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December 11, 2019

The state of human rights


December 11, 2019

The marking of World Human Rights Day on December 10 acts once again as a reminder of what people suffer around the world and how unsuccessful we have been as the human race in defending their most basic rights protected by international law and simply by humanity. In Kashmir, after a lockdown that has continued for over four months, the agony of a people stripped of their right to make decisions for themselves continues. Hundreds have been injured, others killed, women raped and political activists placed in detention. The Kashmiris are not alone. The Rohingya in Myanmar suffer continued discrimination and threat, forcing them to flee across borders. In Yemen children starve as a war triggered by rival nations tears their country apart. Immigrants from Syria and other nations remain interned in camps and in the US, the country that declared itself the champion of human rights, small immigrant children coming across the Mexican border have been torn away from their parents.

The world then is not a happy place – but neither is our own country. Every day we hear of or read about the terrible fate of children who have been subjected to abuse and neglect. We read about rapes and honour killings and the continued infanticide of girl children. There are still Pakistanis who are unable to access schools and children who must labour sometimes in dangerous conditions because they have no option. There has been too little effort to create these options. Adult labourers face frequent violation of their rights and in many professions, there are those who have not been paid for months. The state has essentially failed in its primary duty of offering security and safety to its citizens.

Amongst the worst affected by this failure are whose we call the ‘missing’, apparently picked up by ‘unknown’ persons. There is also the issue of draconian checks on the freedom of expression and attempts to silence even students who speak up for their future and for their rights. Tragically the basic needs of people, such as food, cannot be met despite sufficient resources apparently due to a lack of wise policy framing and commitment. One-third of Pakistan’s people live in poverty, almost 50 percent of our children suffer stunting. These figures are worse than for other South Asian countries and for many in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are other concerns which seem never to go away. Perennial unrest in Balochistan points to that province’s condition of continued injustice and neglect. There is also sectarian violence which still runs through the country, the victimization of persons under the blasphemy laws, the failure to protect the rights of minorities or the people living in the former Fata territories who still seek basic needs. We need to offer a better future for our people and for our younger generation. We can do this only if a beginning is made now.

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