Roundtable on human rights: Session begins with contradictions, ends with resolve

From police corruption to banner mishaps, seminar offers a true caricature of state of affairs.


Rabia Ali December 11, 2011

KARACHI:


The human rights ministry had some cause of fret on Human Rights Day when a banner hanging on the wall in one of its seminar read – “Roundtable discussion on the key reforms on prevention of human rights.”


It is only when a participant pointed out to Human Rights Minister Nadia Gabol that the word prevention was incorrectly used that she noted it.

But the banner, which had altered the context of the discussion, hung till the end as participants exchanged smirks and the minister remained seated in front of it.

Participants had come at around 3.30pm in the afternoon, official time for start of the programme. It was after 40 minutes, that the human rights minister came in.

When pointed out by an activist that being late at an event is violation of human rights, the minister retorted back, “I started this department from scratch. You NGOs get funds from abroad. We don’t.”

After the initial disturbances, participants started to speak on human rights issues. Speaking on behalf of the minorities, former parliamentarian Michael Javed said that nurses from minority communities are being harassed and abused throughout the country.

He also spoke on forced conversions, saying that a large number of young girls and women are being forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men.

However, SP Fida Hussain, another speaker on the occasion, did not seem to believe that conversions were forced, citing very confidently that around “99 per cent of the conversion cases were not forced.”

The police official also disregarded anything said about police corruption, putting the blame on the socio-cultural attitude of the society which needs to be changed.

But participants remained firm on their stance against police corruption with some citing that police officers take around Rs5,000 to register FIRs.

Sardar Ramesh Singh, speaking on the occasion, said that a commission should be formed to study the cases of forced conversions to find out if they really are forced cases or not.

Nadia Gabol said that she will form a committee including representatives of religious minorities which can meet every fortnightly to discus issues. “We need to appreciate everyone. We need to work together,” she said, bringing to and end an interesting seminar.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.

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