The truth about us

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Ghazi Salahud­din

WE have this young girl, still in her teens, who has shown the courage to stand up for high ideals that this coun­try must hon­our to sur­vive and pros­per. And we have this young lady who rep­re­sents the po­lit­i­cal elite and the rul­ing class of this coun­try. One is liv­ing the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion and the other is ar­tic­u­lat­ing it for the ben­e­fit of the out­side world.

So, who do you think would bet­ter project an im­age of Pak­istan that in­spires hope, Malala Yousafzai or For­eign Min­is­ter Hina Rab­bani Khar? This, per­haps, is a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. We know where Malala is, strug­gling bravely to re­gain her health and re­sume her mis­sion. As for Hina Rab­bani Khar, she was in Geneva on Tues­day to make a pre­sen­ta­tion on the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan at the United Nations’ Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (HRC).

The idea is not to den­i­grate Hina in any man­ner. She was do­ing her job, rep­re­sent­ing the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan. Her as­sign­ment, surely, is to paint a pretty por­trait of Pak­istan. Per­haps she did the best she could. In some ways, her pres­ence in it­self would make a state­ment. Af­ter all, she had scored high points sim­ply with her ap­pear­ance when she first went to In­dia in July last year, with her Her­mes Birken bag and Roberto Cavalli shades. One In­dian news­pa­per called her “a weapon of mass dis­trac­tion”.

It worked with In­dia but hawk­ing of­fi­cial per­cep­tions about the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion around the world is some­thing else. The prob­lem here is that the world is likely to be al­ready well aware of the ground re­al­i­ties in Pak­istan. In fact, when some­one like Hina be­comes Pak­istan’s face, there is bound to be more con­fu­sion and be­wil­der­ment about a coun­try that is man­i­festly in great dis­tress.

Be that as it may, it should be worth­while to take a se­ri­ous look at the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan at a time when im­pend­ing elec­tions should oblige our po­lit­i­cal par­ties to of­fer their pre­scrip­tions to set things right and pro­tect the hon­our and the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple. Any prag­matic plan to em­power the pow­er­less and to im­prove so­cial or­der and jus­tice would have to con­tend with the present re­al­ity of our ex­is­tence.

A very per­ti­nent ref­er­ence in this re­gard would be the an­nual State of Hu­man Rights re­ports com­piled, with pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise, by the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan (HRCP). By and large, the world looks at these re­ports as the mir­ror of Pak­istan’s hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion. Hence, it would have been pru­dent on the part of the gov­ern­ment, for the sake of mak­ing its per­cep­tions more cred­i­ble, to re­main some­what in sync with these and other re­ports pre­pared by na­tional and in­ter­na­tional de­fend­ers of hu­man rights.

Did this hap­pen? One de­tailed re­port on Hina’s pre­sen­ta­tion in an English daily had this head­line: “Khar paints rosy pic­ture of hu­man rights in Pak­istan”. One ex­pla­na­tion for this strat­a­gem would be that Pak­istan is a can­di­date for the Novem­ber 12 elec­tion to HRC. That is why the for­eign min­is­ter her­self led the del­e­ga­tion to the Univer­sal Pe­ri­odic Re­view (UPR) held in Geneva. In­ci­den­tally, the HRCP had ar­ranged a live screening of Pak­istan’s UPR pro­ceed­ings at its secretariat in Lahore. It was oth­er­wise avail­able on­line on the UN web­site. Still, the Pak­istani me­dia, not un­ex­pect­edly, did not seem very in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing an event that was surely more news­wor­thy than much of the po­lit­i­cal gib- ber­ish that daily fig­ures in head­lines. This, ac­tu­ally, is some­thing that has un­der­mined the evo­lu­tion of demo­cratic val­ues in Pak­istan. Not enough at­ten­tion is paid to study­ing and analysing a so­ci­ety that is vis­i­bly in a state of fer­ment.

One mea­sure of the im­pres­sion that Hina’s pre­sen­ta­tion may have made can be judged from the Reuters re­port that said: “Pak­istan, plagued by Is­lamist mil­i­tancy, sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence and fre­quent dis­as­ters that push its peo­ple deeper into poverty, told the United Nations it is a demo­cratic and pro­gres­sive state work­ing to pro­tect hu­man rights”. The in­ter­na­tional news agency noted that some western coun­tries coun­tered Hina’s as­ser­tions by say­ing that in Pak­istan reli­gious mi­nori­ties were per­se­cuted, that dis­sent was of­ten bru­tally sup­pressed by the army, and that lit­tle was done to tackle hu­man traf­fick­ing. How­ever, while some western coun­tries do not see Pak­istan as a suit­able can­di­date for the HRC, there is lit­tle they can do “to head off a clear ma­jor­ity vote for it in the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Nov 12”.It is good that Hina high­lighted the Malala in­ci­dent and praised the young so­cial ac­tivist’s courage and pas­sion for pro­mot­ing ed­u­ca­tion. This was pro­jected as a re­flec­tion of Pak­istan’s re­solve to com­bat mil­i­tancy and ter­ror­ism. There is no doubt that Malala’s is the face that Pak­istan should be proud of and she has touched the con­science of the world.

Un­for­tu­nately, the gov­ern­ment has not been able to take ad­van­tage of a de­ci­sive in­cen­tive for a shift in its pol­icy to­wards the Tal­iban and reli­gious mil­i­tancy. Some­how, the reli­gious lob­bies have suc­ceeded in di­lut­ing the out­rage that had swelled against reli­gious mil­i­tancy and in ob­fus­cat­ing the en­tire is­sue.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.