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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Pakistan human rights report for 2017 makes dismal reading
What are called ‘disappearances’, ‘abductions’, “encounter deaths” and “blasphemy-related violence” have far outweighed and overtaken the traditional killer – terrorism – in Pakistan, says the country’s latest human rights report.
Even an ordinary citizen must look over the shoulders and neither age, nor sex matter, since minor children risk being lured and abducted, to be raped and murdered.
And if one is engaged in any political activity – for that matter, even volunteering to inject polio vaccine can be risky since the Islamist radicals view it politically and disapprove of it violently – the risk factor is considerably higher.
The military and its civilian allies, both politicos and bureaucrats, called “miltablishment” are responsible for all this. But nobody dare point a finger at what is also called “the deep state” that is too deeply entrenched to be challenged and can uproot any dissenter.
Perhaps, the only politicos safe are cadres of the Islamic political parties and Islamist extremists who wield the machete and the gun and most of them receive protection from the authorities.
As for the extremists, while the military uses them as ‘assets’ against Afghanistan and in India, mainly in Jammu and Kashmir, established political parties strike secret deals to use them during the elections.
The annual report ‘State of Human Rights in 2017’, dedicated to late Asma Jahangir, was launched on April 15. It paints a gloomy picture of the state of human rights in Pakistan and discloses some shocking facts and figures about human rights violation cases in the country last year.
The report reveals that in 2017, more Pakistanis died in incidents described as ‘encounters’ than in gun violence or in suicide attack. The country also witnessed an increase in blasphemy-related violence and mob attacks while the government continued to condone discriminatory prosecutions throughout the year.
It underscores the rising incidence of ‘enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings’, and the extension of the jurisdiction of military courts.
Protecting right: Time for govt, judiciary to step up, says HRCP
While expressing grave concern over the human rights situation in the country, the rights watchdog questioned ‘if Pakistan can fulfill its commitment to human rights’.
According to the report, out of total 868 cases of ‘enforced disappearances’ received in 2017 by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, 555 were disposed of, but the real numbers were likely far higher.
Administration of justice: The report revealed that there were 333,103 cases pending in different courts of the country in 2017 while clashes between legal practitioners and the judiciary intensified. The operation of the military courts was extended for a further two years through the 23rd Constitutional Amendment.
For the every first time in the history of Pakistan the 2017 national census includes a separate category for transgender persons and the government introduced transgender category in national passports.
The overhaul of the judicial system, recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur and promised in the National Action Plan, has yet to start in earnest, the report notes.
Law and order: Though the number of deaths linked to terrorism continued to decline in 2017, violence against ‘soft targets’ such as religious minorities and law enforcement agencies increased.
According to the report, more than 5,660 crimes were reported against women in Pakistan’s four provinces during the first 10 months of the year.
Jails, prisoners and disappearances: The report reveals that in November 2017, Pakistani prisons homed 82,591 inmates in comparison to 84,315 the previous year.
Jails in Punjab held 50,289 prisoners with a capacity to house only 32,235; Sindh 19,094 against 12,613; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 10,811 against 8,395; and Balochistan 2,397 against 2,585.
The total number of female inmates was 1,442, out of which 959 were held in Punjab, 214 in Sindh, 247 in K-P, and 22 in Balochistan.
Death sentences: Pakistan’s courts awarded the death sentence to 253 people, including five women, in 197 different cases while 64 people were executed in 2017, 43 of them following convictions by military courts.
Freedom of movement: Restrictions on freedom of movement continues to prevail, mainly because of poor law and order, protests and sit-ins, militancy and counterinsurgency measures.
Pakistani passport remained as the second worst to travel on, with visa-free access to only six countries. The use of the Exit Control List (ECL) by the government appeared arbitrary at times, with names being freely placed on it, and sometimes removed despite allegations of corruption, the report said.
Freedom of expression: Use of the Internet and social media to launch character assassinations or anti-state and anti-religion accusations escalated. The Journalists and bloggers continued to sustain threats, attacks and abductions meanwhile the blasphemy law was being used to coerce people into silence.
The assaults continued on media houses, TV channel and newspaper offices, and press clubs.
Freedom of association:Pakistan is among the countries deemed the worst in the world to work in, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) 2017 Global Rights Index.
Twelve million women voters were not yet registered in the run-up to the 2018 general elections, due to the absence of women’s computerised national identity cards (CNICs), especially in remote rural areas.
Reported cases of violence against women in 2017 were considered the tip of the iceberg, especially in rural areas, where violence against women remains largely unreported due to conservatism, illiteracy, fear of stigma, shame and dishonour, and poverty.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 showed that Pakistan continues to rank as the second worst country— 143 out of 144 countries—with a score of 0.546 on a scale where zero denotes gender imparity and one represents parity.
Children: Pakistan accounts for 10% of all newborn deaths occurring globally and is one of the five countries which account for half of infant deaths worldwide.
The Senate passed the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act 2017 in Islamabad Capital Territory. Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan have also passed laws specifically prohibiting this practice.
Education
With Pakistan due to report on the Sustainable Development Goals to the United Nations in 2018, the country is nowhere near to meeting the deadline of 2030 for ensuring that all children receive primary education.
Pakistan still has the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world, with 5.6 million out of primary schools and around 5.5 million out of secondary schools.
Deaths linked to terrorism may have decreased, but the ‘soft targets’ of religious minorities and law enforcement agencies continue to bear the brunt of violence.
“In an environment where ‘innocent until proven guilty’ carries no weight, an accusation of blasphemy leads to a lynching by a zealous mob. A child employed for arduous domestic work is tortured. A young boy and girl are electrocuted by their own families on the orders of a tribal council, over a matter of ‘honour’. A rights activist disappears overnight without trace. Single tales that tell a collective story,” reads the report. (Ends)

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