Posts Tagged ‘The News (Pakistan)’

The Asma Jahangir legacy

October 22, 2019

Asma Jahangir is rightly considered one of the foremost human rights defenders of our time [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/]. So, the two-day ‘Asma Jahangir Conference 2019Roadmap for Human Rights’ which concluded in Lahore, Pakistan on 20 October 2019 is fully justified. The News carries a long report on the meeting in which some 120 jurists, politicians, human rights defenders and media people acted as panellists from Pakistan, England, America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden and Afghanistan. Thousands of students, attended the sessions. They all resolved to carry forward the legacy of Asma Jahangir, who fought relentlessly against dictatorial forces and always sought due process of law, equality for women and protection of minorities in the country.

(Former) Politicians dominated the panels but other speakers at the sessions paid tribute to Asma Jahangir and appreciated her commitment to human rights with a resolve to uphold the rule of law and struggle for women’s rights. Munaza Hassan spoke of women’s right to inheritance. Daughter of Asma Jahangir and journalist Munizae Jahangir, who conducted the session, said: “It is a rare moment when all political parties are seen on the same platform.” She said that politicians conveniently forget to protect fundamental rights and right to expression when in they assume power. She said: “We are convinced that without freedom of the media, the rule of law and guarantees of security to human rights defenders, neither democracy nor justice, is possible. The main challenge to development of Pakistan and the rights of its citizens is a national security state. Until the national security is subservient, no other initiative in economy, health, education and rule of law can find success.

The day began with a short film on Asma Jahangir receiving the Right Livelihood Award, produced by True Heroes Films, where she spoke of growing expectations of citizens as far as what the governments should deliver. And governments falling ever further behind, internationally this gap of creative impulses of society on one side and governments dragging their feet on the other, has been the key engine of human rights challenges. Despite threats to her life, she spoke of never leaving Pakistan as it is a place where she has received most love and affection.

As a continuation of the discussion on ‘Art inspires politics’, Munizae Jahangir conducted a panel discussion on ‘How women can build bridges for peace in South Asia’. Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Afghan politician Fawzia Koofi, human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka Bhavani Fonseka, Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson and former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal opined that peace in South Asia was a prerequisite to securing women’s fundamental rights and the resources should be directed towards socio-economic areas rather than the military. Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Award-winning novelist Mohammad Hanif, Christian Caryl of the Washington Post, Wusat Ullah Khan, Ms Aisha Sarwari and Iqbal Khattak participated in the discussion on the role of social media.

Dr Bahia talked about the centrality of human rights in a thriving democratic society, and also the role of her government in supporting human rights initiatives all-over the world, including Pakistan. Aisha Sarwari talked about how women are systematically excluded from law-making process and, therefore, law-making concerning social media. She said it is essential for the social and economic development of all countries for women to be able to use the media as disruptive technology and end permission culture. Wusat Ullah Khan mentioned that the social media gives space to freedom, but also makes people extremely vulnerable. He said freedom of speech is part of a bouquet – you cannot talk about freedom of speech without talking about right to life and education and freedom of religion.

Iqbal Khattak, country representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF), spoke about the need for digital safety training and how one should protect oneself by disengaging with trolls. He particularly highlighted threats, accusations of blasphemy as threats that should be taken very seriously. He strongly encouraged use of PICA laws for individuals to seek online protection. He also highlighted Pakistan’s considerable investment in controlling social media spaces and vigilance on part of civil society. The Government of Pakistan should take social media as fundamental right.

On fighting the culture of shame and silence, woman rights activist Uzma Noorani, British professor of human rights Ms Siobhan Mullally, provincial Ombudsperson Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rukshanda Naz, Pakistan People’s Party leader Nafisa Shah, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fouzia Viqar said that there should be universality of rights, for all excluded communities including women and marginalised remote communities.

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On ‘Silencing civil society’, Ms Fareeda Shahid moderated the session of Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. Ms Zohra Yusuf, human rights activist and council member of HRCP, Mohammad Tehsin, convener of Pakistan Civil Society National Forum, law expert Asad Jamal said registered civil society organisations should be allowed to function, 2013 policy of banning CSOs should be challenged. Mass communication needed to change narratives.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/544102-thousands-resolve-to-carry-forward-asma-jahangir-legacy