World Human Rights Day (Decemebr 10): Indignity and Injustice in Pakistan

Posted on December 10, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Politics, Society
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Adil Najam

Today, December 10, marks the World Human Rights Day. The theme for this year’s World Human Rights Day is Dignity and Justice For All of Us. One could not possibly think of a more tragic reminder of the state that our country has descended into. It is easy, perhaps too easy, to focus only on the dimensions of injustice and indignity that are highlighted by Pakistan’s current political crises. The reality, however, is that the scars of economic indignity and economic injustice run even deeper.

Candle light vigil for democracy and human rights in Pakistan

The sad news is that he state (i.e., the government apparatus) has turned Pakistan into the land of indignity and injustice. The good news is that, divided as it is, society continues its struggle for dignity and justice. The State, with all the recourses that it has at its command, continues to employ ever harsher instruments of control leading to ever greater indignities and injustice for the citizenry. The resilience of society, however, stands tall and speaks out loud. At least for now.

And that is the great question that stares at us on this World Human Rights Day. Will the State’s instrumentality of oppression triumph over Society’s resilience and quest for dignity and justice?

I wish I could be as optimistic as I have been in the past, but right now its a 49-51 proposition and I do not know which side has the 51. I root, however, as I always have for society’s resilience which, even when beaten down, has a way of rising again and again despite the odds in what remains, in my view, a democratic society trpped within an undemocratic state.

The evidence is spread all over this blog and elsewhere. But it remains inconclusive.Society’s desire for justice and dignity is clear, it was best exemplified in the aftermath of was was labeled the ‘CJ Crisis‘ and the triumph of the popular movement to restore the Chief Justice gave great sustenance to civil society. But the same spirit has been seen in other areas ranging from citizen demands to save the Karachi coastline to the more recent civil society rising by journalists, lawyers and students. The government’s ability to take ever-harsher and ever-more stringent actions whether against those protesting against their ‘missing’ relatives or against lawyers and judges or against the media or against political opponents is also not in doubt. But what makes this a more difficult situation to call is the silence, even connivance (here and here), of the political parties who have either remained missing in action in most of the great struggles of recent months or have chimed in conveniently but often in ways that were “too little and too late.” Also disturbing is the violent streak within society that bursts out most disturbingly amongst those on the religious extremes but sometimes also inflicts (although, till now, at much much lower levels) those with more liberal agendas (here and here). It only serves to delegitimize even the legitimate aspects of their agendas.

Candle light vigil for democracy and human rights in PakistanIf any place in the world understand, Pakistan understands that the struggle for human rights, for dignity and for justice cannot be confined to just one day. It cannot be a political movement of a moment. Of a certain profession or of a certain class or a certain grouping. It has be to a struggle in perpetuity and a struggle of society as a whole. And therein lies the real dilemma of a deeply divided society such as our own.

The question for today is about civil society’s protest against the State’s human rights record and how the State will respond to these protests. In the grand scheme of things, however, we shall be judged by history not only by what happens to a certain general, a particular political party, a bunch of judges, a group of TV channels or a movement of lawyers. History shall judge us by whether we as a State and as a Society were able to restore and respect the dignity of and justice for the ordinary citizen – dignity and justice in all its dimensions: political, economic, social, and more. Whatever struggles we partake in today, that and that alone, must be the ultimate goal.

40 Comments on “World Human Rights Day (Decemebr 10): Indignity and Injustice in Pakistan”

  1. Watan Aziz says:
    December 10th, 2007 2:05 am

    Dignity and Justice theme would have been better if it was labeled, ‘Equity and Justice’. Alas, even those who espouse these ideals know, equity requires investment whereas, dignity is cost free. ‘here, we gave you dignity’.

    But move we forward, and move we must, and lean on what we can. So, dignity with a small d is good enough as a first step.

    But first, the lament: I find the educated of Pakistan, most arrogant. After receiving the best the system has offered them, insult the intelligence of the down trodden.

    Witness the allocation of the ‘election symbols’. A bulb, a water tap and a fan, to make few. 70% of the people of Pakistan are denied these basic elements. The the ECP officials (and political parties in tow), laugh at the common man by telling them, ‘ha ha, can you recognize a bulb?’ ‘do you know what is a running tap water?’

    We are fast moving where the $1 / day wages that denies basic (read elementary) necessities to people is not sustainable.

    No one from outside is denying these basic rights to people of Pakistan. The educated of Pakistan are the impediment. We look in the mirror and it is us.

    Equity and Justice will bring stability, faster.

    It is the equity and justice, stupid.

    Pakistan Zindabad
    Pakistan Pa’indabad

  2. December 10th, 2007 2:27 am

    We are like little children, we need to go back to our beds and listen stories about the rights and struggle from our grandma. Here is one such story.
    “Jabir Badshah aur Adil Qazi” ,

  3. Yeh Kya Ho Raha Pakistan Kay Saath? says:
    December 10th, 2007 5:12 am

    Mushy has given Pakistan freedom and dignity in last 7 years, I am sure no one one is perfect, But I expect him to make Pakistan an example of real freedom and human rights, with his new mandate. Long Live Mushy.

  4. Nayab Khan says:
    December 10th, 2007 8:12 am

    More then 80% of pakistanies do not care about other people’s rights. There has been some improvements tho but we will still find many people jumping ahead of the ques, denying own children right of education and women right to marry of their own choice etc. We need to educate people or else rules and laws will not mean anything. It is very disappointing how some of the minorities are treated in our society.
    What can government do when people send their children to labor to payoff their debts?. Government cannot afford to hire one person to look after every 10 children and it gets more complicated, how do you provide housing, education and food to such children. Laws do not mean anything to these elders, can government afford to send them to jail? NO, can government employee them?, NO, we do not have enough resources!

    The solution to this is community work and media has much to do. What musharraf calls Enlightenment, I believe. There was a discussion on ATP about ‘Ikhlaqiat’. Media who is so forfront in trying to demolish everything pakistan has achieved in last 5 years, should actually be showing short adverts and clips on such issues. We can get so many stories and quotes from our religion and history to make a 30 second clip that can motivate people to do right things. Just one clip to request people to respect ques, to give seat to women, to stop at zebra crossings if someone is waiting there, to offer water to thirsty and state how much sawab he will get for it etc

    This is my problem with our religious leaders, they should be doing community work rather then playing politics and desiring power.

    I think Media in pakistan is doing nothing, Nothing at all, they are just busy making money! and the whole nation has turned into Politics freak.

  5. Nadeem says:
    December 10th, 2007 8:55 am

    For our friend “Yeh Kya Ho Raha Pakistan Kay Saath?” who thinks that “Mushy has given Pakistan freedom and dignity in last 7 years”:

    Though I think that he and other pro-Musharraf spammers are not good at reading. If they could read maybe they would not have left the nonsense they did. I guess poor guys have instructions to write certain things again and again as if by repeating them they become correct. Just proves how unintelligent our intelligence agencies are.

  6. Nayab Khan says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:17 am

    Rethinking on what you have said and the picture of safari suits with army badges on them, I think you have taken this opportunity of Human rights day to criticise PCO.

  7. Anmool says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:27 am

    Nayab, this is progress.
    You are at least noticing the picture before you shoot off your comments. Now, only if you could also read so that you understand what the post is really saying.
    Poor ATP wallas, with readers like this why even write at all!

  8. Nayab Khan says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:29 am

    I am pro-mush because I give credit to musharraf for many things tho I do not support his emergency call, but I am not part of any intelligence agency.
    I know many people who support musharraf but non would be from any agency, just working middle class people. I think people should stop dismissing our views by using this agency excuse now.

  9. Nayab Khan says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:31 am

    Thanks anmool !!
    It looked like ‘black crows’ (kaley kawey) at first :p

  10. Daktar says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:36 am


    LAHORE: International Human Rights Day with the theme of Dignity and Justice For All of Us is being observed all over the world on Monday (today).

    However, the gory picture that Pakistan presents today

  11. Eidee Man says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:40 am

    I wonder if Adil is in Oslo today.

  12. Daktar says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:42 am

    Sorry for multiple posts, but this one is worh reading too:
    Deceember 10, 2007

    Statement of Asian Human Rights Commission for International Human
    Rights Day 2007

  13. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 10th, 2007 11:19 am

    @ AGHS, an NGO in Pakistan, who and what is it ??
    AS 281 Asian Human Rights Association another
    NGO for who ??

  14. Viqar Minai says:
    December 10th, 2007 3:18 pm

    Some info about AGHS:

  15. Tehseen says:
    December 10th, 2007 4:47 pm


  16. faraz W says:
    December 10th, 2007 6:03 pm

    Ah. I was just reading and their special report about “Gujrat riots”. It proves that even in a democratic country human rights are not preserved.
    I think democracy only safeguard rights of majority.

  17. Talawat Bokhari says:
    December 10th, 2007 6:42 pm

    How can we talk of human rights in Pakyland ruled by an inhuman anti-khuda ‘PCO+Fatwa’ constitution?

  18. SB says:
    December 10th, 2007 6:57 pm
  19. December 10th, 2007 7:14 pm

    On this day I want to share two couplets with you that depict a vivid picture of state of Pakistani society.

    Ameer-e-shahr gareebon ko loot leta hai
    kabhi baheela muzhub kabhi banam-e-watan
    (Ahmed Farz)

    Taig munsif ho jahan daar-o-rasun ho shahid
    beganah kon hain us shahr mein katil ke siwa
    (Ali Sardar Jafary)

  20. Nayab Khan says:
    December 10th, 2007 7:17 pm

    Thanks SB. thats a positive and sensible approach.
    It does not matter who rules us, if we want to be humane, no one can stop us but as pakistanies we will keep on doing what we have always done; ‘blaming others but do nothing’.
    Revolutions do not come by one force throwing other, they start from root level, we must correct ourself and respect others’ rights first.

  21. Mustafa says:
    December 10th, 2007 7:27 pm

    Totally agree with Nayab Khan. Musharraf might not be perfect leader but he is far better than BB & NZ. I firmly believe that he is sincere to the Nation and did his best despite being surrounded by our corrupt politicians.

    P.S I don’t work for any agency either and belong to the middle class of Pakistan.

  22. zia m says:
    December 10th, 2007 7:34 pm

    How can we talk about rights of citizens of a country where the judges are sacked and put under house arrest without any reason?
    Shame on us.

  23. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 10th, 2007 7:44 pm

    again your arithmetic is mistaken,
    the biggest fool is the one who underestimates
    his adversary, and uses bluff to replace tactical
    diplomacy. This fight is between Politicians and Mush
    ” not awam” there is a huge deficiency in elector’s participation.

  24. Israr says:
    December 10th, 2007 9:23 pm

    Yeh Kya Ho Raha Pakistan Kay Saath?

    Yar hamain bhi batao agar Musharaf ap ko koyee wazifa deta hay, I would like to receive a stipend too, I suspect your (unreasonable ) love for MUSH. I have genuinely tried to see if their is another side of the picture, but in the current case Judges removed, Under house arrest, only people left behind bars, Munir Malik, Ali Kurd, Aitzaaz and Justice Tariq. It is obvious to my ten year old even, I read her the
    Jabir Badshaah and Adil Qazi story and she herself said
    This sounds Like MUSH ( mind you the media that you lament is not their and she doesnt read ATP, she goes to a school with only two or three more Pakistani kids)

  25. Sarkar says:
    December 10th, 2007 10:35 pm
  26. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 7:19 am

    zia m, you are crying for the judges who would have never cared for common man. They must have spend atleast 20 years working in Law and fact is that Law and order has only got worse in last two decades.
    Judiciary needs to be tamed!
    I am concerned that the new judges might not be any better either because it is the lawyers who play major role, delaying cases, advising people to go into exile or telling them ways to cheat!

  27. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 8:04 am

    I love the way Israr has addressed to me and Mustafa. That is the way we should all debate, like gentlemen.
    I have good reasons to support musharraf and very good reasons not to support GEO or Lawyers movement.
    I believe, Musharraf might have taken wrong steps but he still is the best among all the others and what I admire the most about him is; his ability to make decisions and get things done.

    Even BB and NS have steped down from their stance on Judges. I call BB a traitor but she is the only one among all opposition, media and judiciary who is doing right things.
    She knows the right way to resolve judges & media issue, is thru parliment and democracy.

    I hope after the elections, the new parliment creates a panel of retired judges, review performance of judges (outstead and new) and appoint them to the appropriate posts.

  28. December 11th, 2007 8:51 am

    Looking at the present state of affairs in Pakistan and keeping an indefferent and neutral posture is next to impossible for any concerned citizen. I would like Nayab Khan and Mustafa to read following lines from a moving poem about Nazi Germany, “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out

  29. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 9:21 am

    I.Q, this was said by various people in various times, not specific to nazis.
    I can translate it as; ‘First they came for musharraf and i stayed quiet because i supported democracy, then they came for traders and i stayed quiet as i was’t one, then they came for me! …’, by ‘they’ I mean corrupt politicians and lawyers.
    This is why people say; poetry is like black magic.
    Anyways, should he (whoever said this during Nazi times) have supported communists? I think ‘No’, doesn’t that mean he is saying that he should have supported wrong people to save his own ass? nice ethics!

  30. zia m says:
    December 11th, 2007 10:28 am

    Nayab Khan,
    I am a stromg believer of separation of powers,without an independent judiciary we cannot have democracy.It takes long time to build institutions that does not mean we should embrace dictatorship.
    I am sure every one on this site has best interest of our nation in mind.We should encourage the political process and not try to derail it like the army has been doing under different pretext.

    There was less corruption under british raj does that make you want to give up your freedom?

  31. zia m says:
    December 11th, 2007 10:39 am

    And don’t forget it was a lawyer who founded Pakistan.

  32. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 11:16 am

    I respect Jinnah and his efforts, He was a great man but fact is that the great lawyer took a shortcut, gathered rich and feudals on platform of PML to form Pakistan. The feudalism we are facing today is in result of the setup of very people who founded pakistan, members of PML. They were not poor, common people like gandhi’s supporter, they were tribal leaders, fewdal lords and rich. Unfortunatly, that was the only way. If Britsh had left india without partician, partition would have become impossible.

    Most of the founders of kingdoms and states were brutal leaders, does that make them good people?

    Why do you believe that without an independent judiciary we cannot have democracy?,We have democracy, Pakistan is having elections very soon which is a democratic process. We will have a selected parliment and if the new parliment wants, it can have a vote of confidence against musharraf and throw him out.

    Judiciary’s role is not in politics or governance, its role is in law and order. Are pakistani lawyers and judges not corrupt? The corrupt politicians steal money but the corrupt judiciary let rapist and murderers get away for years. Cases of poor and innocents are postponded for years, you cant get a hearing date untill you bribe someon. What do they care about human rights! Judiciary should be answerable to the parliment as parliment is answerable to the public.

    Can I ask what role did judiciary play in independence of women or changing the hisba law?. It was parliment and Musharraf who did it, neither Judiciary, nor PPP or PMLN did anything for two decades! Count me a few good things that judiciary has done for the nation since 1990?

  33. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 11:21 am

    *Most of the founders of kingdoms and states were brutal killers

  34. December 11th, 2007 1:32 pm

    Nayab Khan missed the whole point. Like a self-righteous idealogue you emphasised only theliteral understanding of an argument. Entire edifice of your theory is based upon those arguments which you find unacceptable and untenable if put forth by anybody other than you. The point I want to make is that no one is indispensable and it is about time that we shouldas responsible citizens shrug off present state of indefference and absenteeism because if we are indefferent
    in situations of injustice that amonuts to choosing the side of the oppressor.I believe that as long as we do not take care of our freedoms, those either in khakis or in civilian outfits who wish to tyrannise us will do so.

  35. Nayab Khan says:
    December 11th, 2007 2:00 pm

    Sure, no one is indispensable and i agree that we should take care of our freedoms.
    To clear our indifferences we should respect each other and agree that the only way forward is to Peacefully attend to elections, be guard at polling stations and fight against any rigging at the stations. Let the parliment decide on all the issues.

  36. Daktar says:
    December 12th, 2007 11:37 pm

    Hey, The News just carried a version of this post, and with attribution. See here:

  37. MQ says:
    December 13th, 2007 1:20 am

    One of the biggest irony of current Administration in Islamabad is that it even has a Human Rights division and the caretaker minister of the division is Ansar Burney, known for his work on prisoners’ rights.

    On the World Human Rights Day he spent time visiting jails. But it never occurred to him to question why the sacked judges are under continued house arrest along with their families. And why are the most prominent lawyers of Pakistan are still in jails or under house arrests?

  38. Nayab Khan says:
    December 13th, 2007 8:58 am

    I am so furious to learn that Musharraf is removing the ban on third term for PM.
    Thants it!, he has lost my support from now.

  39. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 13th, 2007 6:07 pm


    @ what a contradiction between Human Right’s blog
    and Hoodbhoy’s blog which is just the opposite.

    This is called Hypocracy of colonials.

  40. December 14th, 2007 9:38 am

    ATTA though sounds like TADA, anti-terrorism act, has nothing to do with terrorism or law. Though it is not an anti-terrorism act yet it has same terrorising affects for ordinary citizens of Pakistan.
    It is one of the great marketing and economic skills of General (Retired) Musharraf’s regime that soon ATTA will be one of the luxury items in Pakistan. Few years back ATTA was consider one of the cheapest commodities in Pakistan. Now a days if you ask the same question the answer would be the constitution of Pakistan, the cheapest commodity in Pakistan. And if you are a COAS do whatever you want with it nobody cares about. It has become the most worthless piece of document in Pakistan.
    If ATTA had any thing to do with supreme court, lawyers, Constitution or media we would have seen Musharraf regime working over time to arrest its ascendancy by using all its might.

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