Experts say supremacy of constitution vital to protect citizens’ rights


ISLAMABAD: Speakers at roundtable Monday said that supremacy of constitution is vital to protect fundamental rights of citizens and collaborative efforts are need to be undertaken for ensuring rule of law, equality of citizenship, freedom of expression, merit and independence of judiciary to ensure provision of fundamental rights.

The roundtable was organised by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), Inter University Consortium for the Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan (IUCPSS) and Centre of Civic Education Pakistan (CCEP) at Preston University Islamabad. The event – organised in connection with Human Rights Day – was attended by diplomats, academicians, media representatives and members of civil society.

In his introductory remarks, National Coordinator IUCPSS Muhammad Murtaza Noor stated that constitution is considered as social contract between the state and its citizens. Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) President Dr Shehzad Ashraf underlined the importance of academic freedom at university campuses and effective implementation of constitutional clauses related to protection of fundamental rights of citizens.

Ch Muhammad Shafique, member NCHR, shed light over the history of human rights and main functions of the National Commission for Human Rights. He was of the view that all the human rights documents including last address by Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Charter of Medina were based upon two main principles of equality and dignity. “There is dire need to include essence and main articles related to human rights agreements in curriculum at all tiers of education.”

In his concluding remarks, anchor person and columnist Matiullah Jan said that media has very vital role to protect fundamental rights and promote democratic values among the leadership and citizens. He said that it should be foremost duty of the media to highlight issues related to human right and others violations in the society. The participants of the unanimous of the view that effective functioning of existing institutions i.e. judiciary, Functional Committee on Human Rights constituted by the Senate of Pakistan, National Commission for Human Rights and Human Rights Cell of Supreme Court of Pakistan could be greatly helpful in improving state of human rights in Pakistan.

Separately, Prof Dr J Orbie, the director of the Centre for EU Studies has said that the involvement of civil society in free trade agreements (FTAs) is crucial to sustainable development.

“However, this role was yet to become more elaborated,” he said while delivering a special lecture titled ‘The role of civil society organisations in EU trade agreements’, at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.

Prof Orbie said that while exploring European markets through EU FTAs, Pakistan should ascertain the role of civil society as well as its effectiveness in recommending institutional and legal changes. He said that more structured and regular dialogue should be held to make the process more effective.

While referring to his study on the topic, he said that his findings critically reflected on the involvement of civil society actors in the sustainable development chapters of recent EU trade agreements. He added that the study had discussed how civil society mechanisms may legitimise the underlying neoliberal orientation of the agreements through co-optation of critical actors.

“Starting from a critical perspective and drawing on evidence from innovative survey data, qualitative interviews and participatory observations, the report concluded that, despite overall criticism, there is no clear evidence of co-optation.

Article first appeared in the Daily Times.

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