AHRC releases its Report on the State of Human Rights in Pakistan, 2013
December 9, 2013
The full report is available for download at: http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2013/AHRC-SPR-005-2013.pdf/view
In 2013, the people of Pakistan have remained at the mercy of state and non-state actors who resort to violence as a means to secure power.
Rights violations are widespread due to the failures of, and lack of reform in, the country’s institutional framework, in particular, key institutions of the rule of law: the police, prosecution and judiciary. This is compounded by persisting impunity enjoyed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. Ineffective investigations and ineffective prosecutions, in the rare cases where alleged perpetrators are brought to court, result in violations going unpunished, especially where those responsible are state agents or members of powerful groups.
Throughout the year 2013, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has documented how too many lives, and the dignity of those living, have been snatched by a callous state and inhuman cruelty in Pakistan. The AHRC’s State of Human Rights Report in Pakistan, 2013, being released today to mark Human Rights Day, casts its eye on the year in Pakistan, analyzing the most critical factors that affect the lives of all its citizens. The report may be accessed here.
This year, absence of a functioning criminal justice framework has allowed, or even caused, torture in custody and extrajudicial executions to increase rapidly. Every police station has its own private torture centre, in addition to its lock ups. Every cantonment of the armed forces runs at least one torture centre and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offices have their ‘safe houses’.
During the year, hundreds of incidents of sectarian violence, targeted killings, terrorist attacks, and suicide bombings were witnessed, as well as killings conducted by armed forces and intelligence agencies and those via US un-manned drone attacks. In these incidents, at least 7,200 persons have been killed and 8,792 injured. Counting sectarian violence and incidents of targeted killings and bombings, a total of 6,982 persons have been killed in Pakistan in this fashion this year. In US Drone attacks, 188 persons have been killed, which includes, local and foreign terrorists. In sum, Pakistan has turned into a killing field; its citizens brutalized.
But, that is not all. In 2013, the nation faced the promulgation of two draconian ordinances that have restricted freedoms further. It also witnessed judicial corruption, impunity of supra-constitutional forces, absence of the rule of law, killing of persons from Muslim minority sects, honour killing, trafficking of women and children, torture in custody, disappearance after arrest, extrajudicial execution by the police and armed forces, suicide attacks on religious sites, persecution of the Ahmadis, forced conversion to Islam, forced marriages, assassination of journalists, enslavement of children, poverty levels rising to 34%, and power blackouts that brought industrial and commercial activities to a standstill.
The year 2013 also witnessed, for the first time in Pakistani history, peaceful transfer of power from one civil government to another following a general election. Every political party, including that which won the elections with a two-third majority, complained about gross vote rigging in the May 2013 election.
The new government, on assuming power, immediately began acting on its distaste for human rights. It merged the Ministry of Human Rights with the Ministry of Law and Justice, denying the people opportunity for redress for human rights abuses. The government has turned a blind eye to the arrogance of the police and armed forces in its refusal to comply with the orders of the courts.
The second round of setbacks from the new government, within a few days of taking power, was the lifting of the moratorium on death sentences. However, the European Union stopped trade relations with Pakistan as a result, and the government had to restore the moratorium. More than 8,000 convicts are on death row in Pakistan.
The government – in attempt to limit freedom of expression, freedom of movement, constitutional protection from arbitrary arrest, security of individuals, right to property, and civil liberty – promulgated two ordinances (Pakistan Protection Ordinance and an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorist Act 1997). With these ordinances it has provided law enforcement and security agencies unlimited powers to search houses without warrant, shoot suspects on sight, confiscate property, tap telephones, and hack computers, and has established a parallel judiciary, creating special courts and special prosecution. These ordinances were promulgated to bypass Parliament and open debate.
Balochistan remains in a grave situation in 2013. Thousands of people are missing after arrest. Human rights abuse is the norm. Military checkpoints are a common sight in Balochistan, even in educational institutions. Extrajudicial executions, following disappearance, is in fashion.
In 2013, 450 persons were disappeared after their arrest by the Frontier Corps (FC) and other forces in Balochistan. In Sindh province 35 persons disappeared this year; the number of disappeared for KPK province is 110 persons. In Pakistan-held Kashmir, nationalists struggling for independence of both India-held and Pakistan-held Kashmir disappeared constantly – 52 such persons disappeared after their arrest.
As many as 180 bullet riddled bodies of Baloch missing persons have been found this year. In Sindh, during joint operations of Pakistan Rangers and Police, 53 persons were extrajudicially killed in vast numbers of encounters. In Karachi alone, 34 persons were killed in extrajudicial executions.
However, the military and intelligence agencies brazenly ignore Supreme Court orders to produce the missing victims. Two judicial commissions established to probe cases of disappearances have been unable to get explanations from the intelligence agencies, and their recommendations have been ignored.
Women and children are treated as beasts of burden in Pakistan. The government has ratified the ICCPR, CAT, ICESCR, CEDAW, and the CRC. However, the country has not enacted legislations that would let these international human rights commitments become justiciable rights with remedies in Pakistan.
Appeasement for hardliners means religious minorities are harassed and killed daily. Leaders and spokesmen from banned organisations, some internationally wanted, are allowed to make hate fuelled speeches in public. The government has arrested thousands of alleged extremists over the past four years, but there have been no successful prosecutions due to lack of proper witness protection and due to half-hearted attempts by the prosecutors.
In spite of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, minority groups are not protected. Targeted attacks of the Shiites take place in daylight and on public roads in the presence of persons in military uniform; every year, around 200 Shiites are killed in this manner. The groups that claim responsibility for these killings move freely and even have offices in major cities. The Ahmadis are also frequently targeted for their belief, their places of worship are attacked and they are not allowed to carry out their religious observances. More than two dozen members of Ahmadi community were assassinated in target killings.
Nine journalists were killed in different incidents of violence including bomb blasts while performing their duties. A total of 1,200 websites, including YouTube, are banned in Pakistan on the pretext of disrespecting Islamic teachings and spreading obscenity.
Religious fanatics who rape and abuse Christians and Hindus with no fear of consequence or reprisal consider the women of these communities free game. Harassment, forced marriage, and forced conversions of both Christian and Hindu women to Islam are common. Religious discrimination is forcing native Pakistani Hindus to flee their homeland.
Pakistan ranks third in the Global Slavery Index. It is estimated that there are 2,000,000 – 2,200,000 people involved in various forms of modern slavery in Pakistan. Often children working in brick kilns and construction sectors are not paid money but remunerated with food, once a day. There are also reports that over 2,000,000 children have gone missing and possibly been trafficked.
350 Women and 270 men were killed in honour killings. Six hundred thousand women were trafficked for sex slavery inside and outside the country. The local NGOs claim that every month 200 girls from Hindu and Christian minorities are abducted and forced to convert to Islam.
The economic conditions of the country have been deteriorating and the government has to borrow money from the market to cover daily expenses. Foreign debt has ballooned to $ USD 45 billion, which is 42 % of the annual budget. This has directly hit the budgets on education, health, and poverty elimination. Yet the defense budget never fails to increase; up to 29% from 23% of the budget last year; thus development allocation has to be slashed to fulfil the demands of the powerful armed forces so ‘democracy’ does not suffer. Additionally, prices of essential items increased in 2013, up 13% compared to last year. The reason is said to be the renewal of the contract with the IMF consortium.