Pak­istan is ‘fail­ing’ on hu­man rights: in­de­pen­dent watch­dog

‘Free­dom of ex­pres­sion under at­tack’

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IS­LAM­ABAD, April 16, (AP): An in­de­pen­dent Pak­istani watch­dog crit­i­cized the coun­try’s hu­man rights record over the past year in a new re­port re­leased Mon­day, say­ing the na­tion has failed to make progress on a myr­iad of is­sues, rang­ing from forced dis­ap­pear­ances, to women’s rights and pro­tec­tion of re­li­gious mi­nori­ties.

The damn­ing re­port card is­sued by the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan says peo­ple con­tinue to dis­ap­pear in Pak­istan, some­times be­cause they crit­i­cize the coun­try’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary or be­cause they ad­vo­cate bet­ter re­la­tions with neigh­bor­ing In­dia.

The con­tro­ver­sial blas­phemy law con­tin­ues to be mis­used, es­pe­cially against dis­si­dents, with cases in which mere ac­cu­sa­tions that some­one com­mit­ted blas­phemy lead to deadly mob vi­o­lence, it said.

While deaths di­rectly linked to acts of ter­ror­ism de­clined in 2017, the re­port says at­tacks against the coun­try’s mi­nori­ties were on the rise.

The 296-page re­port was ded­i­cated to one of the com­mis­sion’s founders, Asma Ja­hangir, whose death in Fe­bru­ary gen­er­ated world­wide out­pour­ing of grief and ac­co­lades for the 66-year-old ac­tivist who was fierce in her com­mit­ment to hu­man rights.

“We have lost a hu­man rights giant,” UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said fol­low­ing Ja­hangir’s death. “She was a tire­less ad­vo­cate for in­alien­able rights of all peo­ple and for equal­ity - whether in her ca­pac­ity as a Pak­istani lawyer in the do­mes­tic jus­tice sys­tem, as a global civil so­ci­ety ac­tivist, or as a Spe­cial Rap­por­teur ... Asma will not be for­got­ten.”

Mon­day’s re­port also took aim at re­li­gious big­otry in Pak­istan and the gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to push back against re­li­gious zealots, fear­ing a back­lash.

“Free­dom of ex­pres­sion and free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion is under at­tack, ex­cept for those who carry the re­li­gious ban­ner,” com­mis­sion spokesman I.A. Rehman said at the re­lease of the re­port, which ac­cused Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties of ig­nor­ing “in­tol­er­ance and ex­trem­ism.”

Re­li­gious con­ser­va­tive or­ga­ni­za­tions con­tinue to re­sist laws aimed at curb­ing vi­o­lence against women, laws giv­ing greater rights to women and re­mov­ing le­gal re­stric­tions on so­cial ex­changes be­tween sexes, which re­main seg­re­gated in many parts of Pak­istani so­ci­ety, it said.

Still, there was le­gal progress in other ar­eas, it noted, de­scrib­ing as a “land­mark de­vel­op­ment” a new law in the coun­try’s largest prov­ince, Pun­jab, which ac­cepts mar­riage li­censes within the Sikh com­mu­nity at the lo­cal level, giv­ing the unions pro­tec­tion under the law.

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