Dignity-Enshrined but Restricted

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Mohsin Sheikh

Human dignity has been enshrined as a fundamental right in the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, under
Article 14. However, practically it is missing from Pakistani legal jurisprudence. The word ‘dignity’, in
conventional diction means, the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. Legally, it holds
a much wider position under human rights in almost every constitutional democracy. It signifies that
every individual, regardless of caste, creed, color, religion, gender is entitled to enjoy his constitutional
rights for living. Regrettably, Article 14 is only restricted to the constitution. Article 14 of the
Constitution of Pakistan 1973 quotes, “The dignity of a man and, subject to law, the privacy of home,
shall be inviolable. No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.”
Today, the idea under discussion is dignity. It is the Article 14 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic
of Pakistan that must work as a protective umbrella to guard citizens against discriminatory practices
and inequalities. Similarly, multiple international treaties view human dignity as a foundational human
right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, in Article I declares, “all human beings
are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979, elicits in its preface, “discrimination against women
violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity”. In the contemporary society
of Pakistan, unfortunately, selfie culture has sickly rooted. The politicians, political parties, NGOs,
businessmen, etc. do charity for social media and advertisement. I acknowledge the fact that they are
doing ‘charity’ and helping the needy people, yet it is excruciating for people being helped to be put on
all forms of media. Allah SWT says in Holy Quran, “If you disclose your Sadaqaat (almsgiving), it is well;
but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, that is better for you.” [Quran 2:271]. Similarly, The
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said that one of the seven groups of people that will be granted shade on
the Day of Judgment includes the one who gives charity but hides it so that even his left hand does not
know what his right hand has spent. In addition, Islam gives a great emphasis and reward on giving
charity in secret. It preserves the dignity of those who receive charity and also prevents the giver from
being boastful or seeking praise. Practically, during the month of Ramadan and even beyond most
people giving charity have been sharing embarrassing photographs of receivers on social media. One
may see ration bags distributed during Covid-19 had photographs of politicians. Every leader of the
political party previously and even now has advertised their charity work. From Yellow Cab Schemes to
Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), from Ration bags to distributing cheques, etc., every political
worker and leader has insulted, humiliated, and shattered the very dignity of the poor. The Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Allah loves the God-fearing rich man (who gives much in charity but still)
remains obscure and uncelebrated.” [Muslim]. Perchance, we have forgotten our values which is now
resulting in lower levels of self-esteem where we seek attention and approval of others. Have we
dehumanized ourselves to an extent where indignity provokes no feelings? Have we? Does Article 14 sit
smugly within the constitution essentially to ridicule the gap between the law and its practice? If now is
not the time for Courts to interpret this article, then when is it? To recapitulate, it can be said that
politicians and riches are constantly insulting the poor and needy and our honorable courts are sleeping.
They are violating Article 14 of the constitution among other statutes relating to cyber laws that
prohibits posting photographs of someone without their permission. Unfortunately, neither any
politician nor our judiciary is paying attention to it. I’d urge honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and
provincial CJPs to take suo moto of the matter before hands and prohibit all the politicians and other
people from advertising their charitable works on social media. There could be collective news, sure. But

there shall not be embarrassing photographs of people receiving charity.The author is a lawyer, human
rights activist, adjunct faculty member of University of the Punjab and Legal Counsel Blackstone School
of Law and Business.