NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 09

Human rights: Theory and practice

Certain rights that cannot be violated at all in any condition 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 these terms, protection is given to different rights such as freedom of speech, access to information, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and the (conditional) right to bear arms. Government is the custodian of the rights with irrespective of political, communal, religious, sectarian, and other affiliation with a particular segment of society. However, the condition of human rights in Pakistan remained volatile during different military and democratic reigns because of some social, legal, institutional, and other unavoidable factors.

Basic rights which have been enshrined in the Constitution of 1973 safeguard the rights of all and sundry to lead a life without any discrimination. The Constitution, no doubt, articulates perfectly the natural rights which provide a reasonable environment to all citizens of the country to lead a peaceful life. Articles from 8 to 28, as mentioned in the 1st chapter of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, ensure the protection of fundamental rights of peoples of Pakistan, grounded on the principle of equality. The primary rights as mentioned in the legal instrument are as no person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with law; safeguard as to arrest and detention; all arrested person must be informed of grounds of their arrest, they have the right to consult and defended by a lawyer of their choice; right of fair trial; slavery, forced labor is prohibited and no child under the age of 14 years be employed in factory and mines; there shall be protection against retrospective punishment; there shall be protected against double punishment and self-incrimination; freedom of movement; freedom of assembly for all citizens; freedom of association for all citizens; there shall be freedom of trade, business and profession for all citizens; freedom of speech for all citizens; all citizens shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance; freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institution in the country; safeguard against the taxation for the purposes of any particular religion; safeguard as to educational institutes in respect of religion etc.; all citizens have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of the property in any part of Pakistan; protection of property rights of owners; all citizens are equal and there shall be no discrimination on bases of sex etc.; free and compulsory education to all children of age 5 to 16 by Government; no discrimination in respect of access to public places; safeguard against discrimination in services; and all citizens have the right to preserve their particular language, script and culture and many more.

However, there is a prolonged challenge of conflict between theory and practice that is being faced by the country in each institution since its emergence. 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 examined. Similarly, non-intervention is the basic principle of the Constitution, but history is a witness that how intra-departmental intervention and institutional leg-pulling detracted the democratic process. The same thing is being repeated with the articles because of those the Constitution is known as the “custodian of human rights”. Social, political, and legal indicators depict that the gap between theory and practice regarding human rights in Pakistan is widening day by day. Rules are enough, but the fair implementation of the rules is the enduring challenge that is portraying the negative face of the country before the rest of the world.

Women rights in the country are always under threat because of a low literacy rate, the commitment of the public to cultural relativistic practices, women subjugation, and a low ratio of women participation in social, political, economic and legal spheres. Still, our society is known as androcentric because females are less empowered, and their basic right to education and freedom is undermined. Domestic violence against women is another issue.

Because of violence, nearly 5000 women are killed every year, with thousands of others maimed or disabled, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016. Furthermore, the survey articulates reality by stating that an estimated 2,134,900 people are enslaved in modern-day Pakistan, or 1.13% of the population. Arresting journalists, women subjugation, child labour, child abuse, poor education, the ascendency of private educational institutions for primary and secondary education, delayed justice, environmental degradation, and ethnic and religious discrimination against minorities are the most awful violations of human rights in the country.

Our government should wipe out impediments to the way of attaining the pure spirit of human rights. It should also remove the gap between theory and practice by implementing the 28 articles fairly. Thus, citizens of the country may enjoy their natural rights, blessed by God, irrespective of any discrimination. These non-derogable rights are not to be violated at any coast, 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.