Rights rights and more rights… it seems there are never enough to go around. Pakistan has a particularly bad track record on human rights. There has been so much written about this already, as a quick glance at the links below shows, that it seems useless writing more about it. Most Pakistanis’ indeed, have given it up as a lost cause and regard the current state of affairs as what is, and what will be in the forseeable future.
Everywhere you turn, its all gloom and doom. “Karo Kari”:http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/pakistan/reports/honour/index.html is on the rise, minorities are being increasingly “persecuted”:http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/pakistan-03.html, “religious intolerance”:http://www.religioustolerance.org/rt_pakis.htm is once again “rearing its ugly head”:http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/16F959A8-B0A7-4719-8D27-7D112475034A.htm, and a large percentage of Pakistani peasants/farmers still live in the “medieval age”:http://www.dawn.com/2003/09/27/local32.htm. The local newspapers and magazines are full of violations left right and center. On the other hand, a vast number of “NGO’s”:http://www.net-ngo.com/ have sprung up all over the country committed to increasing human rights awareness and bettering the situation. While many of these NGO’s have been vilified in the press and in popular opinion, they are doing a much needed job which the state seems to have abandoned completely.
So, where do we stand now? Alongside the feudal system, which in itself is extremely repressive, Pakistan has developed a very class conscious society which gives the rich and powerful a lot more ‘rights’ than the ‘common citizen’. Like the Soviet Union, some citizens are more equal than others. Hereupon lies the problem, for those who have the power to bring about change consider issues like human rights a luxury which a third world country like Pakistan cannot afford. (Along with clean drinking water, hospitals… the list goes on).
China for example, is killing its environment in the fastest industrialization in history. They too, like Pakistan, cannot afford to waste time and money on the environment just right now. I wonder, by the time every Chinese owns a car and a living space full of upteem gizmos all consuming energy, what will they think then? What about Pakistan? While we are in no danger of destroying the countryside with our limited industrial base, are we slowly destroying the human spirit of millions who live in slums and shantytowns all over the country? There is no Pakistani dream which can act as a relief valve to the pent up fustrations and longings of millions. We are turning into a deeply polarized society, and I do not see much improvement in the next few decades.
It is true, that with the limited resources at its disposal, the State cannot provide basic needs like quality education, medicine and drinkable water. These come with time with the economic growth of a country. What the State can do right now is to provide a more humane front to its organs which deal with the public. Right now it is not even doing that bare minimum, and in the process demeaning those which it is meant to serve. Go to just about any government organization in Pakistan and try to conduct whatever business that organization is supposed to be doing. It is an excercise which starts by stripping one of any dignity and then proceeds on to lower levels. Dignity is an essential human right, and one which the state can provide for free by cleaning up its act. [ _of course if one drives up in a big car one gets a slightly different treatment_ ]
How does a country like Pakistan improve it’s human rights situation? Third world countries suffer from leaders with over large egos who take themselves too seriously These are the most dangerous ones, as they can write off all the suffering they see in their land as secondary to more ‘pressing needs’ of national security and other matters of such great importance that the common man would find hard to comprehend. Such good work these leaders do! It is common amongst Indian/Pakistani politicians to pat themselves on their backs a lot harder than politicians in the developed world do. It is a strange cultural phenomenon. Maybe they have to make themselves feel important enough to be able to justify to themselves all the hypocritical actions (and nonactions) which they take concerning their populace.
So, what now? The issue of human rights is not something which requires a genius to come up with a solution and implement it. The issues are obvious, and so are the remedies. We must strive, each is his own way, to bring about what change we can. It is ironic that we have to fight the hardest enemy of all, Man, for his own betterment. Still, at the end of the day, Arundhati Roy said it best:
bq. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
_this essay was written for “Independant Days: Human Rights for All”:http://independentsday.org/project_1210/ : a community-focused commemoration of “International Human Rights Day”:http://www.un.org/events/humanrights/ ._
h4. Links to Actual Information on Human Rights in Pakistan
* “Pakistan Institute of Human Rights”:http://www.pihr.org.pk/
* “Human Rights Commision of Pakistan”:http://www.hrcp.cjb.net/
* “Human Rights Watch: Pakistan”:http://www.hrw.org/asia/pakistan.php
* US State Department Human Rights Reports: “2002”:http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18314.htm – “2000”:http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/sa/index.cfm?docid=710 – “1999”:http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/pakistan.html – “1998”:http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1998_hrp_report/pakistan.html – “1997”:http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997_hrp_report/pakistan.html
US State Department Reports on Religious Freedom in Pakistan: “2002”:http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/14026.htm – “2001”:http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5705.htm – “2000”:http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/irf_pakistan.html – “1999”:http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/1999/irf_pakistan99.html
* “Amnesty International Pakistan”:http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/pakistan/index.do
* “Business and Human Rights Resource Center”:http://www.business-humanrights.org/Categories/RegionsCountries/AsiaPacific/Pakistan