ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Hina Jilani on Friday asked the new government not to make the mistake of taking human rights issue lightly.
Launching a report on the state of human rights in 2021, she pointed out many rights violations in the year under review.
The report said the PTI government failed to get the long-awaited bill passed to criminalise enforced disappearance as a separate autonomous offence despite making commitments since 2018.
Ms Jilani and HRCP Secretary General Harris Khalique along with members of the commission launched the report.
It said the highest number of enforced disappearances (1,108) reported by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance in 2021 was in Balochistan while the highest number of pending cases - 1,417 - were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Criticises PTI for failing to get enforced disappearance bill passed
In February, a large group of protesters held a week-long sit-in in Islamabad against enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
“Although the prime minister met a three-member delegation from the sit-in, no progress was made towards recovering their family members,” read the report, adding two students from University of Balochistan allegedly disappeared in November.
Highlighting the issue of freedom of expression, the report pointed out that at least in nine cases journalists were intimidated or silenced.
“The state’s attempts to expand the scope of restriction on freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution have emboldened non-state actors to impose their whims often violently on those who do not agree with them.”
The lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot by a mob on allegations of blasphemy and the savage murder of human rights defender Nazim Jokhio allegedly by PPP lawmakers are both the cases in point,” the HRCP said.
“With 5,279 rape cases and 478 honour killings and the macabre murder of Noor Mukhaddam in Islamabad, women’s rights activists rightly spoke of a ‘femicide emergency’ in Pakistan in 2021,” the report said.
It pointed out delays in court cases and said by year end there were over 2.14 million cases pending in the judiciary against the 2.15 million in 2020, a slight fall in the backlog of cases.
The HRCP asked the government to take steps for protecting freedom of expression and rights of vulnerable and excluded groups.
The report said a total of 172 laws were enacted by parliament and provincial assemblies: 58 federal and 114 provincial laws.
The report said death plenty was awarded to at least 125 convicts in 2021, including three women, a fall from at least 177 people in 2020.
A review of Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status was initiated by the European Union in April in the light of recent human rights abuses, which subsequently found no grounds to revoke the status, extending it till 2024.
The report said UN human rights experts called on Pakistan to halt evictions of residents from Gujjar nullah and Orangi nullah in Karachi, and separately appealed for the release of Stephen Masih, a Pakistani Christian from Sialkot detained for two years on blasphemy charges.
Law and order
In January, Islamic State militants kidnapped and killed 11 coal miners from the Shia Hazara community.
The community held a multiple-day protest against the incident in Quetta and demanded that the then prime minister Imran Khan visit their camp. However, Mr Khan termed their demand ‘blackmailing’ and refused to visit them.
The extrajudicial killing of a student, Faizan Jattak, by the Eagle Squad of the Quetta police prompted a public outcry. Though the perpetrators were arrested, no headway had been made on the case by the end of the year.
In January, 21-year-old Usama Satti was shot dead by police personnel in Islamabad for not stopping his car.
In February, Irfan Jatoi, a student at Sindh University in Jamshoro, was abducted by the police who claimed he was a dangerous robber. Jatoi was later killed in an encounter in Sukkur.
The transgender community continued to be marginalised both socially and economically. In Karachi alone, more than 200 threatening video and audio messages sent to transgender persons were reported, creating a sense of fear and insecurity among the community.
The report pointed out that at least 1,896 cases of child abuse were documented across the country between January and June, according to one estimate though the number is higher.
Children between the ages of six and 15 years, both boys and girls, remained the most vulnerable to abuse and violence.
In August, the prime minister officially launched the much-disputed Single National Curriculum (SNC) for primary schools and seminaries, claiming that this initiative would reduce educational disparities.
The SNC drew strong criticism from education experts and human rights defenders for its lack of inclusivity, over-emphasis on Islamic religious content at the expense of religious minorities and poor pedagogy, read the report.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2022