Ansar Burney completed his tenure as the first ever caretaker minister of human rights. During his four months stint in the Ministry of Law, Burney worked hard tirelessly for providing a safe passage for suspected and convicted enemies of Pakistan while completely disregarding Pakistanis. He even went a step further by actively trying to dissuade Pakistanis from fighting for their own rights. As this article will show, Burney’s work would make any Indian proud of him and hence he will be referred more appropriately as Burney (Singh).
Burney (Singh)’s personal website boasts that he had refused repeated offers to become a minister or be part of a government citing time and conflict of interest issues. Finally he accepted an offer to become a minister when he thought the time was appropriate – when safeguards of fundamental human rights in Pakistan had been suspended. His oath did not require him to protect Pakistanis from human rights violations. Instead, he could focus on a higher, much nobler objective of releasing state enemies and shamelessly self promoting himself.
We, the people of Pakistan, as naive as we always have been, still thought we could go to Burney (Singh) for help and protection from state oppression. With fellow members of Islamabad Civil Society, I suggested contacting Burney (Singh), asking him for the release the heroes of Pakistan, particularly the Honorable Chief Justice. Older fellow members of the resistance movement against Musharraf’s martial law suggested that such moves would be futile: they argued that if Burney (Singh) really cared for the rights of Pakistanis, he would not have acquiesced to the unconstitutional Nov 3rd actions by becoming a part of the caretaker government.
Nonetheless, we called him. He responded in a half concerned tone, promising good news in a few days. According to him, the CJP was under “protective and preventive custody” and he would be allowed to leave his home very soon. He also promised us to do whatever possible for the swift release of all the political prisoners.
As it later transpired, Mr. Burney (Singh) was a step ahead and had already tried to mediate the release of some judges and lawyers. In his meeting with Aitzaz Ahsan, Burney (Singh) offered a proposal: release from the illegal incarceration if Mr. Ahsan would promise not to fight for the Pakistani people’s demand for the restoration of THE independent judiciary. Other detained lawyers and judges were offered the same terms. The Minster of Human Rights of Pakistan would release these innocent captives ONLY if they gave up their human rights in return!
Burney (Singh) did not stop for a moment to think about the immorality and shamelessness of his act. No where in the history of any country has a human rights minister asked the people under his protection to give up their rights. It is amazing how he can still proclaim to be a champion of human rights after these incidents. Is Burney (Singh) trying to make a fool out of his own self? Perhaps a dictionary and a job in India would have been a good farewell present for him.
Newspapers and independent televisions channels reported police brutality on protesters regularly since Nov 3rd. His own caretaker government was ordering baton charge and tear gas on protestors. Many were arrested and manhandled; some even joined the ‘missing in Pakistan’. Women and children were beaten, mistreated and harassed. Did Burney (Singh) take ONE notice of all of this?
After the lifting of the “state of emergency”, a version of the constitution replaced the PCO. Even this mutilated form of the constitution had basic provisions of human rights. However two days after the lifting of state of emergency, police thrashed members of Student Action Committee, many of them women and juvenile. This was covered in all local and major international newspapers. A letter was sent to Burney (Singh) urging him to take action against police brutality. Pictures of women and children being hammered by police batons were attached. A copy was also sent to Burney (Singh)’s private email incase he did not read the news or letters sent to him. He wasn’t even courteous enough to send a two-lined response to us.
In the following weeks protests heading towards the CJ’s house were always tear gassed and covered in the news. Burney (Singh) never took any notice of the police brutality or what the protesters were demanding. Instead he blatantly slandered the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan claiming that Iftikhar Chaudry had illegally occupied the house and there were no bars on his movement! This barefaced perjury is voluble of Burney (Singh)’s credibility.
So what did Burney (Singh) do during his four months as caretaker minister? Surely it must get boring having nothing to do. He continued with his earlier work of trying to arrange for release of Indian prisoners lurking in Pakistani jails. His biggest efforts towards shameless self-promotion were the months and state resources spent trying to locate an item for quick promotion. He soon got it in the form of Kashmir Singh and the media monotone on him the next few days. The hero’s departure given to a former spy who was engaged in anti-Pakistan activities was quite disturbing. Kashmir Singh was first of the many enemies of Pakistan Burney (Singh) is working diligently for. For instance, Burney (Singh) is now involved in preventing the execution of Sarabjit Singh. Sarabjit confessed his involvement in bomb blasts in Pakistan before the Supreme Court in 2005.
The above works of Burney (Singh) would make Shiv Sina proud. One tends to wonder on whose agenda Burney (Singh) and his trust work?
Samad Khurram is a student of Government in Harvard University. He is a columnist for the Harvard Crimson, is also an active member of the Student Action Committee.