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Human Rights Deficit Wont Go Away By Over-Sensitivity to Criticism

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The Pakistani state has always been sensitive to any criticism, whether domestic or international. In a recent column, veteran columnist and human rights advocate, I.A. Rahman wrote that while “no country likes to be told what is wrong with it but responsible states do not dismiss criticism without assessing the element of truth contained in adverse comments on their performance. Pakistan is not among such countries. It either ignores whatever is said about its performance by friend or foe or denies the very basis of the criticism.”

According to Rahman, Pakistan’s attitude towards international human rights organizations is “characterised by crass opportunism. When these organisations assail Indian atrocities in held Kashmir it uses their observations as the most authoritative and objective denunciation of New Delhi’s perfidy. They are accepted as totally unbiased defenders of rule of law and unadulterated justice. But if they point to anything wrong in the policies or conduct of Pakistan they are accused of all possible biases. That this attitude needs to be corrected cannot be disputed. Sometimes observations by international rights bodies are unwelcome for being at variance with the official narrative. But in case of one of the issues under discussion, namely, enforced disappearances, there is no permanent official narrative.”

Further, Rahman notes that while “space for media freedom is shrinking this is is contrary to the official narrative, which holds that the media is absolutely free. This matter can be resolved by examining evidence that the two sides can produce. If the media is a victim of official acts of omission and commission as is evident in the revival of press advice in an uglier form, in discrimination in the release of state advertisements and advice to advertisers not to give ads to certain newspapers, if free circulation of any newspaper is not allowed in certain areas, if journalists ‘disappear’, if the fact of thousands of media employees becoming jobless does not attract the attention of the government, then the official narrative has no leg to stand on. It would be a great pity if in the 21st century journalists are expected to explain that encroaching on media freedom is contrary to the interests of the state and the people of Pakistan. Without a free and independent media there will be no countervailing force to prevent the people in command from dragging the state and the people into an abyss of ignominy and oblivion. Responsible societies value friends who point out their shortcomings. If Pakistan chooses any other course it cannot avoid paying the cost which might be unaffordable.”