“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to upload them to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger World” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Annually, the world community has been celebrating World Human Rights Day since 1948. The year 1948 marked the major shift in the history of Human Rights. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, a lady wo chaired the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other women played an essential part in the shaping the  document. However, 243 million women and girls’ gross violation have been observed during last 12 months, according to Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. It raised the eyebrows of those who know the history of United Nations Human Declaration 1948. She was posthumously awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 1968.

This year Human Rights Day is observed with the theme of “Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights” to helights the importance of Equality as stated  Article 1 of UDHR “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Equality is the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda which shared framework on leaving no one behind: equality and nondiscrimination at the heart of sustainable development.

Human Rights Report 2021 puts the light on the major gross violation of human rights in each country of the world. In 2020, Pakistan government harassed and at times prosecuted human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists for criticizing government officials and policies.

Pakistan ranked 153rd out of 156 countries on the gender parity index according to ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021” published by the World Economic Forum. Pakistan ranked seventh among eight countries in South Asia only better than Afghanistan. As the matter of fact that Pakistan failed to improve its score on gender parity in the last sixteen years.

The basic Human right - Freedom of Expression is the major concern in the society of Pakistan. No one freely expresses one’s point of view on media. If one does, one will face the threats and disappearance. And government used all its institutions to impose the self censorship on media. In several cases, government regulatory agencies blocked cable operators and television channels that aired critical programs. In some cases, Federal Investigation Agency used by the government to punish the actors and journalists in the name of sedition. Thus, the society will not grow or develop with this status quo, but it will allow the radical and separatists organizations to use the victimize people for their purposes. Government of Pakistan has to come forward and take a leaf from the Sindh Province to establish a human rights information Management System with the cooperation of UNDP to digitize the human rights data in the province.

The Minorities of so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan have been living under the threats of Human Rights violation and governments do not able to amend blasphemy law under the UNHRC. The religious groups are dominated, even though they are not getting the majority in the mainstream government. Death penalty is abolished by the UNHRC, but 40 people remained on death row as late of 2020. Furthermore, Asif Pervaiz, a Christian man accused of sending a blasphemous text, was sentenced to death by a Lahore trial court. The role of Islamic ideological council is worth mentioning here; by utilizing it, all the stakeholders should reach at the consensus which is the need of time.

Abuses against women and girls are another important challenge of Human Rights in Pakistan. Human rights defenders estimate that roughly 1000 women are killed in so called honor killings every year. Furthermore, the cases of domestic violence increased 200 percent from January-March 2020 and COVID 19 added fuel to the fire. Women are not facing adequate facilities at workplaces, prison, home, and hospitals. There is dire need of another Afia Siddique,  philanthropist, social activist, and a leading  lawyer of Pakistan, is compulsory for promoting women rights and supporting women on legal ground. As rightly said by Former General Secretary of UN Ban Ki Moon, “Gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge for our time”.

Pakistan law enforcement agencies were responsible for human rights violation, including detention without charge and extra judicial killings. Pakistan failed to enact a law criminalizing torture despite Pakistani’s obligation to do so under the Convention against Torture. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest populations facing execution as 4600 prisoners are on death row. Gender identity and disability rights are equally important Human rights in the modernized world, but Pakistan is lacking behind to meet these challenges. The Commissioner of Karachi, During locked down, promised to ensure that transgender community received health care and other social services without discrimination.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is remarkable for the Disability Rights. The Apex Court took notice that Pakistan should meet the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Pakistan ratified in 2011. Pakistani law requires that 2 percent of people employed by an establishment be people with disabilities. On other hand, over 5 million primary school-age children in Pakistan were out of school, most of them girls. And COVID-19 added 45 million more children which have affected and not able to continue learning due to low internet connectivity. The authority of Pakistan should take notice of these basic rights of the society if Pakistan want to meet target of Human Rights.

“Today, poverty prevails as the gravest human rights challenge in the world. Combating poverty, deprivation and exclusion is not a matter of charity, and it does not depend on how rich a country is. By tackling poverty as a matter of human rights obligation, the world will have a better chance of abolishing this scourge in our lifetime…  Poverty eradication is an achievable goal”. UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour “. The words of Louise Arbour are still valid after 15 years.

As the matter of fact that this is smaller picture of Human Rights Violation, if I define comprehensive, I will have to write another blog for complete reflections. But the thing is that how much we learn from this short piece of writing and realized the gravity of Human Rights.

“To deny people their rights are the challenge their very humanity”  (Nelson Mandela)

About the Author: Muhammad Owais is a Geologist and an Educationist with an aim to work for environment, climate, and sustainable development. He is an Alumni of American E Teacher 2020, Professional Mentor for Jobs Preparation & offering Online Preparatory Classes for all Government jobs. He stands up to review the educational curriculum that spurs the motivation among students of climate change that is the only way forward.