Op-Ed Shireen Mazari and human rights


Yasser Latif Hamdani @theRealYLH
December 9, 2019

No one gave Shireen Mazari the memo that she is neither the Foreign Minister nor the Defence Minister of Pakistan. She holds the portfolio of Human Rights Minister. The Human Rights in that Ministry pertain to the human rights of the hapless citizens of Pakistan and has no nexus with whatever else is happening elsewhere. In fact her jurisdiction does not even extend to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which is supposed to have its own government.

Mazari’s appearance of Mehdi Hassan’s program Upfront on Al-Jazeera was one of those moments that this writer was thoroughly embarrassed as a Pakistani. She was not only caught lying out of her teeth but she appeared entirely ignorant of the very constitution that she tried to quote in her defence. First of all let us be clear on something. The 2nd and 3rd Amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan vitiate and militate against the very spirit of Jinnah’s promise to the Ahmadi community and others made repeatedly including but not limited to on 23 May 1944 when Jinnah refused to accept the position that Ahmadis should be excluded from the Muslim community. However who cares about Jinnah in Pakistan now? Consider for example the fact one of the newspapers he founded was destroyed by this state in the 1960s and efforts are underway to destroy the second one as well. His sister was denounced as a CIA/Indian/Afghan agent by the regime in 1964-1965. So clearly the Jinnah argument does not work in modern day Pakistan that is a majoritarian theocracy diametrically opposed to what he put forth as the vision for the country. Hence no PhDs are allowed in the country on his life, politics and work.

Jinnah argument does not work in modern day Pakistan that is a majoritarian theocracy diametrically opposed to what he put forth as the vision for the country. Hence no PhDs are allowed in the country on his life, politics and work

So let us proceed on the basis and indeed stipulate that the Constitution of Pakistan declares Ahmadis Non-Muslim and that the Parliament of Pakistan was vested with Godly powers to decide who is a Muslim and who is not for the purposes of law and constitution. Even so the same constitution promises complete religious freedom under Article 20, unhindered and not subject to any claw back whatsoever. So in other words the state of Pakistan may consider Ahmadis Non-Muslim but the Constitution does not allow the Pakistani state to force Ahmadis to consider themselves Non-Muslim. There can be no other interpretation and if any judge or lawyer tells you otherwise, they are either dishonest or incompetent. The so-called Human Rights Minister had no awareness of this important distinction. What followed was one shamefully ignorant gaffe after another. For example she said Ahmadis are allowed to participate in politics on Non-Muslim seats. She is obviously clueless because every citizen of Pakistan is allowed to contest any general seat under the law. The principle of joint electorate applies. Incidentally Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Bahais, Parsis and Muslims (or those who are constitutionally sanctioned Muslims at least) are on one electoral list. Only Ahmadis are put on a separate supplemental list. This is pure discrimination. Shireen Mazari is either unaware of it or she is incapable of understanding this basic issue. The third option is that she might be lying in the face of it. Then she claimed that the issue is of the declaration of the finality of Prophethood. It is not as simple as that my dear minister. The declaration we are all forced to sign in Pakistan is not simply a declaration of finality of Prophethood. We are also forced to declare Ahmadis Non-Muslim and the founder of their sect/religion/group an imposter and a liar. Every official Muslim citizen on Pakistan ostensibly violates Sections 153-A, 295-A and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 every time he or she gets a passport. This is perhaps the only example in the world of where the state willfully forces the majority of its citizens to violate its own penal provisions. Yet our Human Rights Minister says Ahmadis have all the rights, while also saying that the government should not have appointed Atif Mian as part of the Economic Advisory Council because it was too controversial. Furthermore she declared that there was no discrimination because Atif Mian does not live in Pakistan.

The right honourable minister reminds me of a character out of Monty Python’s Life of Brian because what she is essentially saying is this: Ahmadis are not allowed to self identify, they are jailed and maimed for practicing their faith whatever it is, their places of worship (which cannot be called mosques under law) are desecrated and destroyed, their tombstones are destroyed and talented economists from their ranks are not allowed to join government, but Ahmadis have all the rights in Pakistan. One is left befuddled.

Shireen Mazari also claimed that there is no persecution of Shias in Pakistan, claiming that she was a Shia herself. We are certainly not going to question her right to self identify as a Shia whether or not she is one but she went on to claim that sectarian violence happens on both sides. I would like to know how many Sunni doctors have been target killed and how Sunni mosques and Dargahs have been attacked by Shias in the 70 years? I am not even going to start with the official discrimination against Shias in all branches and arms of the government.

The honourable thing for Shireen Mazari to do is to resign her office and seek an office more appropriate to her interests and expertise. In the event that she does not get an office more suited to her special stable genius, perhaps she can take up a career as a critic of Coke Studio as she loves to comment on every other Coke Studio song from her verified Twitter account using a government issue mobile phone and internet connection, while driving around Islamabad in an official vehicle. Surely that will be much better than making an absolute mockery of the Human Rights Ministry which is in utter shambles even otherwise. The human rights of the employees of the ministry are denied routinely, what to speak of the hapless population of Pakistan upon which Madam Minister is foisted against our will.

The writer is an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan


Sheerin Mazari

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