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Editorial | Minister Mazari Is Concerned About Human Rights In Every Country Except Pakistan

Many had dared to hope that with the accomplished and articulate Dr. Shireen Mazari at the helm of the Ministry of Human Rights in Naya Pakistan, there might be a paradigm shift in how the country addresses the many sources of violence and injustice within its borders.

Unfortunately, such expectations have been dashed to the ground on Dr. Mazari’s watch, in two ways. Firstly, her helplessness in the face of some of the more egregious violations of human rights and legal mechanisms by various powerful quarters within Pakistan. Secondly, the alacrity with which the Minister herself takes up human rights issues in foreign countries.

For critics of the PTI government, these two aspects are linked. That is to say, the ruling party subscribes to a worldview where human rights violations in other countries are to be invoked and highlighted, but those within Pakistani borders are to be denied, relegated to the back-burner or preferably ignored. Such criticism has reached the extent where it is now a common jibe on social media that Dr. Mazari is the Human Rights Minister for Europe, India and every other country except Pakistan itself.

Her regular “call-outs” of foreign countries and leaders do little to dispel these criticisms. At the very least, Dr. Mazari would be well advised to think about the optics of taking such positions on social media. Consider, for instance, the hamfisted and unseemly manner in which she recently tried to draw Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attention to atrocities committed by India – when he was referring to anti-Semitism in the West.

The problem with such pronouncements from the Human Rights Minister is that they risk reducing human rights discourse to a weaponized tool of foreign policy – to be brandished when dealing with other countries, but seen as a threat when invoked within Pakistan. Such an approach might suit others in the ruling party, but it would be a tragedy if someone of Dr. Mazari’s stature were seen to be playing to a domestic gallery instead of addressing the actual issues at hand.

In the long run, the Human Rights Minister of Pakistan would bring herself and her office great credit if she were to step up her much-needed efforts within Pakistan – and leave foreign affairs to the appropriate authorities.

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