Category Archives: Human Rights

Quest for truth

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN media parlance what would the Bahria Town Karachi incident that took place on Sunday, June 6 be called? It was not fake news, considering that a large number of protesters and the police were involved and some violence also occurred that day on Super Highway. But the way the facts were twisted by a section of the media, both social and mainstream, one would certainly call it a case of misreporting.

The impression was sought to be created that the protesters — including various civil society groups and people who have been struggling to save their ancestral lands from the avarice of the land grabbers — resorted to violence and arson. But from the accounts of those present on the scene (I spoke to Sheema Kermani of Tehreek-i-Niswan and Khuda Dino Shah from the Indigenous Peoples) an altogether different picture emerges: it was clearly a false flag operation to vilify the protesters and spread dissension among the diverse ethnic groups that constitute Sindh’s population.

Continue reading Quest for truth

Activism in verse

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE aspect of I.A. Rehman’s priceless legacy was his restless spirit that drove him to champion the cause of freedom and human rights in Pakistan. The huge community of human rights activists in the country drew inspiration from his rational and encouraging leadership.

Many of us — his juniors — were constantly turning to him to draw from his limitless pool of knowledge and saw him as a pillar of strength. In the gloom that followed his death I felt comforted when I received a book of poetry that resonated with me. It touched the same causes Rehman Sahib had inspired us to espouse. Titled Eik Subh Aur Aaygi and containing 103 poems by Anis Haroon, the book is a powerful statement on the sad state of human rights in Pakistan that has brought the country to the brink of a catastrophe.

Continue reading Activism in verse

A way out

By Zubeida Mustafa

TODAY is the anniversary of our freedom from colonial rule. Aug 14, Independence Day, is traditionally celebrated with much fanfare with messages from the top leadership. It is the same this year. Why should we not celebrate? After all, under the British Raj we were denied many freedoms. If the East India Company had not been given a charter, the course of South Asian history would have been different. But this is no time for speculation, for there are so many ifs and buts to be considered that it is best to put them aside.

Continue reading A way out

Floyd and Zohra

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE BBC reported recently that a lawyer for George Floyd said at the memorial service for the African-American that a “pandemic of racism” led to his death. Floyd had been killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis using the ‘knee-on-the-neck’ technique said to have been developed by Israeli policemen.

Judging by the global protests that followed Floyd’s killing one can at least take heart from the fact that there are people around who have a conscience and do care. But what matters is how many people can be mobilised and how much they care. Is their number big enough to make an impact that will bring about the social change that is needed? Changes in the law help but they are at best just the beginning. More difficult to change are attitudes and mindsets without which society remains mired in prejudice and an abusive psyche.

Continue reading Floyd and Zohra

The missing girls

By Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE 1986, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has acted as a conscience keeper of the nation. Its flagship, the annual State of Human Rights in Pakistan, should jolt any government out of its stupor.

How did this government respond to the latest report? The human rights ministry, headed by Shireen Mazari, had a knee-jerk reaction and apparently without reading the report carefully issued a statement accusing the HRCP of having “overlooked several major milestones towards securing and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups” in 2019. It even questioned the ‘intent’ of the HRCP.

Continue reading The missing girls

Media mechanics

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

Recently, in the course of a nationwide ‘telethon’ we heard the PM’s views on the media, an illustrious maulana’s views on the media; and after due pause some media responses thereto on the media; sometimes we even hear viewers’ views on the media: when and how it proffers the platform. Ah there’s the rub! The electronic media’s message and the messenger—irrespective of the guiding principle—are selective and selected. In all fairness is there any way it can be otherwise? Ultimately, the viewer’s choice—his selection—is limited to switching channels or switching off. Not so the State: it can control, project, promote, expunge, exclude, omit, invent, compel.

Continue reading Media mechanics

Which language?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE medium of instruction in school is once again being hotly debated, not that the issue had ever been resolved. But now that the pro-mother language lobby has gained more leverage over the years, its voice is being heard. That is why passions generated by the language issue cannot be slapped down.

What provoked the controversy this time? It was a report prepared by a subcommittee of the National Curriculum Council on the medium of instruction that caused the ruckus. Later, a member of the NCC described the report as a piece of ‘misreporting’. The so-called wrong report had prescribed English as the medium for quite a few subjects from primary to Grade XII. The regional languages had been omitted totally. It was the latter omission that had led to the deafening furore on social media — and quite understandably so. Mercifully, a clarification was later issued by the government explaining that the question of the languages to be used as the medium had been left to the provincial governments to decide.

Continue reading Which language?

We, the 1.21pc

By Zubeida Mustafa

I BELONG to Pakistan’s 75-plus age group. According to the 2017 census, my contemporaries, who were born in 1944 or earlier, constitute only 1.21pc of the total population of this country. Not a very big number — less than 2.5 million. But we seem to have become a burden for the government that had promised us a ‘new’ Pakistan when it assumed office. Did it mean a ‘young’ Pakistan?

Take my case as an example (mind you I am not alone). I have been a working woman nearly all my adult life. True, the pace of my work has slowed down with age. I am low-visioned too. Nevertheless I continue to contribute to society as best as I can mainly by doing voluntary work in a school for underprivileged children.

Continue reading We, the 1.21pc

Time to act

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE state of religious minorities in Pakistan today is most deplorable. They are vulnerable to violence, terrorism and physical abuse and many of them have lost their lives as a result in the last few decades. Their places of worship have come under attack on numerous occasions. This is in blatant violation of the Constitution which guarantees the right to life and religious freedom to all citizens of Pakistan.

Continue reading Time to act

Reflection

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

IT is false to say those were lawyers attacking doctors or doctors under attack on December 11th in Lahore. It was us: people like you and me were doing that to people like you and me in and to our hospital. Something increasingly toxic within and around us is generating an atmosphere of violence. Personal self-respect has degenerated into self-righteous entitlement and intimidatory demand. Can we arrest this slide into the bestial before we all become completely desensitized or submerged?

               When and where did it begin? It is chastening to remind ourselves that an angrily contested partition was integral part of the subcontinent’s venture into self-rule. Simply put: this vast subcontinent’s major Muslim minority and heavily Hindu majority did not trust each other enough to share a common space. That was 1947. In 2019 the polity is still wrangling violently within its separate states, failing to resolve a sociopolitical equation of common human interest: We can justly point a finger at the subcontinent’s cannabilistic mother India; emergent Pakistan; Bangladesh; Nepal; Bhutan; and even a not that safely enough offshore Sri Lanka. Why then is the rampage at Lahore’s PIC particularly horrifying?

Continue reading Reflection