Islamabad Politics Report/Moazzam Raza Tabassam : An underlying reason for the shrinking space for human rights is the rise of an all too powerful de-facto state which is not accountable to any one and the shrinking space of the de-jure state which is accountable to the Parliament and the people but has no powers to deliver.
This was stated by former Senator Farhatullah Babar at a seminar on ‘aligning politics with human rights’ held under auspices of PILER today.
As a result the freedom of expression had suffered most. New threats including self censorship, taking off air channels, blocking publication of articles and preventing circulation of newspapers in cantonments without recourse to legal channels and without even the knowledge of information and Interior Ministries or PEMRA was he hall mark of new curbs by invisible elements.
Some people brandishing guns and other holding religious books had threatened freedom of expression.
The rule of law has been undermined and today we have elements who are above the law, there are outlaws and there are in laws treated above law and called for an accountability mechanism applicable to all, whether politicians, members of Parliament, civil bureaucracy, President, Prime Minister, generals and judges.
Excluding generals and judges from accountability net had undermined the very credibility of accountability, which in turn undermined rule of law and the ensuing lawlessness, he said
He called upon political parties to include human rights in their manifestos as well as develop a minimum Charter of Human Rights.
He said there is freedom to abuse politicians, condemn 18th Amendment, and parrot state’s narrative but no freedom to present alternate narrative.
He said that the bull in China shop of distorted civil-military relations was the Pak-India relations and the security establishment driving the foreign policy.
While holding on to our position on Kashmir it should be possible to seek normalization in other areas. The Afghan policy must also be reviewed and the jehad project abandoned to promote human rights agenda. He proposed setting up of a national register of crimes against women and the appointment of a special public prosecutor to try cases of violence against women.
In reply to a question he said that the army always wanted to rewrite the civil-military equation and this was acknowledged by a former army chief general Jehangir Karamat while commenting on the LFO (legal framework order) of Gen Musharraf. But this rewriting of the equation had gone far too far to ridiculous lengths and must be corrected if Pakistan was to be a progressive democratic state where human rights and liberties were respected as a matter of right and not as charity in return of parroting state’s security narrative, he said.
The seminar was also addressed by Mr I A Rehman, Justice Nawaz Chowhan chairman NCHR, justice Majida Rizvi, and labour leaders and human rights activists.