LAHORE: “The state of human rights in the year 2014 overall has been bad,” said I.A. Rehman.
The HRCP general secretary was speaking at launch of the annual report on the State of Human Rights (for 2014) at the HRCP auditorium on Friday.
The findings in the report denote that the condition of the country regarding human rights, journalists’ safety, labour and unemployment, the justice system, including prisoners’ rights, forced disappearances, missing persons and encounters, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the status of refugees, and the state of education, health, housing and environment was in bad shape.
“Perhaps the only positive things — if one wants to see them as positive — is that provinces were more active in making laws this time thanks to the 18th Amendment, and also that perhaps the number of missing persons in Balochistan decreased this time but only very slightly,” Mr Rehman said.
HRCP Chairperson Asma Jahangir said the government’s performance was obviously not good enough. “When the government or state fails to protect human rights and other related problems then other institutions try to fulfil this role, but this often leads to a clash between institutions.”
The statistics in almost all sections remain as appalling as the year before. Law and order was considered to be the biggest problem.
Sindh police, for example, registered 1,261 cases of kidnapping of women for forced marriages in 2014. There were 114 cases of acid attacks in Pakistan, involving 159 victims. About 1,723 people were killed and 3,143 injured in 1,206 terrorist attacks, including 26 suicide hits. There has been a significant increase in sectarian violence too because of which 210 people were killed.
Professionals were also not spared and 12 doctors and 13 lawyers were killed in targeted attacks, along with 14 media practitioners, while threats to journalists still continue with no safety given to them. Forty-five polio vaccinators and their facilitators were also killed during 2014.
The HRCP monitored 63 killings of people in custody, including four women and two minors, while FIR was registered only in 14 cases. Forty-seven people, including seven women, underwent custodial torture.
Commission’s annual report shows last year the situation was as bad as in the preceding year
There were 3,392 encounters in 2014 as against 2,616 in 2013 in Sindh, where the number of encounters has risen; 925 suspects were killed in shootouts and 160 personnel of police and Rangers fell in the line of duty in Karachi.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police killed 26 persons in encounters. Punjab police killed 276 suspected criminals and arrested 322, while 27 policemen died and 59 suspected criminals and 73 policemen got injured in 283 encounters in 2014.
The situation of minorities is just as dire. Eleven churches and Hindu temples were desecrated in Sindh, including in Karachi. Two attacks were also carried out against the Zikri sect in Balochistan. A total of 144 incidents of sectarian violence were reported across Pakistan out of which 144 were sectarian-related terrorist attacks and three were sectarian clashes.
Perhaps one of the most horrifying incidents in 2014 was when a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan were lynched and burned by a mob in a brick kiln for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran. A total of 11 Ahmedis lost their lives in targeted attacks.
It should be noted that no laws were made by the federal government to safeguard the interests of religious minorities and only two bills related to minorities were passed at the provincial level by KP. (KP has had the highest law making performance followed by Sindh.)
Around 157 families belonging to religious minorities were among those displaced from Fata due to Pakistan Army’s operation against militants in the region. Some of these families reported facing discrimination at the IDP camps.
At the same time about 597 women and girls were gang-raped; 828 raped; 36 stripped in public; 923 women and 82 minor girls, including 21 in Gilgit-Baltistan, fell victim to honour killings. Seven women died in acid attacks on 92 women and 13 minors; 60 women expired in other incidents of suspicious nature like cylinder blasts, stove burning and setting on fire.
Pakistan was ranked second to last in gender equality regarding access to health care, education and work (Global Gender Gap Report 2014).
There were some positive instances, including the regularisation of 47,000 LHWs, in Punjab. The Punjab government also announced the establishment of 65 day care centres and introduction of training programmes for 4000 women from rural areas.
KP recruited 36 women as the province’s first female anti-terror squad commandos who trained alongside men, along with women facilitation desks at police stations.
Baluchistan criminalised domestic violence by passing the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Bill in June 2014.
Pakistan was also given GSP-Plus Status on Jan 1, 2014, by the EU which calls for compliance with 27 international conventions, including eight ILO core labour conventions.
The Privatisation Commission announced plans to privatise nine entities which sparked countrywide protests. Meanwhile, 82 workers died and 88 were injured in 36 occupational accidents.
Little has also been done to protect workers’ rights.
With 306 new polio cases, Pakistan has been ranked the worst polio affected country. The cases accounted for 86 per cent of the 356 detected worldwide during the year.
Infant mortality rate was 95 per 1000 at least 30 more than in other countries. Deaths from pregnancy-related complications stood at 276 per 100,000 live births.
Environment remained in a dire state, although all provinces had legislation related to environmental protection in place. Climate change caused food shortage and floods in many regions. In Tharparkar, 650 children lost their lives due to drought (and malnutrition, and also lack of medical care).
Sahil’s data related to child abuse revealed that 311 cases of sexual abuse of children had been reported from January to September with 214 girls and 97 boys falling prey in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
A total of 120 children faced corporal punishment during the year. The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act 2011 awaited implementation in the province despite the lapse three years ago since its enactment.
There are many other statistics and numbers highlighted in the report.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2015