Implementing Human Rights in Pakistan

Provincial Human Rights Departments are needed

‘Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily, the best honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you’ (Al-Hujrat: 13). Likewise, Article 1 of the Universal declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations declares that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Harmoniously, Articles 14, 25 and 15 to 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan protect the dignity, equality and liberty of the citizens. Hence, all codes of human rights depict the absolute universality in terms of instincts and natural rights. Then, There is a substantive convergence on the cultural, religious, economic and political rights but, still there exists a meaningful procedural divergence connecting cultural, political and economic interests among states.

Constitutionally, Pakistan is a federal parliamentary democracy. Human rights are protected as fundamental rights in the Constitution of Pakistan. Article 8 of the constitution provides that any law repugnant to the fundamental rights is void. Hence, this protection proves the significance of human rights for state and society. Article 9 protects the security of a person. Article 10 guarantees safeguards as to arrest and detention. Article 10A protects the right to fair trial and due process. Article 11 prohibits slavery and forced labor. Article 12 protects against retrospective punishment. Article 13 protects against double punishment and self-incrimination. Article 14 provides human dignity and prohibits torture for the purpose of extracting evidence. Article 15 provides freedom of movement. Article 16 provides freedom of assembly. Article 17 provides freedom of association. Article 18 guarantees freedom of trade, business or profession. Article 19 provides freedom of speech and 19A provides right to information. Article 20 ensures freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions.  Article 21 provides safeguards against taxation for the purpose of any particular religion. Article 22 provides safeguards as to educational institutions in respect of religion. Article 23 provides the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property in any part of Pakistan. Article 24 bestows protection of property rights. Article 25A enforces all citizens to be equal before law. Article 25 provides the right to education. Article 26 ensures that there shall be no discrimination in respect of access to public places. Article 27 protects against discrimination in services.  Article 28 allows people to preserve language, script and culture.

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Besides, Chapter II of the Constitution enunciates principles of policy. These principles are collective rights of the society. Article 31 explains that Islamic way of life shall be promoted. Article 32 provides for the promotion of local government institutions. Article 33 provides for the discouragement of  parochial and other similar prejudices. Article 34 ensures full participation of women in national life. Article 35 protects marriage and family life. Article 36 provides safeguards and protection to minorities. Article 37 categorically affords promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils. Article 38 enforces promotion of social and economic well being of the people. Article 39 offers participation of people in the Armed Forces. Article 40 provides to strengthen bonds with Muslim world and promoting international peace.  Hence, fundamental rights and principles of policy are the anthology of human rights.

Knowledge gap is the fundamental cause of deteriorating human rights in Pakistan. Awareness of the contents and cause of human rights is instrumental for better implementation of human rights. The best mode to fill the knowledge gap is to incorporate the canons of fundamental rights in the educational syllabus of the nation followed by other awareness campaigns. Societal, cultural, political and religious awareness is key to undo the lock of despondency. Individuals, institutions and organizations should play their pivotal role in creating the indispensable dissemination of Human Rights.

Administrative remedy to human rights is the way forward. The mode is competent, prompt and unswervingly linked to the foundation of implementation. Pakistan is confronting a capacity crisis and this is choking the governance and service delivery. Pakistan guarantees potent constitutional and legislative support to the cause of human rights, but administrative bottlenecks are making us lag far behind in implementation.

The Constitution provides judicial remedy to citizens to enforce Human Rights. Article 184 (3) empowers the Supreme Court to enforce public rights on the matters of public interest. Article 199 of the Constitution empowers the High Courts to execute writs against government functionaries for the enforcement of fundamental rights. Application of section 491 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 provides that a person within the limits of its appellate criminal jurisdiction be brought up before the court to be dealt with according to law. Then, there is a remedy available under section 220 of the Pakistan Penal Code alongside a number of legislative protections.

Inherently, judicial enforcement of human rights has been long-winded across the world. Hence, judicial enforcement is instrumental and improved standards in civil and criminal justice systems will make implementation better. Overhauling of judicial practices shall explicitly enhance improvement in the implementation of Human Rights in Pakistan.

Administrative remedy to human rights is the way forward. The mode is competent, prompt and unswervingly linked to the foundation of implementation. Pakistan is confronting a capacity crisis and this is choking the governance and service delivery. Pakistan guarantees potent constitutional and legislative support to the cause of human rights, but administrative bottlenecks are making us lag far behind in implementation. Human rights are devolved as a provincial subject and provinces require functional Human Rights departments. Besides, implementation is improbable without raising a functional Human Rights Service HRS and devolving the function to the districts by erecting district setups. Federal intervention in provincial implementation is unconstitutional. Functional Human Rights Departments and Human Rights Services are instrumental for the cause of implementation.

The coded rules and law of public organizations should be revamped in order to achieve administrative capacity and functionality. Public and private partnership is key for the cause of implementation. Almost, all federal and provincial organizations have inserted human rights in their organizational rules of business according to Article 139. If only these rules of business are administratively implemented by the departments, the implementation will improve significantly.

Tariq Mahmood Awan
The writer is a civil servant serving in Punjab and leading a society for implementation of Administrative Federalism. He can be reached at [email protected]

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