The 2nd Annual Mega Event “Democracy Festival” was held by Centre for Human Rights Education, its Democracy Support Council- South Punjab in collaboration with 40 other civil society organization on 22nd of the October 2014  Multan Art Council.

The Festival was hosted by CHRE’s Alumni and members Saima Ali, Shahzad Khan, Arwa Khan. The theme of this Democracy Festival was “Linking Democracy to People’s Rights: Difficulties and way-forward for Pakistan.”

The Speakers and Guest of Honor included Mrs. Rubina Rashid Rehman Shaheed (wife of Rashid Rehman) and Family, Mr. Sohail Warriach, renowned anchorperson and journalist, Professor Hafeez Kumbher, Mr. Salman Abid Regional Director SPO, Makhdoom Yazdani Gillani, vice president PML-Q, Mr. Shaukat Ishfaq, Senior Journalist & Editor of Daily Pakistan, Haji Saeed Nargis, local leader of the Transgender community Ms. Sana Shahzad,  Director Program CHANAN, Ms. Zahida Hameed Chairperson of Society for Special Persons, and Mr. Abdullah Malik, President of Civil Society Network.

Democracy festival was participated approximately 500 men and women from different parts of the country including CHRE members from Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, KPK and Gilgit Baltistan.

The Festival was held in amidst comparatively unfavourable conditions created because of the various interventions by the security agencies and their allies aimed to disturb the program- even some of the students directly were threatened to refrain them from participation in the festival. 

Proceedings………………..
Motivational Song:
The members of Democracy Support Council- South Punjab performed on Right to Information Song which was directed by Mr. Zahid Rahman, Director of Taraqee Theatre for Social Change.

Introductory & welcoming speech:
Mr. Samson Salamat, Director Centre for Human Rights Education welcomed all the participants of the Festival and appreciated all of the team members for organizing great event in a very challenging situation and didn’t give up.

Mr. Samson said that Democracy Festival is a gathering of democracy lovers and is being organized to celebrate what we have achieved and to talk about what we need to do to strengthen democracy.

Democracy Festival is the name of a struggle of democrats and human rights defenders to strengthen democracy in Pakistan and these festivals are being held to make democracy our way of life. Through these festivals we meet with one another, not only for entertainment but also to become a source of learning and information for one another.
This is good development that the elections in the country were held on time and the government was formed but until and unless democracy does not become our way of life its benefits cannot be acquired.

This is very unfortunate that we are heading towards decline socially and in the human rights context. There are many forces working in Pakistan working against Democracy and human rights. However we know the value of democracy and we will not let it go and protect it by all means. But on the other hand we also have a strong belief and trust in non-violent movement and struggle.

While addressing the government Mr. Samson Salamat said that people had casted their vote in your favor because they wanted you to solve their problems and if you fail to solve their problems then their trust in Democracy will be shaken, which would be a dangerous sign not only for the public and for you but also prosperity and progress of the state and nation would be at stake.

Mr. Samson Salamat warned that the elected representatives that the society has changed and the public especially new generation is much more aware of their rights. Therefore the public representatives should change their mind set, working style and behaviors and should stop their lame excuses for their failures. 

Democracy is the system which has more room for the protection and promotion of human rights- therefore the democratic government needs to understand that it has to deliver and ensure the rights of the people without any discrimination because the ultimate objective of a democratic government is linked to peoples rights.

In the end of his speech Mr. Samson Salamat the Awards introduced by Centre for Human Rights Education as Annual Awards to honour the contribution of individuals for democracy, human rights and peace in the country. The awards include Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Democracy Award, Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award and Life Time

Achievement Award.
Mr. Samson Salamat said that CHRE has taken a bold step to appreciate our heroes who have contributed and also encourage those who are working for human rights and democracy in Pakistan. 

One of the darkest aspect of our is that we do not honour our heroes rather we launch negative propaganda against them such as the one we have done against Dr. Abdul Salam, Mala Yousuf Zai and Mukhtaran Mai.

Life Time Achievement Award:
Life Time Achievement Awards were announced for the following great personalities:

  • Rashid Rehman was a lawyer and human rights activist. He was martyred by the extremists in his office in Multan in 2014 just because he was following the case of Professor of the University who was accused of the blasphemy.  He was given life threats during case proceeding in Court before the judge but no safety was provided to him and ultimately this life threat took the practical form and he was killed mercilessly.  
  • Cecil Chaudhary: was a Christian Flight Lieutenant and fought Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. After that he worked as educationist and human rights activist. He also struggled for joint electorates in Pakistan.
  • Shahbaz Bhatti was the sitting Federal Minister when he was killed in the capital in day light by Extremists just because he was trying for the reforms in the blasphemy laws and was favoring for the rights of religious minorities of the country.   

Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Award:
Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Award forDemocracy shall annually be awarded to 10 individuals for their contribution for the protection and promotion of democracy in Pakistan. The categories include politician, media, women, civil society, Persons with disabilities, Youth, and Minorities. 

Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award:
Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award 2014 has been announced for young human rights defenders to honour their contribution for promoting human rights culture and for becoming voice of the voiceless of the society.
Mr. Samson Salamat further announced that this festival is dedicated to Rashid Rahman Shaheed to salute his non violent struggle for human rights and for finally scarifying his life.
When this announcement was made, all the people in the hall gave a standing ovation to honour Rashid Rehman and his family, as his wife was invited as a guest of honor in Democracy Festival. 

PANEL DISCUSSION

Linking Democracy to Peoples Rights: Difficulties and way-forward
Makhdoom Yazdani Gaillani said that everyone has a right to follow any ideology and to have his own personal ideology and even non-democratic forces accept this philosophy. 
He appreciated CHRE team for their efforts for democracy. However criticized the present government’s performance but on the other hand he said that it is only democracy which allows its public to criticize polices of government and worst democracy is considered better than dictatorship. 

Mr. Salman Abid said that we have a strong believe in Democracy that there is no other better system of Government than Democracy. However Democracy is passing through evolution period in Pakistan but we believe that it will get strong but with a condition to let it continue and now instead of hollow talks it should now seriously consider about delivery.
He further stressed on the need of non-violent struggle for true democracy in Pakistan and gave reference of Nelson Mandela who for the first time used word ‘reconciliation’.
He also said that we should now reject the philosophy of just casting votes rather we should actively participate in politics and while casting our vote should thoroughly study the manifesto of the contesting parties. We should be impressed by the vision rather than the famous names.

Professor Hafeez Kumbher shared his views in historical perspective and said that since the independence our attitudes are non-serious. We made fun of the vision of our founder Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He mentioned the historical fact that after independence the first law minister was a Hindu Mr. Jogendhar Nath Mandal, while the first Foreign Minister was Sir Zafarullah Khan who was an Ahmadi. However, now the minorities are badly sidelined from the national affairs.

He criticized the hate speech through syllabus and other means and said that it is a pity that we are kept away from true knowledge, information and historical facts.
In order to have true democracy we should respect diversity and only secular states can assure true democracy, He added.

Mr. Sohail Warraich while expressing his views said that democracy and human rights are interlinked and in order to strengthen democracy in Pakistan we have to solve all issues in perspective of human rights, especially the rights of the small provinces and the minorities are important to be addressed.
 
Mr. Shaukat Ishfaq said that Prevalent Intolerant behaviors are the curse of our society. Intolerance is the biggest violator of Human Rights and without Human Rights, the concept of Democracy is impossible to implement in the society.

AWARD Distribution
Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Democracy Award and Nelson Mandela Human Rights Awards distributed among the nominees at this occasion.

Theater:
A theatre was presented at this occasion to highlight:

  • The importance and need of Local Bodies Election in Democracy
  • Participation of common man in Democracy
  • Violation of rules and regulations in Election
  • The issues like Corruption, Bribery, Unemployment, Injustice, Religious Discriminations etc.

Folk Music and Songs
The Festival ended with cultural songs by renowned Seriki singers.