Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Agreements on Human Rights: the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Agreement on Civil and Political Rights. These two important contracts, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensure the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights of the citizens throughout the world. The year-long campaign under the theme “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” revolves freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
The Universal Declaration begins by recognising that ‘the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. It declares that human rights are universal – to be enjoyed by all people, no matter who they are or where they live. It also includes civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and economic, social and cultural rights i.e. right to social security, health and education.
The day also calls that wherever we are, we should make a real difference through extending support and standing for others rights especially weak segments of the society against the injustice, inequalities, discrimination and human right violations. We should raise our voices peacefully and can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, effective implementation of constitutional provisions related to fundamental rights, formation of better laws and greater respect for human values.
Constitution is considered as social contract between the state and its citizens. In Pakistan, Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the 1973 Constitution as the entire chapter No. 1 of the Constitution contains articles about the fundamental rights from the articles 8 to 28. It further states that adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities, backward and depressed classes. In addition, articles No. 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantee equal citizenship and protection of rights of minorities.
The Constitution of Pakistan recognizes free primary education as a fundamental right, and after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, this sector has been devolved to the federating units. Under the law, the four federating units and other territories were bound to legislate on right to education (RTE) in pursuance of Article 25-A of the Constitution. However, despite passage of more than six years, the notification the rules of business to implement Article 25A of the Constitution, is still awaited.
The World Economic Forum’s global gender gap ranked Pakistan at a dismal 143 with a 0.556 score. Pakistan ranked just above Yemen among 144 countries, performing way behind India and Bangladesh which ranked at 87 and 72 respectively while other South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan secured 100th, 110th, 115th and 121st positions respectively.
No civilized society can make progress in absence of a regular system of justice and therefore independent and impartial judiciary is essential to do justice between different individuals, and especially between citizens and the state. The role of fearless Bar and civil society are also very important to audaciously uphold the fundamental rights of the citizens. According to World Justice Project report 2016 , in terms of Rule of Law, Pakistan has been ranked 106th among 113 countries by the, getting position only above Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Egypt, Cambodia and Venezuela. The report mentions that out of 113 countries, Pakistan ranks 97th on account of absence of corruption; 79th in terms of Open Government (whether basic laws and information in legal rights are publicized, and assesses the quality of information published by the government.
Even after long passage of 70 years, colonial laws are still being implemented and youth are not being taught about the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan. Class, creed and feudal structure are still existent as great hindrance to materialize equality of citizenship in the society.
There is also dire need to address multiple root causes of extremism and violence in the society i.e weak rule of law, bad governance, inequalities, injustices, absence of merit & transparency and shrinking political spaces especially for youth & marginalized segments of society. Policies to counter violence and extremism should be diverse and holistic. Effective implementation of National Action Plan is still in limbo to promote pluralism, religious tolerance and improving governance.
The effective functioning of existing institutions i.e. judiciary, Functional Committee on Human Rights constituted by the Senate of Pakistan, National Commission for Human Rights and Human Rights Cell of Supreme Court of Pakistan can be greatly helpful in improving state of human rights in Pakistan.