Another Charter of Democracy need of the hour – OCTOBER 21, 2019


LAHORE: The Asma Jahangir Conference concluded on Sunday with addresses by political party leaders Yousuf Raza Gilani, Maryam Aurangzeb and Munazza Hassan who spoke about the struggle for democracy, political emancipation of women and the freedom of the press.

Munazza Hasan from the PTI said that while Pakistan believed in inclusion and diversity, it was important to recognise one’s own flaws.

“Women play a unique role in politics because they work across lines, and work in the hardest of circumstances,” she said.

“They bring power to the agenda. But empowerment is neither easy nor is it a fashionable word. It is in fact a political necessity.”

Journalist Munizae Jahangir, daughter of Asma Jahangir, said her mother had always respected the role of all institutions of the State but stressed that they should remain within their own limits and do their duty. She applauded the resolve of women politicians and said most private bills in the assembly were passed by women.

She also said that when politicians came to power, they did not protect fundamental rights. She said the main challenge to development of Pakistan and the rights of its citizens was misusing the concept of national security.

Maryam Aurangzeb, central spokesperson for the PML-N, said: “We have no space in our national curriculum for these matters.” “Neither do we teach them the struggles that people have made for democracy, people like Asma Jahangir and Benazir Bhutto.”

She said the country was seeing the worst kind of censorship under this government. She also stressed that a second charter of democracy must be signed.

A play dedicated to Asma Jahangir called Saira aur Maira was also performed at the Alhamra Arts Council later on.

The session on transgender rights was conducted by human rights activist Ali Dayan Hassan and affirmed that the Transgender Protection Act 2018 be enforced fully. Transgender representatives also spoke about the violence they faced.

The panel on Religious & Ethnic Minorities under Siege in South Asia was moderated by former editor Rashed Rahman, and featured Senior Researcher at CPA Ms Bhavani Fonseka, Barrister Zimran Samuel, Advocate Jalila Haider, Director of the Ibn Rushd Study Association Mr Zana Muhammad and Ms Maria Kjellsdotter Rydinger, Minster in the Church of Sweden.

Bhavani Fonseka spoke of the authoritative regimes in South Asia that marginalised communities through constitutional and political means.

Advocate Jalila Haider identified the Hazara community as a marginalised community. She said the Hazaras were not a security threat but were still bullied by society. She said it was due to the misuse of religion and politics.

On fighting the culture of shame and silence, women’s rights activist Uzma Noorani, British professor of human rights Ms Siobhan Mullally, KP provincial ombudsperson Rakshanda Naz, PPP’s Nafisa Shah and former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fouzia Viqar called for the removal of parallel systems like Qisas and Diyat.

They said only dedicated courts must deal with the VAW cases. Special budgetary allocation must be made to support women.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019