media professionals both nationally and internationally. Violence against women and children, and sexual violence against women and children, are just two of the signs of increasing violations of personal sanctity which is a cornerstone of human rights. Right to education and basic healthcare is not respected by the state as people’s welfare finds itself somewhere in the margins of the national framework.

From a visit to a government hospital, where you can see the plight of patients, to a government school with absent teachers, lack of functional toilets, and emaciated pupils – there seems to be little respect for the fundamental rights of education, health or dignity in the country. Torture in custody is rampant as are violence and threats of violence against any accused who may be entirely innocent. Enforced disappearances have been a bane in this country for long and the media still finds itself at the receiving end of injustices. Curbs on free expression still exist and the right to information is violated. Gender equity is a far cry and equal opportunities are even scarcer in Pakistan. It seems that only an elite enjoys all rights and others are doomed to languish with a threat of human rights violations any time.

If a state or its operatives deny people their human rights it commits an abuse of humanity itself; and there should not be any delay in their provision. Just like provision of justice, provision of human rights is obligatory on all states as they relate to human dignity that all governments and states must respect. When human rights come under attack it amounts to a disgrace to human dignity. For a just and peaceful world, human rights should take precedence over all other considerations.

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