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Category Archives: Justice
By Zubeida Mustafa
WHEN human rights are in the news, the focus is invariably on civil and political rights such as life, liberty and democracy. Their violation causes explosive reactions. Rights that are not of a political nature are not so visible though their continued denial has a profound and insidious impact on the lives of a far greater number of people. They are like slow death that kills society itself.
These are the rights that have a role to play in sustaining human life with dignity which is no less than the right to life itself. Yet strangely enough, these seemingly mundane issues such as jobs, education and housing do not receive the same attention in public forums globally. Mercifully, realisation is now dawning in some quarters that there is a solution to the problems caused by the absence of social justice.
If awareness were to be created about these issues, enough pressure could be generated to force the powers that be to take positive measures. With this goal before it, Poster for Tomorrow was formed in 2009 in Paris by a group of artists led by Hervé Matine. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
HOW much is a human life worth in Pakistan? Not more than peanuts, given the impunity with which people are being killed in this benighted country of ours. The state’s failure — or lack of will — to protect the life of its citizens is at the root of this tragedy.
In this context, I am reminded of two women — one dead, the other on death row. One was a dear friend. The other is a stranger whose community has been my benefactor. I owe my education to Christian missionaries who gave me knowledge and taught me, by example, to respect and be tolerant of all faiths.
Perween Rahman and Asiya Bibi have nothing in common except that they are symbols of our quest for justice and sanctity of life in a society that thrives on hate and violence. Continue reading
THE buzzword these days is ‘empowerment’ and there is a lot of talk about empowering the people. The most vocal are political leaders who use the term randomly as a strategy to empower themselves politically.
True empowerment, however, envisages equipping people with tools they can use to achieve a decent life for themselves and their families which can be got through education, employment, healthcare, a roof above their heads and the sense of dignity they acquire when they do not have to be permanently dependent on others to sustain themselves. An example of how people are empowered pertains to the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust which was set up by Mr Mangi’s granddaughter Naween to draw out the innate capacity of the 3,500-strong community of Khairo Dero to uplift itself.
The main tools that have been identified by the trust for empowerment are education, literacy, healthcare, microcredit for income generation and building homes and getting water supply and sanitation on a self-help basis. The fact is that until the basic needs of a people are met and a sense of security provided to them, they cannot strive for higher goals. AHMMT works, as its vision statement says, with the aim of building a “model village that can be replicated”. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
LAST week Scotland decided its destiny. It came to the brink of independence and then pulled back. In the closing days of campaigning it was estimated that several thousands of the 4.2 million voters were undecided till the last. When the ballots were cast on Sept 18 over 55pc voted to stay in the union.
The 45pc who voted for change were overruled by the majority and conceded defeat. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland whose Scottish National Party spearheaded the movement for an independent Scotland, announced his decision to step down.
Negotiations will follow in the coming months as more devolution of power is on the cards as has been promised by the Westminster parties in a last-ditch attempt to lure the Scots back from an irrevocable breach. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.
There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.
Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigenisation to empower urban women. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
TO veil or not to veil, that is the question. And that continues to be asked in Europe where France, Belgium, Spain and Italy have imposed a ban on the niqab in public places. The niqab shrouds the entire face and leaves small slits for the eyes. The ban does not apply to the more ubiquitous hijab, a head scarf that leaves the face fully exposed. No country has so far restricted the hijab.
The latest to pronounce a verdict on this controversial item of the female apparel is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where a French woman SAS (identity not disclosed) of Pakistani origin filed a case against the French law forbidding the use of the full-face veil in public places. SAS claimed that the law violated her “freedom of religion and expression”. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
PAKISTAN’S leadership is in a dilemma. Should it continue the moratorium on the execution of prisoners on death row that the PPP government had enforced since June 2008?
Soon after assuming office in June, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was inclined to revive capital punishment presumably to demonstrate his commitment to fighting terrorism in the country. He naively believes that hanging criminals reduces crime.
He is now wavering. Has the outcry from human rights bodies and anti-death penalty activists shaken his resolve? Or did he change his mind when the Taliban threatened a bloodbath if two members of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Sukkur jail were hanged, as scheduled, in August? Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.
Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.
These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.
Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading
By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.
And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading
by Rifaat Hamid Ghani
The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.
If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?
If asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading