An epoch making day

Courtesy:-  Malik Muhammad Ashraf

Friday 4th May was an epoch making day in the parliamentary history of Pakistan, when the national assembly passed a bill for the establishment of National Commission for Human Rights, empowered to investigate cases of human rights infringement, create much needed awareness among the masses and hold the agencies and the army answerable to the Commission for any violation of human rights. The legislation, besides fulfilling our international obligations about improving human rights situation in the country, meets the demands of justice that require a uniform law to deal with such acts by the state agencies.

Our agencies have been accused of violating human rights with impunity and holding the view that they are outside the purview of law. The saga of missing persons in the country, particularly in Balochistan, which is being handled by the Supreme Court in a firm manner, is an ample testimony to inhuman machinations. The Supreme Court deserves unqualified accolades for venturing into the hitherto no-go area and putting Pakistan several notches up on the ladder of the states which respect human rights.
Extra judicial killings have almost become a routine practice by the police and other law enforcing outfits. And quite a number of citizens of Pakistan have been the unfortunate victims. It is a shame that the successive regimes failed to check these inhumanities. The spectacle of a young man murdered in cold-blood in Karachi in the recent past – witnessed across the country on TV screens – was repulsive to say the least. .
The most lamentable aspect of these acts by the personnel of the law enforcing organizations is attempts hushing up and even defending those actions. The police are the most dreaded entity. The public regards the police as culprits in uniform who patronize and abet all types of crimes. Their only duty is to serve the interests of their political masters and the elite of the ruling class. The result is that instead of maintaining law and order and protecting the life and property of the citizens, which is their prime duty, the police indulge excessively in humiliating, torturing and insulting citizens. Many of their staged and fake encounters have remained hidden from the public view. And even in cases where the police could not manage to sweep the incidents under the carpet, thanks to the media, the culprits have managed to escape the dragnet of law due to an extremely defective and corrupt system of investigation, prosecution and equally corrupt and pliable judiciary at the lower level.
The terrorism practiced by the uniformed state entities is also greatly responsible for the chaos of fast deteriorating law and order situation in the country and separatist tendencies in Balochistan. Though the present PPP government has made an earnest effort in resolving the Balochistan conundrum the results have not been very encouraging because the issue of missing persons and discovery of mutilated bodies – allegedly either the handiwork of agencies or outlaws out to create chaos – have dealt a deadly blow to efforts for reconciliation.
The phenomenon of extra-judicial killings in fact is a mindset; a collateral off-shoot of the feudal structure of governance that puts no premium on human life, not to speak of human rights. We need to weed out the culture that is responsible for encouraging such barbaric pursuits. Hopefully, the new legislation which is a first step in rectifying the past excesses and future direction, will go a long way in checking inhuman treatment of the citizens of Pakistan.
A lot more is required to be done in this area. Pakistan needs a new social contract that takes care of establishing the ascendancy of the people; ensures equality of citizens before law irrespective of their social status or position and seeks across the board accountability of civilians, khakis, other uniformed outfits and the intelligence agencies under the same law by removing ouster clauses in the Constitution. The decadent and oppressive system of governance has to go and the major responsibility in this regard rests with the political leadership. It was time that all the political parties, particularly PPP and PML –N, gave serious thought to changing the system of governance and redefining the role of state institutions geared to serving only the interest of the people. That is the only way Pakistan can be saved from the grave situation it is in and a process of rebuilding can be started.
The country is in deep trouble and before it is too late to stem the rot, we need to act and act prudently.  For PPP, it is perhaps the best opportunity to strengthen its credentials as party of the masses by forming a National Commission on New Social Contract comprising judges of the Supreme Court, lawyers, politicians including the ones representing nationalist parties, economists and eminent social leaders. The Commission should be mandated to look at every aspect of the national life, functioning of the state institutions and the reforms needed in the political and economic spheres. Its recommendations should be subjected to public and media scrutiny through an open debate before presenting it to Parliament to deliberate in the light of public and media evaluations and make amendments in the constitution, if required.


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