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Equal citizenship possible if minorities given structural embrace, moot told

Barrister Shahida Jamil, former federal minister for law, justice, parliamentary affairs and human rights, has said the Pakistan movement had been through continuous turbulence as there was a desire to push the Muslims towards poverty, and not to give them any political or human rights.

The Muslims were the special target and they sacrificed their lives for the creation of this country, she said on Wednesday while talking on the fourth interactive series of ‘ZU Dialogues’, titled, ‘Human Rights Vision 2020 & Beyond’, to mark International Human Rights Day organised by Ziauddin University. The online session of dialogues was broadcasted live on the ZU facebook page.

The aim behind this online dialogue session was to enhance the knowledge and understanding of human rights, and foster attitudes of tolerance, respect, solidarity and responsibility, besides developing skills for protecting human rights.

Jamil said that on women’s rights, all credit goes to the women of the earlier generation for standing up and fighting for the rights of women. It was really appreciable the way they started the women rights movement and broke all the seals of conservativeness so that we could move forward without any kind of fence in our way. “Value human rights, talk about human rights, keep struggling for human rights, try to exercise your rights without harming the rights of others.”

Hina Jilani, founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women’s Action Forum, expressed her views about marginalisation issues. “Look at your own constitution of 1973”, which clearly showed that state and society both played vital roles in marginalisation, she said, adding that the Objective Resolutions clearly gave priority to the majority population of this country according to their religion, sect, and gender. “This superiority makes a strong bond of the majority population of the people over other minorities.”

Jilani though there was a big difference between “tolerance” and “adjustment”. She said minorities shouldn’t be tolerated; rather, they should be adjusted, and there should be a structure plan for them in the state.

“We should give respect to their beliefs. In fact, there has been discrimination within the minorities for the last three to four decades.”

Minorities, she said, were only recognised as non-Muslim according to the constitution. “Neither we are homogeneous nor we will be. Different levels of citizenship would be created if the state continuously injects a lesson of superiority to some majority population.”

Talking about the women’s rights, Jilani said women’s rights had always been suppressed because of political sensitivity and religious sensitivity. Over the decades, women had been working really hard for getting their rights through different movements, but, unfortunately, the state and some specific groups of society always created barriers in the ways of women, added.

Saroop Ijaz, senior counsel for Asia Division, Human Rights Watch, said: “We have failed to grant and secure minority rights both at institutional level and societal level. It includes the fundamental basis of equality of citizenship for minorities, equality of citizenship for women, equality of citizenship for ethnic minorities. Sadly, we have replicated the faith-based class system. We need to make the public aware about societal tolerance for inclusion, mistreatment of societies for prejudice. Currently, we have a challenge for not being a majoritarian. In Pakistan, the concept of democracy is confused with majoritarianism that is turning out to be a big problem.”

On the question about refugees, he said: “We have welcomed the world’s largest population of Afghan refugees on our land even after knowing that we do have our own existing issues. But here, the issue is that we haven’t followed any legal instruments or any legal law for refugees, which means they are living here without following any legal law due to which we saw an increased crackdown, mistreatment, discrimination, arrest, forcible repatriation, etc., which is against the international law. We need to fight terrorism not because of FATF but because we need to fight it for the people of Pakistan.”

Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim, vice chancellor, Ziauddin University, said: “Our forefathers have sacrificed their precious lives for getting this country and I feel saddened to say that even after getting independence, still we are struggling and fighting to get human rights and raise our voice. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; no one has any right to violate any human’s rights.”

The ZU Dialogues is a series of interactive panel discussions, initiated by Amir Shahzad, head of the PR & Communications department and under the supervision of Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim.

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