From ancient civilizations to today’s contemporary scientifically advanced world; from mythologies to major world religions, human rights have always had a special significance. With time, these rights have morphed in a universal language. Despite the nature of the states, this language has strongly embedded its roots in human civilization. Whether it is democracy or dictatorship, the civil and political rights of an individual are taking progressive steps, whereby the provision and protection of these rights has become obligatory for every state.
In 1948, this world saw a vigorous force in the form of United Nation’s (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights that laid the foundations for the studies and advocacy of human rights in every sphere of life – shaping the natural state of a human being in accordance to his/her dignity. From eradicating poverty, eliminating hunger, liberty, freedom of expression to the rights of an individual that create a sense of association with other individuals and surroundings is articulated by this declaration.
However, the early legal developments in the field of human rights emerged from the 1215’s treaty of Magna Carta which was a peace agreement between the King John of England and English barons. Then, in 1689, the English bill of Rights further escalated the process. Today, human rights are not only changing the national legislations but are playing key role in changing the international principles as well.
UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December, 1948. It fundamentally declares that every individual irrespective of color, creed, race, nationality and place has the right to enjoy liberty and freedom. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes human dignity as a base for human rights, this dignity should be protected because all the three key elements of social stability; freedom, justice and peace originate from it. However, this is not an obligatory document for countries but it provides a sketch of all fundamental rights for international community to formulate and implement better humanitarian laws.
Citizens of Pakistan celebrate their human rights under the ambit of Constitution of 1973 of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The constitution offers security and protection to every individual of the country. Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy (Chapter one, Part II) explains that every person shall have the right to education, right to work, right to freedom, right to safety and security, freedom of trade, freedom of expression, freedom to practice religion, freedom of association, freedom of opinion, to own property, preserve culture and language and right to equality. It is the obligation of the state to protect these rights and no authority can challenge them. In case these rights are undermined or neglected the citizens, based on their constitutional right, can question the writ of the authority.
Despite a democratic constitution, most of the human rights issues remain unattended in Pakistan. Freedom of press and media has deteriorated, with many journalists being threatened to death for speaking against state departments and their impractical policies. Religious minorities are often a victim of assault and violence; their way of practicing religion being often barricaded. Moreover, in the name of ‘honor’ women are often abused and killed. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2019 report, 1000 honor killings happen every year. Gender discrimination is a serious concern in Pakistan, with women facing discrimination in every facet of society, example of which include, wage discrimination, low female literacy, and lack of freedom of expression etc.
The transgender community in Pakistan is also a key victim of human rights abuses. Although, The Transgender Persons (Protection and Rights) Act was passed in 2018, yet no implementation is seen on ground. According to HRW 2019 report 57 transgender women have been killed since 2015, further alienating them from the social fabric of Pakistan.
Abuse of power by state departments is a big reason for the deprivation of citizens’ rights. There is a need to formulate laws and policies that suit our social, cultural and political values. Public officials should be held responsible for their actions and more transparency is required in administrative and political actions. Pakistan needs to strengthen its governance system to stand in the line of developed countries; principles of good governance need to be implemented to reinforce the democratic status of Pakistan. Wellbeing of citizens should be the utmost priority of a state, it is important to provide an environment where their freedom prevails and their ideas valued – in order to celebrate the essence of a truly developed democratic nation.
Blog Post by: Ali Javaid | Program Officer – CPDI