Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

04 May 2020, Monday, Vol 1, No 4

In Pakistan, “sadly, human rights do not figure at the top of the state’s priorities.” Why?

In Ali Wazir's funeral meeting, Manzoor Pashteen, another PTM leader, calls for a Jirga to unite the Pashtuns.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Pakistan, “sadly, human rights do not figure at the top of the state’s priorities.” Why?

Dawn in its editorial today (4 May 2020), responding to the recent publication of its annual report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) commented the above: Sadly, human rights do not figure at the top of the state’s priorities. 

Why is human rights not a priority for the State in Pakistan? 

Why blame only Pakistan in this context? For many countries, especially in the developing world, the human rights are not a priority for the State. At the global level, even the developed world, preach human rights within, but not practice the same in the developing world. Realpolitik guide the developed world; from Rwanda in Africa to Yemen in the Middle East and Myanmar in Southeast Asia, one could see the human rights taking a backseat from international practice.

Back to Pakistan. For the State in Pakistan, human rights are not a priority, because, in the first place, it is not monolithic. There is a State, run by certain Constitutional institutions, and then a “Deep State” that runs the former. While the government and institutions have to face accountability in one form or the other, the Deep State is accountable only to itself. 

For the Deep State (and for the State institutions outside it) in Pakistan, the human rights are not a priority, because they are the primary violator of it. The Deep State has been linked (by the Pakistani media and others) with the number of disappearances, manipulation of political parties, media and even accountability institutions such as the NAB, militancy and even Pakistan’s foreign policy (CPEC, J&K, Afghanistan and the US).

Outside the Deep State, the patriarchal and feudal society in Pakistan ensures that the human rights violations go unpunished in the name of culture and honour. Many horrible crimes and violence against women, for example, go unpunished in the name of family honour and age-old traditions. Given the support (or the lack of it) from the society, the State is only willing to keep human rights away from its top priority.

Finally, as the Dawn notes in its editorial, the strength of the institutions. At the national and provincial levels, the institutions remain weak, primarily due to the political infighting, narrow politics, and also societal awareness. Even if the institutions under a few individuals try to become independent and strong, the Deep State in Pakistan would ensure otherwise.

In Focus
By Lakshmi V Menon &  Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In Ali Wazir's funeral meeting, Manzoor Pashteen, another PTM leader, calls for a Jirga to unite the Pashtuns.
Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Arif Wazir was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard after a drive-by shooting at his home in Wana, which left him with life-threatening injuries. Wazir died during treatment in Islamabad on 2 May. His funeral was attended by many along with Manzoor Pashteen, the PTM chief, and several other PTM leaders in Ghwa Khwa, near Wana.

As reported in the Dawn, Manzoor Pashteen condemned the murder and deemed it as an immense loss for oppressed groups stating that "there is a need to convene a Jirga to forge unity among Pakhtuns." Further, he asserted that eliminating terrorists and their hideaways are crucial at this time. He has called for a nationwide and global protest on 5 May, requesting workers to observe a "peaceful strike" to condemn the killing of Arif Wazir. This move also comes amid the persisting extremism that the Pashtuns have constantly fought against to secure their rights.

HRCP's annual report on human rights and Shireen Mazari's response to it
On 4 May, Pakistan's newspaper Dawn, while reporting the 2019 flagship report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, criticized the Deep State for not prioritizing human rights. The HRCP report highlighted the violence, abuse and discrimination faced by women, children and members of religious minorities in Pakistan. The State's modus operandi of responding to isolated incidents that cause public unrest instead of forging systematic change by implementing rights-based legislation and strengthening institutions remain a concern. Dawn also said that the National Commission for Human Rights has been dysfunctional since May 2019. The flouting of child labor laws, honor crimes, the pending 1.8 million court cases, forced conversions, elusive nature of the justice system and dehumanization of prisoners are alarming. 

On the other hand, Pakistan's Ministry of Human Rights said HRCP overlooked major milestones by the State in 2019, such as Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, the National Action Plan against Child Abuse, crafting of a bill for the protection of journalists, laying the foundation for Pakistan's first Sikh university, the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, renovation and reopening of Hindu temples and the acquittal of blasphemy accused like Aasia Bibi and Wajih-ul-Hassan, in safeguarding rights of vulnerable groups. Further, the ministry questioned HRCP's intent. Minister of Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said "changing mindsets, laws and institutions" are time-consuming processes but steps in the right direction have been laid by the PTI government.

Auguring constructive engagement, HRCP welcomed the ministry's response, clarified that the mentioned steps were listed in the report and stated that HRCP's judgement was despite these steps. Other recent reports on systematic curbs on press freedom and political dissent and attacks on journalists also paint a bleak picture of human rights in Pakistan.

In Brief
By A Padmashree & P Harini Sha

To control the damage, Pakistan wants to relax restrictions
The Planning and Development Minister has stated that the pandemic would cause one million institutions to close down and 18 million people to lose jobs, thereby extending the poverty line to 70 million people. Thus, one way to address this issue would be to relax the lockdown restrictions. Further, he said that this would be discussed at the National Coordination Committee Meeting on Covid-19 scheduled for 9 May. (Dawn)

Bilawal Bhutto accuses the federal government of fighting with Sindh, instead of COVID
The PPP chairman Bilawal has cautioned the Pakistan government on increasing the number of deaths due to coronavirus. He has accused the PTI-led government of fighting rather than tacking the larger issue. Further, He praised the efforts of the doctors and lower medical staff that have helped the Sindh government in taking steps to control the spread of the virus. (Dawn)

While Pakistan is fighting the COVID, NAB summons Shahbaz Sharif
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) summons the president of opposition for the third time under cases of money laundering and for holding assets from an unknown source. NAB has called out that the evidence was inadequate in the documents submitted by Mr. Sharif. It has asked him to appear in person to respond to the unrequited questions. (Dawn)

82 Pakistanis stranded in India on Coronavirus lockdown
Around 82 Pakistanis are stranded in India due to the coronavirus lockdown in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These Pakistanis came to India for pilgrimage and business purposes and their visa have expired. The police officials have stated that these Pakistanis will be allowed to go through the Wagah border after being sought by the Pakistan High Commission. (The International News) 

Besides the Coronavirus, the Locusts also divide the Centre and Sindh
The desert locust attacks on agriculture warn the food security of the country while the center and Sindh are engaged in conflicts over COVID 19 lockdown measures. Sindh government charged the center for 'doing nothing' to control the locust crisis. National Food Security minister replied to the crisis that the 18th amendments by the federal governments will facilitate better to deal with the locust issue with an international perspective along with the Locust monitoring Organizations. (Dawn)

Opinion: The government sees the present crisis as conducive to constitutional meddling
The opinion article on Dawn historically traces the evolution of the constitution and the struggles that are faced to survive as a democratic nation while commenting on the 18th amendments of the State. The article critically comments on the federal government's decision to reignite the controversial bill when the citizens are facing an existential crisis. Lastly, the article concludes by saying that the people are the political sovereigns and should reclaim the ground lost and build a 'real legal state'. (Dawn)

Dawn editorial says, PIA in shambles, no one to blame but themselves
The PIA has decided to derecognize associations especially airlines that operated to protect the interest of company employees. This is due to the priority of the government to use its airline service to bring back its overseas citizens. Thereby making it easy to derecognize. An editorial in the Dawn has stated that "If public-sector enterprises such as PIA are in a mess today it is because of years of incompetent management and banishment of such associations will only add to the woes of these enterprises. (Dawn)

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