The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the UN General Assembly was a real landmark but it took years and years to realize its true meanings in the context of Pakistan where forces of darkness prevailed and prevented the smooth promotion and protection of the same rights.
The credit goes to the democratic government of Pakistan that this year the day was commemorated with a difference and mark. Pakistan too this year had much to remember and commemorate in the sphere of human rights.
Both at home and abroad, significant events took place to position Pakistan very much in the list of countries pursuing the goals set out in 1948.
In Paris, President Asif Ali Zardari addressed a conference jointly organized by Pakistan and UNESCO on the theme: “Stand up for Malala, Girls Education is a Right”. The president used the occasion to underline the argument that Pakistan is fighting the forces of darkness, hatred and violence. Since Malala was the focus, the president reiterated to the international community that Pakistan was committed to providing equal rights for education to boys and girls and appealed to the world community to extend support and cooperation in this regard.
The democratic government has introduced meaningful and far reaching constitutional amendments and this is again history in making that the Pakistan government is completing its term, which had boosted its confidence in the fact that democracy was the only vehicle that could deliver peace and prosperity to the people and the region.
The credit must be given to all political forces and great peoples of Pakistan who have made fundamental changes in the constitution regarding education for all children and it had been declared a fundamental right and the state’s responsibility. The establishment of parliamentary forum on children and its declared objectives are also set in this direction.
We are committed to defeat the forces of extremism and our collective resolve would have a transformational effect in defeating the forces of an extremist mindset that is against education for girls.
The extremists have already been given a heavy blow when the entire nation stood behid Dukhtar e Pakistan. Having met Malala in Birmingham before coming to Paris, the president told his audience that her recovery is a symbol of the resilience of the Pakistani nation and also a symbol of the battle between the mindset that Malala represents — a bright, progressive future for Pakistan — and the second mindset, a fringe minority of darkness, violence, hatred and conflict.
President Zardari rightly announced Pakistan’s donation of $ 10 million for the Malala Fund being set up as part of the global efforts for girls’ education, dubbed the ‘Malala Plan’. This is another milestone and a great accomplishment of the democratically elected government and reflects the great vision of our Shaheed leader Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
It was also encouraging and satisfying that at the same time back home Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced in a function in Islamabad on the Day that the government was considering the promulgation of personal laws for the minorities, including marriage and divorce bills for Christians and Hindus. This, the PM said, would fulfill a longstanding demand of the minorities and help bring them at par with the Muslim majority. Certainly in the case of Hindus, this has of late given rise to concerns since they had little or no legal cover for their marriages and divorces.
The PM further announced that the government was contemplating the appointment of human rights defenders under the ministry of human rights. The ministry is constantly working on this issue and plans to introduce a comprehensive bill on the subject very soon. The PM too reiterated the government’s determination not to give in to the narrow minded and bigoted agenda of the extremists.
Also in Islamabad, the PPP human rights cell held a seminar on “The Role of Political Parties in Promoting a Culture of Human Rights” to go with this year’s theme, “Inclusion and Participation in Public Life”. Notably, all the speakers at the seminar agreed that the greatest threat to the rights of the people today is the culture of intolerance and extremism. It is religious extremism, they argued, which has separated us from Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.
The cell under the leadership of Nafeesa Shah recognized through citations and medals the courage of Salmaan Taseer, Malala Yousafzai, Shahbaz Bhatti and Fauzia Wahab. I personally did the comparing and witnessed the proceedings of the seminar which were appreciated by the presence of great intellectuals and intelligentsia.
Civil society and the working class too commemorated the Day, the former dedicating themselves to the campaign to end violence against women under the rubric: One Billion Rising, a symbolic reference to the estimated one billion women all over the world who have been subjected to violence.
Whether it is Malala, the almost martyr, or the actual martyrs Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and others who stood firm against extremism and paid the ultimate price, Pakistan has seen many struggles against the fanatics who have made Pakistani state and society suffer a lot.
However, what has also happened in recent years is the growing awareness in the polity and society of the need to combat this deadly affliction by promoting enlightenment, modern ideas, education and a progressive culture. The PPP-led democratic government too has been part of this growing awareness phenomenon.
However, there is little room for complacency as the examples of human rights abuses of all shades and varieties show. Awareness is good as the first preliminary step, but there is still much to be done and miles to go before we can sleep. But the good omen is that it has been realized across the board and a noble journey is commenced with a direction and determination led by President Zardari. All the civil society organizations, stakeholders and political forces should give a big hand to president for his noble cause of human rights and especially for standing the rights of the children in Pakistan.
Rubina Sadat Qaim khani -The writer is an MNA and Chairperson Parliamentary Forum on Child Rights.
Source: Asian Tribune