Adopted at annual National Conference on Narratives for rights based Pakistani future, January 2016
We the peace loving citizens with our unwavering faith in our prosperous federal-democratic future salute the civic courage of 50,000 plus citizens and citizens-in-uniform who paid the highest humanly possible price to sustain Pakistani dream. We particularly acknowledge the unsung heroes like teachers, students, journalists, civil society activists, Polio workers and innocent civilians who lost their lives in the line of duty and while pursuing their routines. Contemporary history offers no such parallel.
We understand that prudent policies require effective institutional architecture for their operationalization. Today we note with a sense of satisfaction that this realization is emerging. Within the trichotomy of power we are pleased to witness that the Parliament has created National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), the Executive has once again restored full-fledged Ministry for Human Rights and the Supreme Court has an effective Human Rights Cell. We need to strengthen and scale-up these efforts to stir hope among 200 million Pakistanis. We welcome the creation of NCHR with optimism that this gift of the Parliament will meet citizen’s expectations. We anticipate that this statutory body with twin mandate of protection and promotion of fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution will nurture culture of rights and check oddly pervasive culture of impunity over violations of rights. We particularly appreciate the inclusion of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in this federal institution where Fundamental Rights otherwise have not been extended.
We appreciate that after long interval we have first-ever party-based elected Local Governments, but this right to be governed democratically at the grass-roots requires adequate fiscal and administrative devolution to serve the citizenry better. We hope for the empowered and elected Local Governments in the FATA and the Gilgit-Baltistan as well.
Nevertheless amid these positive developments we would like to flag our concern about impending threats and challenges to constitutionally acknowledged citizens’ Right to Association (Article 17 of the Constitution of 1973), especially for those who work as defenders of fundamental human rights and call for improved pro-people democratic governance. We fear that the on-going attempts to over regulate this right through executive orders will further squeeze already shrunk public sphere and civic spaces. This will serve no other purpose but will promote spiral of silence vis-à-vis civility.
We urge all pillars of the state to acknowledge and respect practical contributions and ideas advocated by the civil society for rights based peaceful society, Rule of Law and our common democratic future defined and determined by the quality of citizens’ life.
Demands for the future:
- We urge all institutions of the State to respect the sacrifices of the ordinary Pakistanis and work with democratic dedication to offer a better deal to these wretched of the earth.
- We exhort to fully democratize the Pakistani Social Contract in the idiom of federal-parliamentary democracy with citizens at its heart.
- We call for effective and empowered Local Governments as the major transactions between the citizens and the state happens at the level of Local Government..
- We demand that the statutory institutions like the NCHR, and the Right to Information Commission etc. created for the citizens with a mandate to dispense justice shall be provided sufficient financial resources in the annual budget by the Parliament and respective provincial assemblies because the unnecessary executive controls currently undermine their independence and autonomy. Only by doing so we will be able to implement the justiciable constitutional Fundamental Rights effectively.
- We sincerely think that time has arrived to go beyond mere lip-service on the Principles of Policy embedded in the Constitution-1973. We suggest that these Principles of Policy (PoP) must be prominently displayed in all offices of the State at federal, provincial and local levels as the constitution demands that each and every action of functionaries must adhere to the constitutional PoP. The Federal and the provincial governments must submit their annual mandatory reports on the implementation of the PoP and they shall be scrutinized at these parliamentary forums. We propose that the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) shall also gauge official efficiency by monitoring tangible contributions towards realization of the PoP.
- We stress for meaningful educational reforms especially in the curriculum and the textbooks. For the narrative of civility it is of utmost importance that concept of constitutionality and democratic citizenship is nurtured in the nations’ classrooms. This can happen only in an environment of complete academic freedom conducive for healthy debates and contestations on ideas in a peaceful manner. We also support and appreciate the initiative of the Senate of Pakistan for taking up the issue of the restoration of Student Unions through its Committee of the Whole.
- We urge the public and private media to devote ample time and space to promote culture of constitutionalism as part of their public service obligation. In this regard the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) must full-fill its legal mandate.