Missing Persons, Missing Commitment

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a document that has guided and enshrined the global struggle to ensure each individual’s freedom and dignity.

The day serves to reaffirm our commitment to this cause, but it also presents us with a moment of self-reflection; to gauge how far each country has come to ensuring universal Human Rights. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s record is patchy to say the least, and troubling than most countries. While advances have certainly been made over the past year, Pakistan still suffers from the curse of enforced disappearances, discrimination on religious grounds, and gender based violence.

Earlier this year Pakistan’s election as a member state of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council by the body’s General Assembly was widely hailed across the country. In light of that Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi congratulated the country on its “diplomatic success” on her Twitter account and said that the “victory is a manifestation of the international community’s trust in Pakistan”. However, that victory rings hollow in light of the events taking place across the country.

Activists and journalists have been ‘disappearing’ on a regular basis, and all of them seem to be abducted for speaking out against the state and the establishment. Most recently, Raza Mahmood Khan, a rights activist from Lahore – the convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative to help students from India and Pakistan send each other messages and paintings depicting peace – has been missing since December 2nd. His house was ransacked and his personal computer taken. The day the world – and hopefully the Pakistani government too – will be commemorating its commitment to Human Rights various activists, such as Amnesty International, and friends and family of Raza Mahmood Khan will be protesting in front of government for his recovery.

He is not the only one to suffer for speaking freely. Earlier this year, the news of five activists going missing had shocked observers home and abroad. While four of them were later returned, Syed Samar Abbas, president of the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan, remains missing. The unspoken and undisputed conclusion across the country is; their criticism of the state is the reason for their woes.

Unless the state delivers on its promise to end enforced disappearances and ensure freedom of expression, Pakistan will remain an enduring blot on the global Human Rights protection map.

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