LONDON, May 23: Amnesty International (AI) has sent letters to the federal and the Sindh governments asking them to institute an independent inquiry into the May 12 killings in Karachi and mete out exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of the crime.
AI Secretary-General Irene Khan, while releasing its 2007 report on the state of human rights in various parts of the world at a press conference here on Wednesday, said it was the government’s responsibility to protect the life and property of its citizens and, therefore, it could not abdicate this responsibility on any excuse.
The information about AI’s letters to the federal and provincial governments was disclosed by Angelika Pathek, spokesperson for the AI on Pakistan.
The report’s chapter on Pakistan said scores of people suffered arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances in the country during the year.
“Victims included terror suspects, Baloch and Sindhi nationalists and journalists, the report said.
It said unlawful killings were carried out with impunity, while the blasphemy laws were used to persecute members of minorities and ‘honour’ killings continued to be reported.
According to the report, tribal and religious councils unlawfully exercised judicial functions and enforced cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments.
At least 446 people were sentenced to death. The number of executions reported, 82, including one juvenile, was a steep increase from the previous year, said the report.
“While the confrontation between the army and nationalist activists intensified in Balochistan province, in the tribal areas the government agreed a peace pact with tribal elders and local Taliban. The September agreement apparently allowed tribal fighters to find shelter and to set up quasi-governmental structures, collect taxes, impose their ‘penal code’ and exercise quasi-judicial functions.
“Some people were publicly executed by vigilante groups seeking to impose their own interpretation of Islamic norms. More than 100 people were killed in the tribal areas, apparently for cooperating with the government. Many decapitated bodies were found with notes warning others not to support the government.
“The dialogue with India faltered when Indian police accused Pakistan of involvement in bomb blasts in Mumbai and Pakistan accused India of supporting Baloch nationalists. It resumed towards the end of the year.
“Scores of people suspected of links to terrorist groups, Baloch or Sindhi activists, and journalists were arbitrarily detained and subjected to enforced disappearance. State agents denied knowledge of whereabouts to relatives and when questioned in court during habeas corpus hearings. Those released reported being tortured and ill-treated.”
The Report named Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost, an Afghan settled in Pakistan, and Munir Mengal, director of the first independent Balochi-language TV channel, as two of those still missing without any trace.
“Impunity for unlawful killings of suspected criminals and political opponents of the government contributed to their increase. In June, journalist Hayatullah Khan was found shot dead in North Waziristan. In January, between 13 and 18 people were reportedly unlawfully killed by missiles fired from US drones in the tribal areas, and in October, at least 82 people died in a similar attack.
“In both attacks children were reportedly killed. State officials described the victims as ‘militants’ but had made no attempts to arrest them or to stop their activities.
“In October, officials claimed that Pakistani helicopters alone had carried out the attack, despite witnesses describing bomb explosions 20 minutes before the helicopters arrived. No investigation was carried out.
“At least 44 registered cases of blasphemy were reported during 2006. Blasphemy cases took years to conclude. The accused were rarely released on bail and were often ill-treated in detention. A Catholic bishop committed suicide to protest at the targeting of Christians.
“Honour killings, domestic violence, including maiming, and harmful traditional practices continued at a high level. Jirgas, which the Sindh High Court had banned in 2004, continued to ‘sentence’ girls and women to cruel punishments. In Mardan and Swabi districts, 60 girls and women were handed over to their families’ opponents to settle conflicts and as compensation for murder in three months in mid-2006.
“The appeal against the Lahore High Court judgment of December 2004 which declared the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) unconstitutional, remained pending. The temporarily reinstated JJSO continued to be poorly implemented as many areas remained without parole officers, the number of juvenile courts remained insufficient and in some areas there were none. Juveniles continued to be tried with adults.
“Some 446 people were sentenced to death, mostly for murder. Eighty-two people were executed, mostly in Punjab. Mutabar Khan, believed to be 16 at the time of an alleged murder in 1996, was executed in Peshawar Central Prison in June 2006.
“International relief agencies said that many earthquake related reconstruction programmes faced funding deficits and delays due to administrative difficulties and lack of information about victims’ needs,” the report said.