A panel of distinguished journalists and human rights activists assailed the West and global media for ‘hypocrisy and double standards’ over their coverage of the ‘on-going genocide’ in Palestine in comparison to the war in Ukraine during a discussion on the last day of three-day Islamabad Literature Festival in the federal capital Sunday.
Journalist Asma Shirazi moderated the session on human rights which was titled “Is there any meaning left”. Speakers included academic and activist Farzana Bari, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretary General Harris Khalique, Major General (retired) Athar Abbas and presenter Adil Shahzeb. Bari delivered a scathing critique of the global discourse on human rights while asserting that the United Nation’s attempts for human rights were a “total failure”. She characterized the situation in the Gaza Strip as a “genocide in process”.
Athar Abbas, who once headed the Inter-Services Public Relations, pointed out that while the Western world showed support for Ukraine, it remained conspicuously silent on the situation in Gaza, raising questions about the consistency of international responses to conflicts.
Abbas stressed the importance of citizen engagement in addressing governance-related issues. He argued that the alignment of national interest with public interest was essential to promote effective governance and human rights protection in Pakistan.
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Khalique echoed the importance of treating all rights as equal. He stressed that human rights should not be categorised into different tiers but viewed as a collective and indivisible set of principles.
Khalique said the changing climate was resulting in the displacement of a significant portion of Pakistan’s population, calling for urgent climate action.
Khalique also voiced concerns about the rights violations faced by Afghan refugees and alluded to the prevalence of colonial mindsets in government structures in certain regions, which perpetuate human rights violations.
Shahzeb pointed out that 34 journalists were killed since October 7, emphasizing that a State should not control the media as freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. He was also critical of the inhumane procedures applied to Afghan refugees, calling for a more compassionate approach to address their plight.
Sherazi, who was moderating the session, took questions while urging collective action to protect human rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th2023.