Editorial Little good news Saturday, April 02, 2011

Looking in the mirror and understanding what we see reflected there, particularly if the image is not what we imagine for ourselves, is not a national characteristic. Critical introspection is limited to a thin layer of society, and it is the view from outside that is sometimes the more accurate reflection. One such mirror-moment is provided by the publication on Thursday of the 2010 Human Rights and Democracy Report, 2010. This is a publication of the British government and it examines annual progress across a range of countries where Britain has an interest. Pakistan merits 10 pages out of the 348, and they make miserable reading. The picture that emerges is diametrically opposite to that of Pakistan which was presented by the president in his recent address to a joint sitting of parliament. According to the report, we are a country tainted by corruption, lawlessness, lack of transparency and a weak and ineffective judiciary at all but the highest level. Our jails are at 194 percent capacity and of those detained two-thirds are in prison awaiting trial. The government repeatedly tries to muzzle a critical media, and the report singles out the media regulatory body PEMRA as targeting media groups that take the government to account. It also notes that whilst there is a robust free press, large sections of the media are open to corporate and political manipulation.

The courts have a national backlog of over a million cases – though there had been some reduction of this figure in 2010 – and the judiciary is under-trained and under-resourced. The police fare no better, with prosecutions brought on the basis of allegation rather than evidence, and when trials do happen they are frequently far from free or fair and are often delayed and flawed by intimidation and corruption. Civil society struggles against all of this but is self-censoring, being more afraid of the military establishment than it is of civil government which it increasingly challenges but with little discernible effect. Human rights advocacy groups face regular intimidation from extremists and if anything, the plight of women worsened in 2010 as legislation designed to protect them was either rolled back or stalled by extremists. The minorities continue to endure a miserable existence, and their vulnerability has increased as society as a whole embraces intolerance and illiberalism. The image we see in the report is in many ways old news. There are no surprises and it glumly concludes that there is little likelihood of much getting better in 2011. Viewed from afar, this is a state whose moral compass which, if not completely broken, is in urgent need of recalibration. But that would require the efforts of a body of moral men and women at the heart of governance who are blessed with courage and fortitude, and a cursory examination reveals few – the little good news thus being that such exemplars are not extinct.

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=39476&Cat=8

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