It’s not a competition, but must we always be a step behind?
‘Are we children of a lesser God?’ one of the victims, Julie, questioned the nation in front of the press mid-November as Pakistan witnessed the perfect demonstration of the status of the transgender community. Jajja Butt’s video went viral, stripping the victim of her modesty as he removed her clothing, brutally lashing her, and threatening to strike harder if she protested. Earlier this year, Pakistan got a true representation of the status of minorities, as Rehmat Masih’s house was set ablaze, while he was asleep inside with his daughter and four year old grandchild – maybe, again, for being children of the wrong God. Gunning down journalists, killing 148 children while they were at school, the rape of a three year old Christian girl in Bahawalnagar, are all acts of the righteous, the true children of God. And our dear State associates itself with these true children, with their deafening silence.
Pakistan is a proud signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and claims to have ratified it, but also bestows upon itself the honour of ranking in the countries having carried out the most human rights violations. The Human Rights Watch’s World Report on Pakistan glorified our country stating the names of Sabeen Mahmud, Syed Wahidur Rahman and ZafarUllah Jatak, further decorating this garland of honour mentioning incidents of sectarian violence such as the Shikarpur Mosque bombing, and finally drowning this nation in their ‘honour’ mentioning the ‘honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriages’ and the Kasur child sexual abuse videos. Yet this honourable mention has had near to no impact on state policies. Those that have been legislated in the name of protection enable increased state censorship and a breach to privacy, as can be seen in the Electronic Crimes Act. Others, as mentioned in The Christian Post in an article by Stoyan Zaimov are ‘simply lip service’, such as that for the protection of women, children, and against forced conversion, that the government uses to show ‘adequate concern’ on their part.
There exists an incessant need for legislation that the government vouches to enforce and acts upon it. It is due time that the state adheres to the Human Rights covenants and treaties that have been signed and upholding the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And having said so, Pakistan needs to sign and ratify the First Optional Protocol and legitimise the individuals of its country to take up violations to the Human Rights Committee (HRC), following suit of the other five Asian countries that have done so. To validate and authenticate the various Bills and Acts and to show good faith on its part, the State needs to ensure that another report of the International Commission of Jurists does not come forth stating the laws of this country are draconian (as said about Blasphemy trials) or unlawful use of death penalty as often highlighted by the Justice Project Pakistan and also by Allen Lowenstein in Yale Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic or various other instances where the State has come under public speculation for injustice. Therefore the State needs to provide tangible proof of the fact that it is willing to provide its people with the highest platform to raise their concerns, and signing the First Optional Protocol is the way forward.
We need not always be one step behind our neighbours. Our enemies must not decide the limits to our diplomacy and our policies. Yes, our sovereignty is integral. Yes, taking up issues to international bodies leads to foreign influence in domestic arenas. But with that, one must remember the aforementioned atrocities. One must recognise the dark unreported figures, or those that are dismissed in lower courts. The State must allow its individuals to communicate with the HRC, even if with certain reservations, such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago do not recognise the jurisdiction of the HRC to hear complaints relating to their use of the death penalty, and Venezuela does not recognise the competence of the HRC to hear complaints regarding in-absentia trials for offences against the republic. Pakistan has taken a huge step signing the ICCPR, now it must consent to ‘further to achieve the purposes’ of the ICCPR by giving the Human Rights Committee the authority to impose the obligations as stated under the General Comment 33 of the ICCPR. Nelson Mandela said, ‘to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’. Our humanity is being challenged, and we cannot let injustice prevail.