IFFRAS discusses human
rights situation in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD: The annual report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), ‘State of Human Rights in 2020’, has again thrown light into the fundamental human rights issues plaguing Pakistan. Though there were some positive indicators, the overall Human Rights scenario still remains alarming.

Issues like marginalization of communities and groups, increasing instances of honour killing, spiraling cases of child abuse, enforced disappearances, targeted killings, attack against journalists and the poor state of religious minorities continue unabated in 2020 report also.

According to International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) report, the lack of earnestness of the Pakistani establishment in improving the HR situation is evidently visible in the way it treats its own Human Rights institutions. The National Commission of Human Rights has been dysfunctional for the year 2020, and has been operating without a head for long.

The post of chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women has not been filled regularly and the National Commission on the Rights of the Child has been functioning erratically. HRCP’s report highlights these deliberate lacunas by the Imran Khan led government.

Amongst the provinces, Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan, the most sidelined provinces of Pakistan, bore the brunt of Human Rights violation in 2020 also. The report questions the integrity and intention of Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED), and points out that the official figures of enforced disappearances cases registered in KP of 2942, is highly questionable. HRCP is of the opinion that the fear of reprisals have led to the severe underreporting of such cases.

Militant attacks still continue unchecked in almost all provinces, with rise in attacks in Punjab and Sindh. Though KP and Balochistan reported a decline in militant attacks, as per the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, targeted killings more than doubled in 2020, with 49 killed last year as compared to 24 in 2019.

HRCP report is a mirror to how the Pakistani society is now being inundated by many social malaises ranging from religious intolerance to violence against women. The continuing plight of women, as reflected in the rank of 151 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index of World Economic Forum, shows the nation in poor light. No nation can surge forward when its women are kept in chains, and its population has to live under the constant fear of being hurt by the very establishment that is supposed to protect them.

On religious freedom, HRCP has pointed out at least 31 forced conversions last year, with six of them involving minors. Here again, the veracity of the official figures does not tally with the instances reported in social media and elsewhere. Similarly, the police data quoted by HRCP of 586 cases of blasphemy in 2020 should also be read with caution. The immense pressure and the huge risk for life while reporting such cases force people to be mute spectators. Ahmaddiyas continue to be one of the most persecuted communities in Pakistan.

As the adage goes, justice delayed is Justice denied. The number of pending cases also rose to 2.1 million in 2020, showcasing the difficulties of those seeking reprieve from the justice system. Journalists continue to face the brunt of government highhandedness, with multiple cases of murder, abductions and torture reported in 2020.

430 cases of honour killing were reported in 2020. At least 2960 cases child abuse cases were documented across the county, with over 57% being reported from Punjab. The ages of children abused were particularly disturbing- infants as young as a year old were not spared- and the crimes particularly heinous, ranging from abduction to rape to gang-rape and murder.

As per the report, year 2020 saw the limping public health care system crumpled under the additional burden of Covid-19, exposing the lack of preparedness and poor health care facilities in dealing with the pandemic. The pandemic also uncovered the health care systems inability to simultaneously deal with polio vaccine and dengue control drives along with the pandemic, which might result in the resurgence of these diseases.

Continuing violence against women, children and religious minorities and creating climate of fear for general population are worrying signals for any government. Reports after report from both international and domestic agencies have been highlighting the human rights violation in Pakistan, and yet, no action seems to have percolated to the ground. Meanwhile people are suffering, whether it is in Sindh or in Gilgit-Baltistan. Time is ripe for the Pakistani establishment to approach the recent HRCP report in all earnestness and sincerity. It is time for Imran Khan led government to get its act together. People of Pakistan deserve much better.