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Amnesty Int'l terms Pakistan’s rights situation 'poor'

Publication Date : 24-05-2012

 

The Amnesty International has expressed concern over the killings of journalists, the repression of dissent and the increasing pressure on minority groups in Pakistan, although it has noted a few gains for the ocuntry in the year gone by.

Amongst the serious human rights abuses the AI underscored in its State of the World’s Human Rights report 2012 are the assassinations of Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, and minister for minorities (and sole Christian cabinet member) Shahbaz Bhatti, and alleged involvement of the security forces in human rights violations.

“The human rights situation remained poor,” says the report.

“The authorities are frequently unwilling or unable to protect women, ethnic and religious minorities, journalists and other vulnerable groups from abuses… Promises by the federal and provincial authorities aimed at improving the rule of law in violence-wracked Balochistan province … had little effect.”

A few gains are reported, such as the extension of the Political Parties Order 2002 to Fata on August 14 last year and the amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulation. However, this is juxtaposed with developments such as the one in June, when President Zardari “granted security forces in the northwest retrospective immunity from prosecution and sweeping powers of arbitrary detention and punishment”.

The report notes that the state did not bring perpetrators of enforced disappearances to justice and that most of the victims remain missing.

It adds that the two commissions created to inquire into the issue were “criticised for failing to protect witnesses and for conducting inadequate investigations, especially in areas where state security forces and intelligence agencies were implicated”.

A section is reserved for abuses unleashed by or consequential to the Taliban. Civilians, and politicians aligned with the Awami National Party, were targeted, and the report quotes the government figures concerning the destruction of school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “as a result of the conflict with the Taliban”: 246 schools (comprising 59 girls and 187 boys) destroyed and 763 (comprising 244 girls and 519 boys) damaged, affecting access to education for thousands.

At least nine journalists, including Wali Khan Babar and Saleem Shehzad, were killed during the year while media workers received threats from a range of quarters.

Yet “Pakistani journalists managed to maintain a boisterous and at times fractious media environment … despite violent backlash”.

Similarly, AI highlights that the state failed to prevent sectarian attacks or bring perpetrators to justice. It notes the distribution of pamphlets in June in Faisalabad by the All Pakistan Khatm-e-Nabuwat Federation listing the names of prominent members of the Ahmadi community and calling for them to be killed.

It also notes that during the period under review, all the suspects in the August 2009 Gojra attacks were released on bail after witnesses “failed to give evidence out of fear of their safety”.

Quoting Aurat Foundation, AI reports 8,539 documented cases of violence against women, including 827 rapes, 704 honour killings and 44 acid attacks.

It, however, also marks the passage into law of the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 and the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (criminal law amendment) bill 2008 as the first time such practices have been criminalised here.

According to the report, over 8,000 prisoners remained in death row in the country, and three people were sentenced to death for blasphemy during the period under review. However, the last execution carried out in the country was in 2008.

 

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