Human rights in Pakistan: what’s next?

To say the very least the Pakistani “human rights” lobby is comprehensively impotent in changing the diminishing fortunes of Pakistan’s poor and repressed people. Thus far, since their inception, the “fundamental rights” enumerated in Articles 9-28 of Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution have not been granted to the people. In fact military dictators and their civilian acolytes have done all that they could to murder democracy in its nascency in Pakistan. The crime, of course, has not gone unnoticed and in one instance  it has been exposed by Allen McGrath in his most excellent book The Destruction of Democracy in Pakistan in which he unequivocally holds Munir CJ as being the foremost accomplice of the Army’s designs in conclusively ousting the civilian leadership from running the country forever.

The former Chairperson of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission (PHRC) Mrs Asma Jahangir  was elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on on Wednesday 27 October 2010. By winning the election, Jahangir’s occupation of the SCBA president position is viewed in some Pakistani circles as a welcome change because the office of the president of the SCBA was a highly coveted prize for the President of the country Mr Zardari.

It is a commonly held view that Pakistan’s lawyers are key players in its politics: it was them who pursued a popular campaign to unconditionally restore the judiciary, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which was despotically sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007. Mr Zardari’s succession of Musharraf as president contained a pledge to restore the judges but this was only accomplished after Mr Nawaz Sharif threw his lot in with the judiciary and they resorted to threats of a “Long March”! What a tamasha! Although the judiciary was reinstated last year tension has mounted between the government and the judiciary after Chaudhry CJ struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance which gave amnesty to Mr Zardari, his top aides and countless others.

It is not our intention to undermine her work or to criticise her election but it must be said that, Ms Jehangir’s achievements, however, have been presented in a rather hagiographical light by her supporters. It is fantastic that she is the first woman to head the SCBA but from our mazdoor and kissan perspective the label that she is an “unabashed advocate of minority rights” is very misleading.

The problem for Mrs Jahangir is that we have never heard her speak about doing very much for  the Ahmadis of Pakistan whose unabated persecution in the country is extant. In fact it was the great Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who, under pressure from Islamic elements, established the institution of the second amendment to the 1973 Constitution by declaring the Ahmadis heretics. And since then things have only progressively gotten worse for this minority sect. Today it has emerged that extraordinary steps have been taken by the Sarghoda authorities to exhume the body of an Ahmadi from a Muslim graveyard because a failure to do so would undermine local peace.

The results of this are that in Pakistan all citizens who are Muslim and who apply for a passport or an identity card must swear on oath that they are Muslim and that the Ahmadis, and all those of their kith and kin, are heretics. This is something that Ms Jahangir really needs to remedy and speak out against by putting it to the people. But she will not do so to save herself grief from the Islamists who are so well established in Pakistan.

The late Mr Fatehyab Ali Khan, president of the Mazdoor Kissan Party repeatedly made this point in relation to Mrs Jahangir’s human rights work at the PHRC. And it must be said that there really is no substance to the work of the PHRC. It is a PPP dominated organisation which really needs to update its blog badly. There have been no updates since February 2010. Wonder what’s keeping them from updating the terrible state of human rights in the country. In fact considering all the money the PHRC gets from the America and elsewhere they really do need to write something on the 18th Amendment. Maybe they need some real mazdoors and kissans to do all that hard work for them. Odd that they are unable to find any in Pakistan isn’t it?

Missing out on the obvious when Mrs Janhangir was elected to her new post, the Dawn newspaper stated:

“Jahangir’s election is a milestone in more ways than one.

“She’s the first woman to head the SCBA and an unabashed advocate of minority rights. And while her margin of victory was small, it suggests a split between the pro- and anti-government factions within the legal community.”

When Anis Jilani, a senior lawyer, said that “Asma Jahangir’s election is going to strengthen the government against the judiciary,”, he really new his stuff in realtion to the 1973 Constitution and Mr Bhutto’s, rather discriminatory, second amendment. But to speak out against Mr Bhutto is an impossibility for Mrs Jahangir.

The easier view which newspapers such as the Dawn take is that “this [strengthening the government against the judiciary], in turn, could allow a more stable balance of power between Pakistan’s civilian institutions, a separation most analysts believe is crucial to strengthening democracy.” It is submitted that this is just not true: in fact such views constitute thorough and utter rubbish.

Earlier this year Jahangir postulated from the Ivory Tower that Pakistan could see a “judicial dictatorship in the country if the judiciary continuously moves ahead in its present direction”. It must be put to Mrs Jahangir that a dictatorship of the judiciary is more acceptable to us Pakistanis rather than the loot maar of the rich and the plutocracy of the PPP.

Failing in her bid to allay our fears in relation to “human rights” the new PSCB president said that:

“The bar will not speak the language of judges,” she told reporters after her election. “It will also not speak the language of any political party. It will have its own voice.”

Following history we urge madam Jahangir to share our view that:

“ONLY THE LANGUAGE OF JUSTICE AND EQUALITY SHOULD BE SPOKEN BY THE BAR WHICH MUST ABOVE ALL BE INDEPENDENT. MOREOVER, THE THE JUDICIARY IS A NATURAL EXTENSION OF THE BAR AND IT IS INAPPROPRIATE FOR THE SCBA TO ACT AS REFEREE BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE JUDICIARY.”

Pakistan’s mazdoors and kissans will not be fooled by deception.

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