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 responses to “World Human Rights Day (Decemebr 10): Indignity and Injustice in Pakistan”

  1. zia m says:

    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?

  2. Nayab Khan says:

    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!

  3. I. Q. Butt says:

    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

  4. Nayab Khan says:

    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.

  5. Nayab Khan says:

    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!

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