A two-day Asma Jahangir conference concluded, here on Sunday with the resolve to raise voice for the supremacy of law and protection of human rights.
The conference attracted hundreds of people and several eminent personalities, included, politicians, diplomats, lawyers, judges, journalists, activists, and students from different countries participated in the “Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights”.
While addressing different sessions of the conference, the panelists discussed at length topics such as freedom of electronic and print media, human rights crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, opportunities for women in the field of law, upholding the rule of law, conflict in Afghanistan, and the global experience of women in the legal profession.
Conference ended with the concluding remarks of Asma Jahangir’s daughter, Sulema Jahangir. She recounted her mother’s journey from 1983 for demanding women’s rights and how she along with a group of lawyers organized them and wrote bail petitions for poor female prisoners.
Speakers paid rich tributes to human rights champion Asma Jahangir for dedicating her life to service of humanity, particularly marginalized communities.
European Union Ambassador Dr Bahia Tahzib while addressing the session “Asma’s Legacy: paid rich tributes to late Asma Jahangir for her services and commitment in protecting human rights. Several foreign delegates also highlighted their work with Asma Jahangir and the centrality of human rights issues to sustainable development around the world.
Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Syed Amjad Shah highlighted international challenges to human rights, including refugees in Syria and Palestine. Bangla Desh Judge Khatun Sapnara spoke about access to justice and how academics, activists and experts must come together to redefine parameters of law to give practical support to children and women.
He also mentioned grave challenges facing the judiciary and serious questions raised from the accountability process. He remembered Asma Jahangir and her clear-minded presence.
Balochistan Bar Council President Manzoor Ahmed said articles 8 to 28 were about fundamental rights, but were not freely given by the state and had to be fought for. “Those who say they got power through democratic means are lying,” he said. “Our political parties have deeply disappointed us.”
Kashmiri journalist Tariq Naqash and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front spokesperson Rafiq Dar called for solid steps to help Kashmiris get freedom in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. He said that Pakistan’s government failed to do anything concrete except holding seminars and speeches despite the ongoing curfew in Indian Occupied Kashmir imposed by army 76 days ago.
He said that the sufferings of the people of Kashmir could not be explained in words since Indian Prime Minister Modi had been implementing his evil plan step by step. He also came down hard on the Pakistani government for doing nothing and just demanding India to lift the curfew from the Occupied Kashmir.
He urged that Pakistan should present the face of Kashmiris on all international forums. He said the Indian Occupied Kashmir was not a dispute between Pakistan and India but it is a matter of freedom and Pakistan is standing with Kashmiris.
Panelists also agreed that Pakistan must actively lobby and continue to engage with international bodies on Kashmir at each and every forum. Everywhere in the world today states are getting the message that it is acceptable to go rogue, they argued.
The panel on ‘Upholding the Rule of Law’ resolved that laws must be just and equitable. Rules made illegally by individuals and rules that are made for the benefit or the exclusion of a few are not rule of law.
The challenges to rule of law in Pakistan include an all-encompassing opportunism and a constant national neurosis that portrays that while force is essential to our survival; just laws are a dispensable luxury. These challenges to the rule of law must be confronted by all citizens and institutions.
The panel on the Afghanistan Conflict included Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Omar Zakhiwal, Ms Kathy Gannon. Achakzai said the region is crying for peace which may remain elusive until there is implementation of a just system that ensures fundamental rights for all, especially women and minorities.
Panelists agreed that while Afghanistan is going through transitions on many fronts, the socio-economic upheavals in society were key de-stabilizers. Fawzia Koofi highlighted that one of the vital issues is the betterment of the condition of women, in each and every village of the country, which must not be lost sight of.
The former chief minister Balochistan, Akthar Mangal, Pakistan People’s party leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nafeesa Shah and lot of leaders and party workers participated in the conference and also spoke on the occasion.