By Samuel Baid
Sindh takes pride in its 5000-year-old civilisation, but it can’t do so in its record of human rights which in modern times is the barometer of socio-economic conditions. It looks like there is no concept of human rights for women, children, trans-genders, minorities workers and weaker sections in the province.
In such conditions, nobody can call one’s soul one’s own. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its report on “State of Human Rights 2020” in Sindh shows there is always a fear of disappearing. Women are stoned, honour-killed or raped and killed. Young children face sexual abuse and murder. Workers have no job security.
Organisations such as civil society and non-government organisations (NGOs) who try to awaken the people to their human rights are persecuted. The media, which reports the common man’s problems of housing, cost of living, lack of medical facilities, education of his children, transport and communication and indifference of the rulers and police to his problems, is punished in different ways including murder or murderous attacks on journalists.
The violations of human rights not only in Sindh but in all provinces of Pakistan and its captive terrorists in Kashmir may just be the tip of iceberg as the HRCP report is mainly confused with incidents of violations reported by newspapers. A very large number of such cases involving murders rape and honour killing, especially in rural areas remain unreported.
In Pakistan, it is not very safe for the HRCP to or, for that matter for investigative journalists to start its own investigation into human rights conditions in Pakistan instead of safely depending on newspaper clippings. However, the HRCP made bold in some cases to carry out a series of fact-finding missions including on the demolition of Hindus’ home in South Punjab.
The HRCP report does not make any recommendations to the government but expresses consternation at government’s failure to live up to its responsibility for human rights. In its long appendix, it expenses its strong views on violations of human rights in Pakistan and its occupied Kashmir.
The government was not able to prevent enforced disappearances of political and nationalist activists. This crime had intensified during 2020. The Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network had reported 127 persons as missing during the year. Out of these 112 had surfaced. They included 34 years old Sarang Joyo, an activist of the Sindh Suggi Forum who was actively involved with camps for demanding recovery of missing persons.
Nationalist parties and Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) protested against disappearances of their active workers enforced by intelligence agencies. Not all missing persons re-appeared alive. Bullet riddled bodies of two workers of the MQM and the Jiye Sindh Quami Mahaz (JSQM), who had been missing since 2019, were found in Karachi in June 2020.
The commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received 1643 of enforced disappearances from Sindh. Fifty-five of them were found killed and 248 were traced to prisons. By the end of 2020 the commissions was able to trace 1029 missing persons. The HRCP did not say who was behind the disappearance nor did its report say if it interviewed the traced persons to find out the motive of kidnapers.
Kidnapping of men and women and children increased to 3599 in 2020 from 3285 in 2019. Enforced disappearances are connected with the victim’s political or nationalist beliefs which militate with the rulers’/establishments philosophy of national security. Thus all splinter groups Jiye Sindh (formed by GM Syed to struggle for separation of Sindh from Pakistan), the target Sindh Desh Revolutionary Army and Sindhudesh Liberation Army, who conduct their activities in Sindh and Baluchistan, allegedly pose threat to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). That is why they are kidnappers’ target.
The widespread belief that political troubles in Pakistan are engineered by the Army and its intelligence agency was confirmed in 2020 when Sindh’s Inspector. General of police was kidnapped and beaten up in the ISI headquarters in Karachi to force him to register a case against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law and leader of the Muslim League(N) Safdar Awan for making a political speech at the Mazar-e-Quaid. It was said that it violated the sanctity of the Mazar.
The HRCP reported that at least six cases of kidnapping and forced conversion of Hindu girls and their marriage to Muslims were reported. In the case of abduction of a Christian girl as young as 14-15, the Sindh High Court released the abductor-husband on bail but sent the victim to government shelter home to stay there till she was 18. During the year Muslim girls and women in Sindh suffered sexual assault in hundreds. Reported cases of rape including gang rape were 398. The number of unreported cases, especially in rural areas cannot be counted.
Similarly, the cases of honour-killing cannot be correctly counted. The victims of this crime are women and men. The HRCP recorded 197 cases including 79 men victims. Among the women, one was stoned to death in Jamshoro district in June. Children were not less suffered. They faced abduction and violence. About 3.5 million children were out of schools in Sindh.
In Sindh’s capital city, Karachi, housing is a big problem for poor families. They have railway lines and long drains. The Supreme Courts wants these encroachments removed. But no resettlement plan’s have been made.
During the year, media workers suffered hardship due to salary cuts. Abduction and even murder of journalists went on. Head of the Jang group publication Mir Shakat-ur-Rahman was kept in jail for nine months. Jang group is considered non-conformist.
In the wake of its privatisation programme the Federal Government terminated the services of all 9350 employees of the Karachi steel Mills.
(The writer is human rights analyst and commentator. His comments are his own views and may not necessary be agreed by the newspaper. Editor)