Only four percent of the GDP is spent on human rights related development in Pakistan, whereas most countries invest four percent of their GDP on education alone. This “grim fact” was shared by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary General IA Rehman, on Thursday, when he was delivering a lecture on human rights and economic development.
Addressing the development studies MPhil students and faculty members at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Rehman stated that human rights and economic development were not mutually exclusive but strongly linked.
“Respect for human rights leads to better governance and vice versa,” he said. The three primary rights underlined in the discussion were the rights to life, liberty and security.
As things stand currently, the right to life is compromised by high mortality rates, liberty by bigotry and intolerance, security by internal and external threats. Rehman went on to discuss other “key rights” that come under the fundamental umbrellas, including the right to education which facilitates both liberty (as articulation of thought) and security (by having access to greater opportunities due to better education).
He regretted that the government tends to ignore human rights issues, instead allocating resources which leads to a lack of fundamental rights like health, education and employment. “It is disappointing that Pakistan is trailing all other SAARC countries, with the exception of Bhutan and Nepal, in all areas of the Human Development Index, such as infant and maternal mortality and gender equality,” he said.
The veteran journalist attributed most of the inefficiency in governance to the non-adherence of Article 29 of the constitution, which demands the President present a full annual report to Parliament on all affairs of the country.
“As a journalist, I have lamented many times that not a single report [on this issue] has been submitted in roughly a decade, leaving the annual budget unaccounted for,” he said, adding that if the government allots funds for developing the rights of women and children, they should give exact figures of spending and impact statistics.
Rehman felt that strategising ideas and following through systematically can lead to productive dialogue between governmental bodies, organisations and the public.
He further added that it was unfortunate that most schools provide substandard education on the pretext of lack of resources, which is “an unacceptable excuse”.
The importance of efficient strategies was especially stressed when Rehman criticised the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, saying that targets have been set without a strategy of how goals will be met.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.