Government professor discusses human rights issues in Pakistan

Hayden Clark

In the final event of an on-campus human rights lecture series, government professor Paula Newberg said, despite the efforts of Pakistan’s human rights activists, the country still faces significant security risks.

“You look at a place like Pakistan, which is really my second home, in a way, and a place that I care about very deeply,” said Newberg, the chair in Pakistan studies and a former special advisor to the United Nations. “You’ll find a society where politicians now die for defending the rights of others, where journalists are in danger for telling the truth, where militancy has overtaken the capacity of the state to enforce legitimate order and where compromise has overtaken a clear view of the protectant mission of the state.”  

Newberg said states cannot succeed when they commit human rights violation against their own people.

“I have worked across Asia and Africa and Europe, and I have yet to find a state that can sustain itself and flourish when it persecutes or starves or ignores its own people,” Newberg said. 

Newberg’s lecture was part of the White Rose Society’s series “Overcoming Hatred: A Human Rights Symposium.” The society was founded in World War II by a group of German students resisting Nazi Germany with non-violent intellectual methods, which ultimately led to the executions of many of its members.

History professor Sumit Guha said the original members of the society stood against Nazi Germany despite the possible consequences.

“It’s an example to all of us in our time — I think [the members] just felt they needed to make a stand regardless of what the ultimate outcome was,” Guha said. “For all that they could calculate about the future, they could have perished completely unknown, so it’s one of those gestures of resistance that doesn’t even necessarily assume that there’s success.”

Kolby Lee, government senior and co-president of STAND, a student organization advocating against genocide, said the organization takes after the mission of the White Rose Society.

“We’ve really kind of taken from [the White Rose Society’s] message and so a lot of what our organization at UT does is A, Holocaust remembrance but B, more broadly, genocide awareness,” Lee, who introduced Newberg at the lecture, said. “We’re a core chapter of a large national student lead movement called STAND, and STAND really focuses on issues — mass atrocities all over the world.”

Newberg said that human rights violations can be precursors to larger governmental collapse.

“If you think about it, any country that abuses the rights of free expression or the rights of free association, you find that it is a country that may well be on the verge of imploding,” Newberg said.