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KARACHI: HR activists seek basic rights for every citizen

December 11, 2002

KARACHI, Dec 10: Speakers at various functions, held here on Tuesday in connection with the International Human Rights Day, emphasized the need for creating awareness among the masses on human rights so that the prevailing deplorable situation could be improved.

They also demanded repealing of all the laws found to be discriminatory against women, children, minorities and the marginalized sections of the society. The called for the immediate restoration of the 1973 Constitution.

At a seminar on Constitutional and Judicial Interferences in Democratization of the Country, held at the local press club, speakers appealed to the nation, divided on the basis of caste, creed, sect and religion, to forge unity in order to foil the nefarious designs of those responsible for the division. They observed that ruling cliques and their cronies had always worked together to divide the nation on these grounds so as to achieve their goal of weakening the masses.

The speakers said that the tyrant forces never wanted to see the masses strong enough to demand their basic rights.

They said “a country loses its prestige and respect in the comity of nations if its citizens are deprived of their fundamental rights.”

They criticised the government for wasting a major chunk of the national budget in non-developmental activities and demanded curtailment of such expenditures and ensure availability of adequate funds for education, health and social sectors besides development projects.

The speakers also lambasted the Establishment for meddling in the political process saying that masses did not want “controlled and tailored democracies’. People want pure democracy, they said adding that people had not been granted their due political rights in the country. They regretted that Constitutions had been abolished and tampered with many a times in the country’s history.

They attributed the dismemberment of the country in 1971 to the Establishment’s refusal to respect the people’s mandate.

Expressing regrets over the pathetic condition of majority of Pakistanis, especially in the rural areas, they said that even potable water could not have been ensured in more than five decades.

Afrasiyab Khattack, chief of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), lamented that amendments to the Constitution had been made through press conferences and the violators of Constitution elected as the head of the state.

Referring to the diversification in the government’s foreign policy, particularly on Afghanistan, Mr Khattack said that if the new policy was correct, then those who had formulated the previous one should be tried in courts. He also demanded that Hamudur Rehman Commission report be followed and those held responsible in it for crimes be put to trial.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, a former chief justice of Pakistan,criticized the ‘doctrine of necessity’ saying that it meant legitimizing what was illegal. He said that the doctrine should never be followed. He also called for the trial of those who have violated the Constitution as per the Constitution.

He regretted that sometimes even political parties gave concessions to such people in exchange of share in power.

Dr Manzoor Ahmed, a former vice chancellor of Karachi University, said that people would have to struggle hard and offer sacrifices to get their rights. He opined that the vested interests would not grant them their due rights easily. He hoped that with many organizations highlighting the human rights issues, the masses had become more sensible. He expressed his hope that they would succeed in achieving their fundamental rights soon.

Prof Mushtaq Mirani, Dr Shahida Wazarat, Anees Haroon, Rukhsana Aslam Martin, Bishop Ejaz, Javed Qazi, Prof Ejaz Qureshi, Hussain Bux Thebo were among those spoke on the occasion.

A street theatre performance, highlighting human rights issues, was one of the features of the event.

JUVENILE JAIL: A function was organized jointly by the noted artiste and social worker, Jimmy Engineer, and the federal Law, Justice and Human Rights Division, at the Juvenile Jail to mark the International Human Rights Day.

Jimmy Engineer said though many functions were being held in hotels and clubs to observe the day, he had organized the function for the children.

The children participated in various sports competitions held withinthe prison. The stage and television artist, Farzana Naz, presented national and folk songs on the occasion.

The prison presently has 395 children and 260 women inmates. Some 62 minors are in the jail with their mothers as there was no one to take care of them. Owing to the remission given by the government in Ramazan, 26 boys and 14 women were released.

The Regional Director of the Human Rights Division, Mazahir Hussain, Jail chief, Sheeba Shah, Ilyas A. Kushtiwala and others spoke on the occasion.

HELPLINE: A helpline for the workers rights was launched jointly by the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (PILER) and Movement for Labour Rights (MLR) at a function at Rafia Chaudhry Auditorium. Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed formally launched the organization.

Speakers on the occasion said that a large number of workers did not know about their rights. He advised them to approach the Helpline and get the required information. They said that it would also help greatly a large number of workers who were not members of trade unions.

Justice (r) Rasheed A. Razvi, Manzoor Ahmad, Ahsanullah Khan, Fareed Awan, Qamarul Hassan and others delivered speeches at the ceremony.

SEMINAR: A seminar on No Cause Is Worthier Than The Cause Of Human Rights was also organized, in connection with the Human Rights Day, jointly by the United Nations Information Centre and the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid at the Muslim Gymkhana.