Where we really stand in the world: Only 1 Pakistani University in Top 500 in world

In the recently released Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2020, there is only one Pakistani university in the top 500 — Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) is in the 401-500 bracket of this ranking.

Of the 1400 universities across 92 countries that form part of this ranking, there are 14 Pakistani universities. There are 56 Indian universities in the rankings with 6 Indian universities in the top 500 and 1 in the top 350. China and Japan form 45 percent of the Asian entries, and even Iran has 40 universities.

As a Dawn report stated Pakistani universities need to take international rankings seriously because “participation in rankings brings a positive competition; it raises participants’ international standing and improves job market for graduates of those universities. And the main contending points in the ranking race are research, teaching, international outlook, industry income and recognition through citations in recognised journals. Unfortunately, these important areas are not our mind, hence there are no world-class elite institutions in Pakistan.”

In a country with the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) — an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school – and where the majority of the state’s resources go into the military, it is no surprise that education is not given its due.

Pakistani Human Rights activist rendered stateless by Deep State

The citizen of every country has a fundamental right to a passport and no one should be deprived of this right simply because the state does not agree or like his / her actions or work. Baseer Naveed, a highly respected human rights defender, has been rendered stateless by the government of Pakistan which has deprived him of his passport, freedom of movement and the right to adopt a nationality of his choice.

In a recent plea the International Human Rights Council, Hong Kong (IHRC-HK) stated concern “about the malicious and unlawful actions of government of Pakistan against its Executive Director, Mr. Abdul Baseer Naveed who has become the Stateless—neither is he citizen of Pakistan nor of Hong Kong, where he has been residing since 2006.  The Pakistani government has deprived him of his passport, freedom of Movement and right to adopt nationality of his choice.”

Baseer has been a “permanent resident of Hong Kong since 2013, he applied for naturalization of SAR in 2017 which was approved by department of Immigration of Hong Kong on February 12, 2018 he was asked to provide renunciation of his Pakistani nationality and Passport. Mr. Baseer duly applied for renunciation through Pakistan Consulate in Hong Kong, on February 21, 2018. He received the cancellation of his national identity card from NADRA on 29.06.2018. His renunciation was approved in May 2017 by the Immigration and Passport office of Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan. However, in the meantime, some intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Consulate general of Pakistan, Hong Kong submitted adverse reports against him and the same department has cancelled his Renunciation on August 27, 2019, saying “Renunciation Certificate of Pakistan Citizenship cannot be issued as your credentials have not been verified/ recommended by concerned security agency.” Meanwhile Mr. Baseer’s passport expired on August 11, 2019 and as the Consulate of Pakistan has kept his passport, Mr. Baseer was also deprived of his passport. The situation has become precarious for Mr. Baseer who has been  rendered stateless which is unethical and illegal as provided by international norms and conventions. He will not be able to go outside Hong Kong nor will he be able to return to Pakistan.”

As an elected member of United Nations Human Rights Commission, Pakistan must abide by its Conventions and Covenants. “The Universal Declaration Human Rights (UDHR)  Article 15 of the UDHR provides that “everyone has the right to a nationality” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. citizenship and the right to be free from arbitrary deprivation of citizenship is a human rights requiring  all states  to respect the human rights of all individuals without distinction. Article 12 of the ICCPR prohibits arbitrarily deprivation of the right to enter his own country. The General Assembly, in its resolution 50/152, also recognized the fundamental nature of the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality. International conventions require States to introduce safeguards to prevent statelessness caused due to loss or deprivation of nationality.”

In its appeal IHRC-HK said “The government of Pakistan should stop the arbitrative actions against the human rights defenders. The concerned officials must be instructed to immediately issue the renunciation certificate to Mr. Baseer which has been pending before the Pakistani Mission Hong Kong and take action against the concerned officers of Pakistan Mission, Hong Kong for keeping his case in limbo for more than a year and three months. We hope that the issue be amiably resolved without causing any further undue delays and hardship to our Executive Director.”

Rise in custodial deaths troublesome, say activists

A steady rise in deaths in police custody has led to public outrage which may help force reforms in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. As New Pakistan recently reported, there have been several recent cases related to custodial deaths: A man’s death in custody was attributed to a heart attack and a woman’s death to hemorrhage. As human rights activists note, these explanations are unacceptable.

In a recent oped titled ‘Roots of Custodial deaths,’ leading human rights activist I.A. Rahman wrote “Death caused by fear of torture cannot be accepted as natural. A police comment on Salahuddin’s death by torture was that he was making big money, ie torturing him was justified. Now the use of smartphones at police stations has been banned across Punjab; this will not end torture in custody. In fact, people will be deprived of a source of information about police excesses. Obviously, police officers, at least many of them, are surprised at the outcry over a routine practice that has always been known to the top police echelons and the government — in fact, has often been encouraged by both.”

Rahman discusses two issues, that of deaths in police stations and torture at unauthorised detention centres. “Deaths in police custody occur when suspects succumb to torture, which is all that investigation and interrogation mean. All suspects are tortured to extract confession. No article of the Constitution is abused more than Article 14 (2) which, unfortunately, bars torture only if it is used to extract evidence. There is evidence to establish that there have been alliances between politicians and policemen to kill citizens. The way the law enforcement agencies have been kept unaware of modern, non-violent means of investigation betrays a streak of sadism in the state’s mindset. Deaths at police stations will continue so long as the archaic, torture-based methods of investigation remain in vogue. That suspects are often tortured at unauthorised places of detention has been known to the government and citizens for decades. These torture dens have been found in police functionaries’ official quarters, rented premises and even in a mosque.”

According to Rahman, “the roots of custodial death, however, lie outside the police domain. For about a decade, the state has been lowering its respect for citizens’ rights to life, liberty and security. Laws have been made to provide for long periods of detention without trial. The killing of journalists and other human rights defenders, as well as enforced disappearances, are glossed over without remorse. The state is not ­bothered about a moral justification for its system of rule, and relies more on force than reason. It has also become more vengeful than ever. As a result, people are becoming more and more violent and brutalised. They cannot settle even petty differences through peaceful exchanges, and reason has been replaced with firepower. Children are beaten to death by parents and teachers. Besides, protesters against custodial deaths are limited to the victims’ families. No death in custody has bought the people out into the streets in thousands, as happens in many other parts of the world.”

Finally Rahman notes that Pakistan “needs a new people-friendly police law that will offer citizens firm protection against custodial death.” To this end, he states, a “bill to ban corporal punishment has been pending in the Senate for years for want of clearance by the Council of Islamic Ideology and the relevant Senate committee’s approval. What will the world say about a country where corporal punishment is defended as part of the people’s (or some senators’) culture? Death in custody, killing of children by parents and teachers, and pumping of bullets into the corpses of missing persons are symptoms of a terribly sick society and a state that has lost its way. Nothing short of radical changes in the system of governance and social structures will enable the people of Pakistan to redeem themselves as a civilised community.”

Concerns regarding police custody deaths

Deaths in police custody have been on the rise in Pakistan, especially the province of Punjab. According to police records, five prisoners have died in police custody over the last three years. Analysts believe that conditions in lock-ups are a major contributing factor. Last week alone in Punjab, there were three incidents involving death in custody in Lahore, Gujjarpura and Rahimyar Khan.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has taken serious note of four incidents involving suspects’ deaths in police custody. “The latter case, in which Salahuddin Ayubi, a mentally disabled man accused of robbery, died allegedly as a result of custodial torture has, understandably, led to public outrage. Yet torture and ill treatment in custody are entrenched practices that are considered at best ‘acceptable’ and, at worst, ‘necessary’. Moreover, there are invariably delays in the post-mortem reports that should follow on the heels of any allegations of custodial death. Earlier, in August, HRCP investigated reports that two young Hindu boys in Mirpur Khas – accused of murder – were allegedly tortured to death while in custody.”

According to the global watchdog Human Rights Watch, “despite the establishment of model police stations, there has been little meaningful change in the system of imprisonment. Suspects spend an unnecessary amount of time lying lock-ups and waiting for authorities to proceed in the charges against them.”

The HRCP met with “police authorities in Punjab and Sindh, and reiterated that the use of torture and humiliating, inhuman or degrading treatment is unacceptable – irrespective of the accusation or charge. HRCP has been reassured by the authorities in Punjab that they are willing to work closely with the Commission to protect human rights standards as an integral part of police procedures. The inquiry into Salahuddin Ayubi’s death in custody is a positive sign, but respect for the inviolable human rights of those in custody must be embedded into police training and structures – matched by the necessary resources – if the police are to serve as protectors rather than antagonists. Moreover, such efforts need to be bolstered by an enforceable legal framework that criminalises torture, something on which the state must not procrastinate any longer.”

Death of a veteran political activist

On August 25, veteran trade unionist, political activist and writer Biyyothil Mohyuddin Kutty, passed away in Karachi. Mr Kutty was born in Tirur (present-day Kerala’s Malappuram) on July 15, 1930 and migrated to Pakistan in 1949. Kutty was associated with the Pakistan-India People’s Forum For Peace and Democracy.

Kutty “was jailed during the dictatorships of Gen Ayub and Gen Zia as well as during the country’s first democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. His association with Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo remained unaltered until the veteran Baloch politician breathed his last 30 years ago. He edited late Bizenjo’s auto­biography and had been latter’s political adviser for decades and secretary to Mr Bizenjo when he was Balochistan’s governor.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan held a reference in Kutty’s memory in Lahore. “HRCP’s Secretary-General Harris Khalique said that Mr Kutty’s profound interest in different facets of life was matched by his deep interest in humanity and the human condition. As a sharp-eyed chronicler of Pakistan’s politics, he is of course known for having edited In Search of Solutions: An Autobiography of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo. Mr Khalique also recalled Mr Kutty’s involvement in the World Social Forum held in Pakistan in 2006, adding that, as a veteran activist of the left, Mr Kutty had never sought to cast himself as a political leader – he remained a political worker till his last breath. HRCP’s Honorary Spokesperson I A Rehman, a long-time comrade of Mr Kutty, recalled his remarkable contribution to people’s understanding of Balochistan – its aspirations and the challenges it faced. Mr Rehman also said that Sixty Years in Self Exile: No Regrets was not just Mr Kutty’s autobiography, but also the story of Pakistan and its social and political frustrations. He remembered Mr Kutty as being driven by passion and the sense that injustice was not something to sit back and accept. Concluding the reference, Dr Mehdi Hasan, HRCP’s Chairperson, said that it was critical that Pakistan’s youth be made aware of the significance of Mr Kutty’s life and work and the principles by which he lived.”