Pakistani civil society activists carry placards as the march during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Karachi on March 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN
Pakistani civil society activists carry placards as the march during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Karachi on March 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

Certain rights that cannot be violated by any country or government are termed “non-derogable rights” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are also known as natural rights, primary rights, fundamental rights, and basic rights in different legal instruments of the world.

Under any of these terms, protection is given to different rights such as freedom of speech, access to information, freedom of choosing religion, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, right to have weapons, and many more. Government is the custodian of these rights irrespective of political, communal, religious, sectarian, and other affiliations with a particular segment of society.

However, the condition of human rights in Pakistan has been volatile during different military and democratic regimes because of various social, legal, institutional, and other factors.

Basic articles that have been enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan safeguard the rights of all and sundry to lead a life without any discrimination. The constitution, no doubt, articulates perfectly the natural rights that provide a reasonable environment to all citizens of the country to lead a very peaceful life. Articles 8 to 28 as mentioned in the first chapter of the 1973 charter ensure the protection of fundamental rights of people of Pakistan, grounded on the principle of equality.

However, Pakistan has been facing a prolonged conflict between theory and practice when it comes to these enshrined rights. For instance, theoretically, there is no option of horse-trading and electoral rigging in the constitution, but practically, horse-trading in different political spheres can be seen. Similarly, non-intervention is a basic principle of the constitution, but history is a witness to how intra-departmental intervention and institutional pressure have detracted from the democratic process.

Social, political, and legal indicators depict that the gap between theory and practice regarding human rights in Pakistan is widening day by day. The rules themselves are fine, but the fair implementation of the rules is the enduring challenge that is portraying a negative face of the country before the rest of the world.

Women’s rights in the country are always under threat because of a low literacy rate, the commitment of the public to cultural relativistic practices, women’s subjugation, and low female participation in the social, political, economic and legal spheres. Pakistani society is known as androcentric because females are less empowered than males, and their basic rights to education and other freedoms is undermined. Domestic violence against women is another issue regarding the violation of women’s rights.

Nearly 5,000 women are killed per year in Pakistan, with thousands of others maimed or disabled, according to the Global Slavery Index of 2016. Furthermore, the survey articulates reality by stating that an estimated 2.1 million people are enslaved in modern-day Pakistan, or 1.13% of the population. Arrests of journalists, women’s subjugation, child labor, child abuse, poor or unequally allocated education, delayed justice, environmental degradation, and ethnic and religious discrimination against minorities are among the violations of human rights experienced in the country.

Our government should wipe out the impediments in the way of attaining the pure spirit of human rights. It should also remove the gap between theory and practice by implementing the relevant articles of the constitution fairly. Thus citizens of the country may enjoy their natural rights, blessed by God, irrespective of any discrimination. By definition, these non-derogable rights are not to be violated, and we should as human beings fulfill our responsibilities to each other in order to create a peaceful world as well as to give relief to crippled souls.

Ali Changezi Sandhu is a columnist in English and Urdu national and international newspapers. He is also a researcher of legal studies and a human rights activist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in philosophy, and is pursuing a higher degree in law.

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