Muhammad Usman - Too long have we been privileged. Too long have we laid back and played dead as thousands of Muslims torched a Christian Colony, hundreds of pornographic videos of children were released and countless journalists were eternally silenced for uttering truths deemed unacceptable.

The Annual Report of Pakistan (2013) by Amnesty International stated countless human rights violations such as torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, attacks on health workers etc. Be it the Hindus in Umarkot, Sikhs in Peshawar, Ahmedis in Gujranwala, Christians in Joseph Colony or the Hazara community in Quetta, none have been able to move us from the confines of our comfortable dwellings as we continue to sustain our privilege. However, today I ask, should we really be proud of this "privilege"?

The situation of human rights in Pakistan is quiet complex due to a diverse population, a mixture of both Islamic and secular laws and the challenges of an Islamic democracy. According to a document of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights a total of 8,648 incidents of human rights violations were reported in the country between January 2012 and September 2015. Only a few were investigated whereas the rest never saw the break of day.

The primary hindrance in the purge of such violations is the social acceptance or norm attached to many of these transgressions. For example, violations such as honour killing, acid attacks, forced marriages and conversions are labeled Islamic by bigots. Furthermore, the post APS National Action Plan and the war against terrorism have legitimised the military's free hand. Some speculations assert that the government is a party to these egregious violations while others argue that the state apparatus is too nimble to take a stand.

When the domestic justice system fails the victim, what other recourse does he have left? The First Optional Protocol on Civil and Political rights presents individuals to communicate their case to the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Although, Pakistan is a party to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) it has chosen not to sign the First Optional Protocol.

This is counterintuitive to the current health of Pakistani society because ratifying the First Optional Protocol would enable an individual to seek recourse with the HRC. As Dr Anjum, in her paper titled "Human Rights, Humanity and Discrimination," states “these violations have a negative impact on the human rights picture of South Asia, pushing the region into social deprivation and further away from the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals."

Apart from providing refuge to the wronged, ratifying the protocol will place Pakistan in a positive light and will also aid rapport between the multiple signatories of the protocol. From a judicial perspective, such measures would also tighten the leash on the judiciary as individuals who take recourse in the international arena would unveil a skeleton in its unopened closet. Moreover, the government will align its laws with previously signed conventions as the subject of human rights will no longer be taken lightly. Internally, it is the only option available to subdue the Pakistani military’s irrepressible power.

Opponents of the Optional Protocol cleverly argue that the timing for its ratification is not right. With the nation scourged with terror, crime and poverty the Optional Protocol will just have to wait. However, as a nation that needs to grow we must realise that justice cannot and should not wait for anyone. The time for justice and the time for equality is always the present.

Other antagonists argue against the practical implementation of the protocol. They point out the difficulty in creating awareness amongst the illiterate masses. To them I say, if the uneducated people of this country do not come forward as responsible citizens then surely this country’s future is entrenched with copious violations. What they fail to understand is that no cost or burden can amount to the price of an absence of fundamental rights.

The current state of human rights violations in our homeland is a stain on the very ideology of justice for all. Yet the privileged passively sit back and play dead as others rights are trampled upon. As Martin Luther King once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

All in all, it would be naïve to assume that the Optional Protocol is a solution to each impediment of justice, however, it would certainly be one step in the right direction on the road to progress.

The writer is pursuing his bachelors’ degree from the Lahore University of Management Sciences.