Implementation of human rights linked to social uplift

Karachi: Strict implementation of human rights is necessary for progress and prosperity of the society, said the speakers of a one-day workshop on “Implementing Human Rights in South Asia and Europe: Policies and Practices”, organized by the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi organized a in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation here Thursday.

In her introductory speech, Director, Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi Prof. Dr. Uzma Shujaat highlighted that the concept of universal and inalienable human rights, although it provided a major impetus to liberal thought over the ages, took a concrete form only in the UN Charter of Human Rights, December 10, 1948 after the unprecedented devastation brought about by the Second World War. This decision was instilled by the conviction of both the victors and the vanquished alike, that the survival of the human race depended to a large extent on avoiding selective notions of the rights of humans as human beings.

A number of subsequent European treaties such as the Maastricht Treaty, the Amsterdam Treaty, the Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty reiterated the continent’s commitment to Human Rights. These represent not only the core values of the EU but the Treaty of Lisbon 2000 in particular, bound the Charter of Human Rights legally. Not only the present, but prospective members of the EU are required to both formally and actually, respect and implement the practice of Human Rights. EU trade and cooperation with third countries must contain a clause in which the respect for Human Rights, the rule of law and democracy are mandatory.

This has been an important year for the promotion of Human Rights. The European Union made Human Rights the basis of its external relations. A more concrete development has been an agreement on a new Human Rights package which includes both a strategic framework and an action plan, the practical step of appointing the first ever EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

Apart from underlining the commitment of the EU, it shows that Human Rights have a central role in the EU’s external relations, and that it is not expendable. It upholds principles that cannot make way for expedience. European values have become in part identified with the EU mandate, as such the EU interests are subordinate to European values.

The EU justifies and legitimizes its external human-rights policy with reference to international instruments. Thus it can defend the universality of human rights and counter the claims of unwarranted interference. Although it is true that the EU is not subject to the same scrutiny as it demands of others, and that its actions do not always strengthen the protection of human rights by the UN its role has been on the whole laudatory. Legitimacy of the EU’s action is also enhanced by its very multilateral nature, action by a group of states, all of whom guarantee comparatively high levels of human-rights protection, and allow outside scrutiny of their records. Collective action can also increase effectiveness, given the potential influence of many of the EU’s policy instruments.

I.A. Rehman from Human Rights commission of Pakistan spoke on Relationship between Rights and Responsibilities: Role of the Civil Society. He said obedience to authority had been the rule In the South Asian countries before the arrival of the British and the colonial rulers continued it. He opined that unlike other constitutions which include duties of citizens along with the rights avoid using the words right and duty in their political dispensation.

South Asian countries are very fond of signing and ratification of International Conventions but least bothered about implementing them, he observed. He was of the opinion that Pakistan technically joined the human rights club since last 5 years by rectifying the convention in 2008 which was signed by Pakistan in 2003.

Pakistan included all the fundamental rights included in UDHR except two rights i.e. the right of boys and girls of age to marry by their choice and the right to change faith for Muslim citizens, non-Muslims can change their faiths, he concluded. Throughout the freedom Movement we obey British suggestions, we didn’t have any theory of ours he added.

In the second part of his paper he elaborate the responsibilities of civil society. He opined that the first task of civil society is to persuade or pressurize the government to make domestic laws that are abide by the international human rights conventions, because if the government rectify any convention, it must have domestic laws to implement them. Now it is a compulsion for governments to include or consult civil society while submitting their reports on implementation conventions.

Dr. Azra Anjum, a political scientist highlighted human rights issues and discrimination practices in South Asia. The long history of human rights based on three main aspects of human existence i.e., human dignity, freedom and equality. Although, the contemporary world is called a liberal world but unfortunately global south is still not liberal society and violations of human rights and discrimination are on high rise.

Dr. Anjum pointed out various discriminatory practices in South Asia such as cast based discrimination, gender based, religious and minorities based, discrimination against the indigenous people since colonial times, etc. are badly impact on the human rights value in South Asia. She emphasized that improvement should be made in this regard as these mal practices push the South Asia region towards socially deprived part of the world and away from meeting the MDGs till 2015.

Dr. Anjum said it is high time to take immediate measures on state, regional and international level for women empowerment to bring a better world as the human rights are about all human beings.

Dr M. Reza Kazmi, Visiting Professor, Area Study Centre for Europe presented a paper on European Colonialism and Human Rights Implementation in South Asia – The issues of Sati-Child Marriage and Inoculation.

Dr. Kazmi traced out a colonial history of British empire in India and its impact on human rights in India-subcontinent, as the some British reformers brought many fundamental reforms to abolish Sati, legalizing widow remarriages and fixing the age of consent for child marriages.

Dr. Kazmi also highlighted the various casts and clans’ views on the practices of Satti and child marriages in India. He also opined the inhumane practice of girls’ marriages with the Holy Quran in present day Pakistan as unholy and complete un-Islamic.

Giving Quranic citation, Dr. Kazmi said that Holy Quran warns of the time when the buried infant shall be asked, for what sin she was slain. Also the Quran protests over the female infanticide of non-Muslims.

The last paper of the workshop was presented by Usman Azhar, who spoke on the issue of child labour in Pakistan. He said every civilized person recognized the rights of children but around 215m children around 115m are inducted in hazardous work. He also presented the figures for Pakistan where according to the 2005 estimates 10m children under the age of 14 are working in different activities. He concluded that working in such environment has negative impact on the physical, mental and moral growth of children.

Najmuddin Shaikh concluded the session by thanking the director of the ASCE, Prof. Dr. Uzma Shujaat, for her detailed introduction to the legislation and protection of human rights in Europe. He pointed out that a parallel could be drawn between Europe and South Asia; the latter suffering from a gap between wholesome legislation and ratification and their implementation.

He referred to the detention of the Indian Vice Consul in New York. The outcry in India from 28% of people was driven by the fact that she was a Dalit and ended up in Foreign Service because a quota had been allocated; whereas the maid was Indian Christian.

The recognition of rights in the constitution or legislation in the parliament does not suffice unless the question of implementation is addressed.

It is imperative to hold intellectual discourse frequently so as to cultivate harmony and peace. In a country once inhabited by tea-houses and coffee-shops, which were the hub of intellectual deliberations, it is a sorry fact that today none is ready to respect and hear the opposite view-point, he said.