ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Monday criticised the Foreign Office for being outmoded and failing to complement her efforts for highlighting human rights abuses in India-held Kashmir at the international forums.
Speaking at a seminar on ‘Human Rights Diplomacy’ organised by the Ministry of Human Rights, Ms Mazari said the international order was now being run through an increasing number of treaties and conventions, to which most of the countries, including Pakistan, had acceded.
She regretted that the FO had not kept pace with change and there was a hidebound refusal to realise the changing nature of diplomacy.
There are seven international human rights conventions to which Pakistan is party — International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention against Torture, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention on the Rights of the Child and The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Mazari says Foreign Office has not kept pace with change
Pakistan, she noted, had benefited by committing to fulfil obligations under these conventions like preferential trade agreement with the European Union, but still the FO did not acknowledge the centrality of human rights diplomacy in inter-state relations. One of the obvious consequences of the FO not giving due importance to human rights, she maintained, were missed opportunities to fully expose rights abuses by India in the occupied valley.
The human rights minister pointed out that after India’s annexation of occupied Kashmir on Aug 5, she wrote letters to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on use of cluster bombs by India across the LoC; 18 HR special procedures mandate holders; and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs seeking a humanitarian corridor under international humanitarian law for the people of the occupied valley. Similarly, she said, she highlighted violations of UNSC Resolution 1325 by India and its use of rape as a weapon of war.
However, she regretted, there was then no follow-up by the FO.
“Had there been a greater awareness of these (precedents), we could have lobbied for seeking an advisory opinion (of ICJ) through UNGA on Indian annexation of occupied Kashmir,” she added.
Dr Mazari recommended an overhaul of the foreign policy infrastructure to align it with modern-day requirements. She further called for thematic emphasis on human rights diplomacy. This, she maintained, would also deal with selective application of human rights by a few countries.
The human rights minister also criticised western countries, which claim to be standard-bearers of human rights, for ignoring the excesses by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar too underscored the need for making human rights a central pillar of the foreign policy formulation and execution. He said it was important not just to speak up about issues that were close to “our heart, but against all human rights violations wherever they are occurring”.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly believed in morality in foreign policy and supporting the right thing.
The Kashmir dispute, he said, had several dimensions, but the predominant one was that of human rights and that was how the PTI government was dealing with it.
Former Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, who is currently director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, said that while there had been positives about promotion of human rights, at the same time this pretext had been negatively used to malign opponents for browbeating them and in other cases grave violations were ignored because of geo-political compulsions.
Mr Chaudhry observed that Pakistan too had been a victim of international maligning in the name of human rights, when western countries used issues like blasphemy, minority rights, child labour, and death penalty to questioning its human rights record.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019