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. Nayab Khan says:

    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.

  2. I. Q. Butt says:

    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.

  3. Nayab Khan says:

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

  4. Nayab Khan says:

    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?

  5. zia m says:

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

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