Leading human rights activist and former president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Asma Jahangir said that judges and army generals are not beyond criticism.
She said this while speaking at a seminar organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at Lahore Press Club on Saturday to mark the International Day of Human Rights.
“There are double standards in the judiciary, where there are separate rules and regulations for the influential and underprivileged classes,” she said. She further added that a common litigant is not given ample time by the judiciary in comparison with the influential class, as it was seen during the hearings of Panama Leaks that judges listened the lengthy speeches of some selected people attentively, while the common litigant was ignored by the apex court.
“We have also observed that some people tried to influence the judiciary by giving statements in the public that there was a possibility of a cold war if the verdict of the court did not come in their favour, but no one dared to initiate the contempt of the court against them,” she said.
According to Asma, the democratic norms in the society will not come from any divine force, as everyone has to strive hard in order to achieve them. She was of the view that there is a complete ban on trade unions in Balochistan to hold any protest or demonstration and this ban was imposed by the Balochistan High Court. “The people of Balochistan are being deprived of their fundamental rights and it is the responsibility of every Pakistani to raise voice for them,” she said.
Veteran journalist and human rights activist IA Rehman said the journalists of Pakistan are facing multifaceted challenges as more than 70 per cent journalists of tribal areas have left their profession or dislocated from their areas. “The International Day of Human Rights demands that every human being must be given equal right. There must be no discrimination on the basis of cast, creed or gender because all are equal,” he said. He was of the view that an environment of fear is prevailing in Pakistan as most of the people feel scared while talking to each other.
“To talk about the missing persons has become an act of treason, while the people of Balochistan are not being told about the share of their province in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” Rehman said. He was of the view that Right to Information Act is the fundamental right of every citizen, but most of its clauses are not being implemented in letter and spirit.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is being given extraordinary powers to curb the media outlets and it is against the international norms of human rights, he added.
Another stalwart of Pakistani journalism, Ahmed Rashid, said that the practice of using Twitter by the government to inform people should be avoided as this practice snatches the right of journalists to ask questions. “In the United States, people are protesting against the usage of Twitter by Trump as it takes away the right to ask questions,” he said.
The seminar was attended by a large number of people, including Dr Mehdi Hassan, Hussain Naqi and Salima Hashmi. A demonstration was also held outside the press club by the HRCP’s activists.