As part of my LLB, I wrote a research essay on Suicide and Assisted Suicide.
The research essay was titled “Does Right to Life include a Right to End Life? Legal challenges to suicide and assisted suicide.”
In the essay I explored the Right to Life, protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the analysis of this right, I explored its content: whether it entails a right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life or does it ensure complete autonomy over one’s life and the choice to end it.
I explored suicide, and its history as criminal offence.
I moved on to consider the plea of “Protection of Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” raised by people seeking to end their life.
Next, I considered the current laws of the United Kingdom and India, and also the Dutch law that in limited circumstances permits assisted suicide.
Then I discussed the interests of the state in preventing suicide, discussing the rationale behind the need of the state in preventing suicide, and providing a good standard of life for its citizens.
Finally, I drew a conclusion from the entire research.
The original essay was much longer, however I had to remove certain parts and condense other parts to stay close to the recommended length of 2,500 words; even the final draft exceeded the word count by almost a 1,000 words. All the references were added in-line with footnotes and a bibliography in the end. Contributing to Wikipedia over the years gave me a great habit of adding in-line citations, which proved to be immensely helpful in writing the essay.
On 25th February 2016, I gave my Law Skills Portfolio presentation on the topic The United Nations System for the Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights.
The presentation was is part of the Law Skills Portfolio which is a mandatory requirement for QLD for my Bachelors of Law degree from the University of London. I chose this topic from the study of my elective course of International Protection of Human Rights (IPHR).
I have uploaded the slides for the presentation on Academia.edu. The Original slideshow is linked here, however, the background of the slides was made black and the text was made white in order to comply with the regulations. The notes for my talk are embedded in the slides. The regulations required me to keep the presentation restricted to 10 minutes.
You rallied for change just a year ago in the 2013 General Elections. Your party bagged 7.7 million votes in the General Elections, which set your party as the 2nd most popular party based on the number of votes it received.
Your call for change came at a time when the Election Commission, and the returning officers were screening potential candidates, and many were disqualified on the grounds that they evaded and did not pay taxes, and utility bills. 7.7 million Pakistanis pinned their hopes to your call for a change.
Unfortunately, this change seemed to be just another election buff. After the elections your party rejected the results, protested, and made government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
I would like commend your party’s policies on improving the educational infrastructure and the quality of education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Credit should be given where it is due.
However, your attitude and actions have shown that you too, sir, are one of those elites who bend the law and Constitution to use it to their advantage. You and your party is not respecting the mandate given to your political opponents; you have shown yourself to be no better than those who were totally rejected by the electorate.
You had made a promise of holding local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within three months. It has been over a year now, and your promise has been just mere words. Is this call for Change just as another hollow promise?
The Azadi March which you and your party came up with had dubious goals initially, and later on you settled upon asking a democratically elected Prime Minister to resign, threatening civil disobedience and public disorder. This is clearly against the law, and the Constitution. This, as defined by Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, is a ground for disqualification for members of the Parliament.
While protesting peacefully and without arms is a fundamental right of assembly under Article 16 of Constitution, this does not cover attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government, which may be classified as treason. Your actions not just undermine the rule of law, but also violate the laws of our country, and our Constitution.
So, at this point, sir, I am left with some questions unanswered:
Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa promote civil disobedience and non-payment of utility bills and taxes as a Government policy?
Would the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa not collect GST and other provincial taxes, or would it be hypocritical at this point?
What difference, if any, remains between yourself and your party’s lawmakers who would not pay taxes and utility bills and those prospective candidates who were rejected by the returning officers for evading taxes and for non-payment of utility bills?
If this civil disobedience and public disorder initiated by your party leads to disqualification of PTI lawmakers, including yourself, under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, would you still blame it on this democratic government?
Would you still blame the Punjab police for public disorder in the Capital which would undoubtedly result in PTI’s march towards the Red Zone?
The election reforms you seek are a welcomed change. However this change should come from your elected position in Parliament as a lawmaker and not from a show of force of your street power while laying a siege to the Parliament.
Whether General Pervez Musharraf’s régime was beneficial to Pakistan or was it tantamount to destruction of the democratic process, whether or not he was a good dictator; it is all a debatable matter. He, for the first time in Pakistani history, is going to trial for the heinous crime of High Treason.
Pakistani history is marred with the military’s interference in Politics, so much so that out of 12 holders of the office of the President, 4 were serving Generals of the Pakistan Army, who came to power as a result of a coup d’état, overthrowing a legitimately elected government. Even the inaugural holder of the office of the President of Pakistan was a retired army General.
The takeovers were prohibited under the Constitution of Pakistan, and so these Generals, excising their military might, not legal authority, to suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution of Pakistan, make amendments to it in attempts to legitimize their rule. This act, as defined in the constitution, is an act of High Treason.
Article 6 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states:
6. High Treason (1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason. (2) Any person aiding or abetting or collaborating the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason. (2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court. (3) Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.
From the words of the constitution, it is quite apparent that not just Musharraf, but all these Generals committed an act of High Treason by abrogating and subverting the constitution; Musharraf did this twice. The punishment for high treason as mentioned by Article 6 clause (3) of the constitution was provided by the Parliament a month after the constitution itself was enacted, under the short, 3 Section long, High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 (LXVIII OF 1973). Section (2) of this Act states:
2. Punishment for high treason, etc.: A person who is found guilty (a) of having committed an act of abrogation or subversion of a constitution in force in Pakistan at any time since the twenty‑third day of March, 1956; or (b) of high treason as defined in Article 6 of the Constitution, shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
Life imprisonment or death: High treason is a serious crime. It is perhaps the gravest of offences. Why then, one may wonder, Yahya Khan and Ayub Khan walk away without ever being reprimanded for their crimes against Pakistan? And what took it so long for the trial of Musharraf to commence after he had stepped down?
The answer is: The Pakistan Army is really really strong. These men took power when they were serving as the Army’s Chief of Staff, and used their position of power to command the Army to do their biddings. The Army protects its servicemen even after their retirement, and so Musharraf had a cover. Musharraf resigned in 2008 after the new parliament took office after the 2008 General Elections, and expressed its intentions to impeach him. The day he announced his intentions to leave office by stating that he had tendered his resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly as under law, the man, in face of impeachment by the Parliament, was given a guard of honor by the Army before he left for the United Kingdom to seek refuge from the cases against him since his Presidential immunity lapsed upon resignation.
He spent about 5 years in self exile, and returned when his daughter was able to secure Protective Bail for him from the Sindh High Court; there were arrest warrants pending against him. He came during the time of elections when a caretaker Government was in office for the purpose of the conduct of the 2013 General Elections. When the Islamabad High Court had canceled his bail in a case, his security staff, comprising of military and paramilitary personnel, escorted him away from the court room even though the Police officials in the court room were ordered to arrest him.
When he finally surrendered, his farmhouse (a mansion) was converted to a sub-jail, probably to cut costs on providing him protection: he has angered many people by his constitutional and unconstitutional moves while holding the office of the President. This was the first time, a former army General was arrested, that too the former Chief of Staff.
Musharraf was arrested in multiple cases: Assassination of Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Murder of Former Balochistan Governor and Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bhugti, the Lal Masjid Operation and Judges’ Detention Case.
The last of these cases occurred when Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution of Pakistan for a second time. It is pertinent to mention that he is the first of all military rulers in Pakistan to suspend the Constitution twice.
The Supreme Court, on a petition, asked the Attorney General for the Government’s response upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason. The Caretaker government responded that it was not its mandate to take a decision on the matter, and that the same should be decided by the upcoming government. The Senate in the meanwhile, and previously too, passed resolutions calling upon prosecution of Musharraf for High Treason.
The government of Nawaz Sharif, formed after the 2013 General Elections, within weeks of taking office through the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed the government’s intentions to prosecute him. They wrote a vague letter to the Supreme Court stating the same, however it lacked instructions of commencing the trial.
It took five months, a sectarian violence in Muharram’s Ashura in Rawalpindi and a curfew in the Capital’s twin city, for Nisar Ali Khan the Interior Minister to announce at a hurriedly called press conference that the Government would be writing to the Supreme Court to form a Special Court under law for the High Treason trial. The announcement was described as a move by many to divert attention from the violence and curfew. True or not, the government through the Interior Secretary, wrote to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, with instructions to constitute a Special Court under the law for the purpose of the trial.
The Chief Justice in turn wrote to the Chief Justices of the 5 High Courts, requesting nominations of judges for the Special Court. Out of all the received nominations the Chief Justice had to select 3 judges for the full bench. Perhaps in order to avoid controversy, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice, forwarded the nominations to the Prime Minister for final selection, and three judges, one each from Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab were chosen to hear the trial. Justice Faisal Arab of Sindh, being the senior most, will head the trial.
Meanwhile a Musharraf’s North America based spokesman lashed out at the government for the move, criticizing it as “undermining Pakistani Military”. He might have forgotten that Musharraf lead the Pakistani Military into an unauthorized warfare against India in the Kargil War from May – July 1999, humiliating Pakistan in front of the world.
Under law, the Special Court enjoys exclusive jurisdiction to hear the treason trial, and no other court, including the Supreme Court can interfere or intervene in its matters and proceedings.
The investigation in this case isn’t complete, and a member of the 4 man investigation committee said:
We would then be in a position to get warrants or directions from the special court for summoning the people who have evidence but were not cooperating at the earlier stage of investigation.
The army might not save his skin this time. A current serving officer of the Pakistan Army, stating that what he was about to say would be his own views not the Army’s since he is bound by the law, to not to make official remarks, while explaining the army’s current stance, more specifically on the War on Terror personally told me:
The Military’s internal policy has changed. It is no longer what it was during the time of Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf, yes I was in the army during those times. It is no longer like that, and I wouldn’t discuss that; currently the Army has just one mindset: we are subordinate to the Civilian Government. If we are ordered to fight, we will fight, if we are ordered to stop fighting, we will stop, no questions asked.
Is this trial too little too late, or just not relevant to the interests of Pakistan. Over the last few years, both Turkey and Bangladesh tried and sentenced to death their former military dictators and their abettors. Would Pakistan follow suit? Musharraf’s trial is not just about him, it is about the Rule of Law over any individual in Pakistan. If Musharraf is punished for his crimes against Pakistan, this would serve as a deterrent to future military ambitionists who aim to usurp powers like those before them. This should be done for Pakistan to evolve as a democratic state where the law is above all; it would officially mark a new chapter in Pakistani history, where the armed forces would be what they should have been: subordinate to the government of the people.
Before you start reading, bear in mind that I do not intend to rant out my grudges against the injustices of our society or deliver more and more bad news, but I do intend to explore the solutions to the injustices in our terrorized society.
My 2nd day at law school, in the first class of Criminal Law, a sentence caught my attention:
Missing persons… Extra judicial killings… so many fancy terms… You are living in a country where there are massive human rights abuses!
Ms. Abira Ashfaq, our criminal law lecturer was referring to the situation in Balochistan more particularly, and the whole country in general. Every day the newspaper headlines read “Missing persons found dead in Balochistan”, this is, quite sadly indeed, becoming the norm, just like street crimes, car lifting etc., became the so widespread and common, that after they had dominated the headlines for quite long enough, the newspapers decided they weren’t newsworthy any longer. The same is happening with Karachi’s issues of target killing on ethnic grounds and extortion.
We aren’t just terrorized by the Taliban in the North-Western region of Pakistan, but by Baloch separatists in the South-West, our own security and intelligence agencies who overstep their authority, street criminals and gangs in our major cities, and our very own political and politico-religious parties.
Laws exist to safeguard the people, their rights and liberties, but why haven’t our laws been effective enough in doing what they were supposed to do? The answer: no one follows the law. When I say no one, I do not just mean the criminals out there, this includes each and every single one of us. Every day, as I drove down the streets of Karachi, I see people driving down the wrong side of the road just to save a few meters of distance, stopping their cars over the zebra crossing if they stop their cars at all when the signal is red. It is quite the norm for people to talk on the phone while they drive, teenagers, under the legal age to drive, are quite often seen driving freely, some teens even text message each other while driving, breaking the law and putting their and others’ lives at stake.
Why does this all happen in our society? I believe this is because each and every one of us, deep down believes that the law does not apply to them. Pardon the lawmakers for a moment please, it’s not just them who believe themselves to be superior to the law. Our elected representative, whom we choose to make the law, believe themselves to be superior to the law, same is the mindset of the bureaucrats, law enforcement agencies and their families.
Lawlessness is deep-rooted in the Pakistani culture and society. We cannot hope to change our society without first changing ourselves. We have to change ourselves: refuse to accept the lawlessness, stand up to injustice, and fix ourselves before we move on to fix our society. As the saying goes:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We have to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, keep a check on our lawmakers and those who have been entrusted with our security. To build Pakistan, and to rid it of lawlessness and injustices, we have to act!
Ever since Pakistan became a sovereign state, the issue of human rights has been one of grave importance. The partition of India in the second half of 1947 saw one of the worst massacre, as thousands of individuals were slaughtered, made homeless, raped and abused in the process of migrating to the homeland of their choice. Governments on both sides of the newly drawn borders could not do much to prevent this; they were silent spectators to one of history’s most bloody moments.
In 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was presented in the United Nations General Assembly; Pakistan was among the 48 states that voted for the adoption of the Declaration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed that year with 48 votes in favor, no votes against it and 8 abstentions. The declaration became an integral part of Pakistan’s constitutions, all three of them, and still is an integral part of the fundamental rights enshrined in, and guaranteed and safeguarded by the current constitution.
Pakistan, however has seen much ups and downs in its political arena. The Constitution, when first suspended by the first coup d’état, saw unlawful arrests, exiling of influential political figures, and unreasonable restrictions being imposed upon the citizens, as the Martial Law administrator General Ayub Khan said that he believed in “Democracy with Discipline” (there wasn’t any democracy, just the innocent civilians being disciplined along military lines). During the era of Gen. Yahya Khan, when East Pakistan, now Bangladesh was fighting for its independence and dismemberment of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army committed severe human rights violations, which may be classified as atrocities and war crimes. The army massacred many professors scientists and doctors in the East, and was accused of rape and torturing prisoners to death.
After Prime Minister Bhutto was ousted from office in another coup d’état, and General Zia-ul-Haq took over; the country saw its worst nightmare. The Constitution was ridiculously amended and new laws were promulgated in the process of ‘Islamization’. These new laws, aimed at legitimizing Zia regime, provided the administration far-reaching powers to suppress political activities. Public floggings became a common sight, political parties, trade unions, student unions, all were banned; those who dared to question Zia’s legitimacy or actions were tortured to death. The Hudood ordinances, provided for the punishments of victims of rape, and took away the rights of inheritance of women.
After Zia’s era, the Constitution was abrogated twice by Gen Musharraf, however this did not accompany large-scale human rights violation. Musharraf’s attempts to control the judiciary backfired, and the protests eventually lead to Musharraf leaving the country, and the presidency. The situation has improved greatly since. General elections were held in Pakistan in 2008, that saw the coming of a democratic government, which introduced the Constitution 18th Amendment act 2010, which reversed many of Zia-ul-Haq’s changes, and introduced articles, to safeguard the right of education and grant the right to a fair trial.
Judiciary and the Election Commission in Pakistan are now fiercely independent; this means that the right to a fair trial and right to participate in the country’s government for all Pakistanis are now secure. Much has still to be done; prisoners are still being tortured in jails, child molestation is still taking place in underdeveloped urban areas of Pakistan, according to UNICEF reports.
Pakistan, although has a democratic government, there are still incidents of human rights violation by the government. The Pakistani constitution, for example, guarantees the right to freedom of expression, subject to “reasonable restrictions imposed by law in order to protect the glory of Islam…”. This provision is being used as a tool to impose censorship on media and access to Internet. YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing platform is not in Pakistan, just because a few videos insult Islam. This action of censorship, in my humble opinion, is violation of an individual’s freedom of speech, expression, choice and right to information as granted by the universal declaration of human rights and the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and law.
The government has also failed to protect the right of life of its citizens; many people fall victims to target killing and terrorism each day. There have been instances of the law-enforcement agencies doing just that: in June 2011 the paramilitary forces shot dead an individual in a public park accused of armed robbery.
The situation of human rights abuse is improving in Pakistan, ever since the democratic forces have come to run the country. Pakistan, however has still a long way to go, before it transforms itself from a security state to a welfare state, which safeguards all the rights of its citizens without any discrimination of any kind whatsoever.