Press Release – ISSI In-House Commemoration Human Rights Day

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Press Release
ISSI In-House Commemoration
Human Rights Day
December 10, 2020

The Centre of Strategic Perspective (CSP) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organized and in-house meeting to commemorate the International Human Rights Day. Remarks were made by the representatives of the Centres of Excellence at ISSI. In his introductory remarks, Director CSP, Mr. Najam Rafique stated that in an increasingly fragmented and contentious institutional and political environment, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a symbol of unity. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, he said that human rights begin close to home, unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.

In his opening remarks, Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry stated that human rights come in two different variations; one led by the West that is more individual oriented e.g. right to liberty, speech; the second is the eastern philosophy of collective human rights. He was of the view that in a society like Pakistan, collective human rights run supreme whether in term of national spirit, religion or otherwise. However, both individual and collective rights carry the same importance and should be recognized respectively. He further stated that many nations in the West make use of human rights for their own political agenda and the larger issue of human rights unfortunately becomes another whip in their hand.  

Sarah Akram, Research Fellow at CSP said that this day is a reminder to all nations across the globe to adhere to the protection and perseverance of human rights and values. Ms. Akram highlighted that Pakistan’s firm commitment to uphold, promote and safeguard human rights is evident through its membership of the UN and OIC Human Rights Council.

Speaking on the issue of Women’s Rights, Ms. Areeba Arif, Research Associate at the Centre for Middle East and Africa (CMEA) stated that the contribution of women to a society’s transition from pre-literate to literate is undeniable. Women can transform a community from a relatively autonomous society to a participant in the national economy. She further stated that women can bring peace, security, and prosperity to a society.

Highlighting the Rights of Children, Ms. Amina Rafiq, Research Associate at the Arms Control and Disarmament Centre (ACDC) highlighted some of the most important rights of the children, which include right to life, survival, health and growth, identity, family and safety and security. She further stated that Islam has placed a lot of importance on children’s rights and their upbringing which is evident by the huge number of Quranic injunctions and Hadiths.

Mr. Sherbaz Khetran, Research Fellow at China-Pakistan Study Centre (CPSC) spoke on the Right to Education. He stated that the right to education has been recognized as a human right in a number of international conventions. Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan guarantees the free and compulsory education from 5 to 16 years old children. However, Pakistan still struggles from the menace of unequal education system. He stressed on the need to adopt an equal education system nationwide in order to improve the literacy rate.

Ms. Misbah Mukhtar, Research Associate at India Study Centre (ISC) shed light on the Right to Self-determination, an aspect recognized in the United Nations charter. Initially set as a framework to address colonization, the Right to Self-determination became a principle proponent of the UN charter in the 1960s – a principle that became universally applicable on all states. However, the same principle has failed to be practiced as well as exercised with regards to the issue of Indian occupied Kashmir. It has gone on a further decline since the revocation of Article 370 with minimum to no rights of self-determination, expression or speech in Indian occupied Kashmir.

In his concluding remarks, Chairman Board of Governor, ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, said that post World War II, human rights have gained immense importance throughout the globe. The declaration made by the UN became the Magna Carta of human rights as it laid special importance to the issue and many countries today follow the same declaration set by the UN. He stated that Pakistan is an active participant internationally in leading the issue of human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir and has been able to expose their violations by India. At the national level, Pakistan has lacked in its performance because of lack of institutional capacity and has received mixed response.

Ending the commemoration, Mr. Rafique, Director CSP said that while the world has been able to address a lot of human rights issues there is much that needs to be done.