In an inspiring initiative, over 20 leading political and social organizations have come together to launch legal action on the 18th Constitutional Amendment to assure a democratic role for the judiciary and media in the country. The Petitioners, representing major human rights organizations and workers/student/peasant associations, believe that an independent judiciary and media is crucial to the development of a democratic society. The petition ‘Abdul Hafeez Pirzada Versus Federation of Pakistan’ was lodged with the Supreme Court on July 8th.
For me, two aspects of this development are for sure enchanting. First, this is the largest collective legal action mounted from below that challenges those ‘add-on’ elements that were introduced to burden the Constitution of Pakistan toward undemocratic and non-secular directions. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 is one such element that places undue emphasis on the theocratic aspects of Pakistan’s ‘nature’. Second, people and movements working for democratic change in Pakistan that had suffered major losses in the past twenty years, have come back up in country-wide strength to claim their place in decision-making processes.
In the last few weeks, the level of religion-based crimes has increased to alarming levels with Pakistan’s Christian communities threatened with Blasphemy Laws in Faisalabad, the Ahmadi communities made to suffer 82 deaths, an attack on the Shrine of Data Saheb in Lahore killing 41 people. Violence against women is high, and at least one woman has been sentenced by a Jirga to be stoned to death.
‘The Applicants seek to raise a non-partisan voice on behalf of the often voiceless people of Pakistan _ those struggling for their rights in far flung, neglected districts, the minorities, the women, workers and peasants of Pakistan denied access to the corridors of power.’
By making this intervention, Pakistan’s left has created a wonderful opportunity for us to help develop a secular and democratic governing structure in Pakistan.