Freedom of expression in Pakistan does not apply to all citizens: Former Senator Shuja-ul-Mulk
Mr. Shuja-ul-Mulk, is a philanthropist and former senator from the Swat region. Mulk and his family are among the founders and patrons of the ‘Khypal Kor Foundation’ – one of the biggest orphanages in Swat Valley and also the founders of the first blood bank in Swat. He is a son of former senator late Kamran Khan and brother of the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times Bureau Chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan Amjad Hilal, Mr. Shuja-ul-Mulk spoke about the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and on ways promote the message of peace and love between the two countries.
The Excerpts below give us an insight into interesting conversation that followed:
Thank you very much for giving The Oslo Times International News Network time for this exclusive interview, my first question to you is: What do human rights mean to you?
Every person is born with rights and dignity, irrespective of creed, religion, tribe or nationality. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Unfortunately, in country like Pakistan human rights are given on the basis of class so I call it ‘class based human rights’.
Do you see any change in Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan after the new government came into power?
Afghanistan, no doubt, is a very important and close neighbor of Pakistan. Relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan were fragile during the Karzai administration. However the incumbent government is trying to have a good relation because peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful Pakistan and vice versa. The foreign policy that the present government has enunciated, at least at regional level, manifests Pakistan’s desire to improve relations, especially in trade sector. Additionally, present government has expressed willingness to cooperate and extend mutual cooperation at multiple levels with Afghanistan to counter the terrorism menace. Terrorists have safe havens in Afghanistan and that is a matter of grave concern for Pakistan.
How do you rate the performance of the present government in the ambit of law and order, and foreign affairs in Pakistan?
Well, they are trying their level best but they have to cope with challenges that are beyond their expectations. I mean they never thought about the magnitude of challenges such as terrorism, energy crisis, economy, etc. Let’s wait and see what future has in store for us because at present, in my opinion, it would be premature to comment on performance of the present government.
Yes, we surely can do so. Both countries have a lot to share. For instance, we can have joint water management system along with enhancing bilateral trade because Afghanistan in itself is a big market for Pakistan. Besides, it can provide direct access to the Central Asian markets. Furthermore, the security issues, drug trafficking, border management, etc., can be dealt jointly through mutual cooperation. I must say that these enormous potentials have not been utilized in positive direction. Exploiting this is still inevitable, if we want to make Afghanistan an asset. But again choice lies with the governments of both countries and how they arrange their priorities.
After the attack on the Army Public school, the government of Pakistan has asked Afghan refugees, who have been living here for a couple of generations, to leave the country. Do you believe that it will help the country overcome terrorism especially after considering the fact that Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attacks?
Firstly, it is not right to call them Afghan refugees. I really hate this word. I would rather call our Afghan brothers. The responsibility of the recent attack on the Army Public School has been claimed by the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan. Our Afghan brothers are in Pakistan as part of an agreement, which expires this year. So their departure, I think, should not be related to the recent attack on the Army Pubic School.
Despite evidence suggesting that there is a large network of Extremist groups present in Pakistan, such as TTP, and other strong extremist groups whose presence has been reported and acknowledged by Human Right groups and the international media alike, do you believe that there is a high level of extremism in Pakistan?
I do not agree at all. The people of Pakistan are very tolerant. The presence of a few extremists in Pakistan should not be used to label the whole country as extremist. The Condemnation of the brutal attack on innocent students of the Army Public School by human rights activists, media, and from people belonging to various sections of the society, shows that Pakistan is a country of peaceful people.
How do you see the situation of gender equality in Pakistan?
For the last couple of years a change has been witnessed in the gender equality. However, there is still lot to do in that direction. Presently it’s just like salt in wheat. It is time to provide equal opportunities to our woman, by not only accepting but also respecting their rights.
Do you think the people of Pakistan have the complete freedom of expression in their country?
No, absolutely not. Though Pakistan‘s constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of expression on paper–in reality it does not apply to everyone.
Do you have a message that you would like to give to our readers?
Respect humanity and promote the message of peace and love. Preach the message of education, which is the right of every human being, especially women.
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