Human rights in Pakistan
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The situation of human rights in Pakistan is complex as a result of the country's diversity, large population, its status as a developing country and a sovereign, Islamic republic as well as an Islamic democracy with a mixture of both Islamic and colonial secular laws. The Constitution of Pakistan provides for fundamental rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to bear arms. These clauses are generally respected in practice. Clauses also provide for an independent Supreme Court, separation of executive and judiciary, an independent judiciary, independent Human Rights commission and freedom of movement within the country and abroad.
The founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a moderate secular state blended with some Islamic values and principles. Nevertheless, Pakistan's status as an Islamic Republic should not be confused or compared with other Islamic Republics in the region, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Unlike Iran, Pakistan is not a theocracy, but rather an Islamic democracy. Elections in Pakistan regularly take place on time and are mostly free and fair. Most of Pakistan's laws are secular in nature, most of which were inherited from the United Kingdom's colonial rule of modern-day Pakistan before 1947. In recent times, there has been increasing pressure on Pakistan to amend or replace some of its outdated laws made during the time of the British Empire.
Although the government has enacted measures to counter any problems, abuses remain. Furthermore, courts suffer from lack of funds, outside intervention, and deep case backlogs that lead to long trial delays and lengthy pretrial detentions. Many observers inside and outside Pakistan contend that Pakistan’s legal code is largely concerned with crime, national security, and domestic tranquility and less with the protection of individual rights.
In May 2012, President Asif Ali Zardari signed the National Commission for Human Rights Bill 2012 for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
- 1 Political abuse of human rights
- 2 Humanitarian response to conflict
- 3 Religious intolerance against Pakistani Christians by Islamists
- 4 Discrimination against religious minorities
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Political abuse of human rights
Life in Pakistan
Provincial and local governments have arrested journalists and closed newspapers that report on matters perceived as socially offensive or critical of the government. Journalists also have been victims of violence and intimidation by various groups and individuals. In spite of these difficulties, the press publishes freely, although journalists often exercise self-restraint in their writing.
In 2001, citizens participated in general elections, but those elections were criticized as deeply flawed by domestic and international observers. Societal actors also are responsible for human rights abuses. Violence by drug lords and sectarian militias claims numerous innocent lives, discrimination and violence against women are widespread, human trafficking is problematic, and debt slavery and bonded labor persist.
The government often ignores abuses against children and religious minorities, and government institutions and some Muslim groups have persecuted non-Muslims and used some laws as the legal basis for doing so. The Blasphemy Law, for example, allows life imprisonment or the death penalty for contravening Islamic principles, but legislation was passed in October 2004 to counter misuse of the law.
Furthermore, the social acceptance of many these problems hinders their eradication. One prominent example is honor killings (“karo kari”), which are believed to have accounted for more than 4,000 deaths from 1998 to 2003. Many view this practice as indicative of a feudal mentality and falsely anathema to Islam, but others defend the practice as a means of punishing violators of cultural norms and view attempts to stop it to as an assault on cultural heritage.
Pakistan was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May to be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) by the Department of State because of its government’s engagement or toleration of systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
Enforced disappearances (missing persons)
|This section requires expansion. (December 2010)|
Pakistan's military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the police have been accused of arresting and kidnapping political leaders who have demanded more autonomy or freedom from Pakistan. They have also been accused of arresting student activists and teachers protesting the exploitation of Pakistani government. Many human-rights activists in Pakistan have protested against force disappearances and kidnappings.
Humanitarian response to conflict
Violence in Pakistan and the Taliban conflict with the government have heightened humanitarian problems in Pakistan. Political and military interests have been prioritised over humanitarian considerations in their offensives against the Taliban, and issues likely to get worse as people are encouraged back home prematurely and face once again being victims of the insurgents. Displacement is a key problem and humanitarian organisations are failing to address the basic needs of people outside displacement camps, nor are they able to address issues such as the conduct of hostilities and the politicisation of the emergency response. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute argue that aid agencies face dilemmas with engaging with the government, as this does not always produce the desired results and can conflict with their aim of promoting stability and maintaining a principled approach. A principled approach limits their ability to operate when the government emphasises political and security considerations.
Internally displaced people
There were over 500,000 people displaced in 2008, mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the border with Afghanistan, and a further 1.4 million from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in May 2009. By mid-July 2009, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) put the total of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) at just over 2m, while unofficial figures are as high as 3.5m. Most of those displaced (up to 80%) were taken in by relatives, friends and even strangers - Pashtun communities in particular have displayed great efforts in assisting the displaced despite their own high levels of poverty. Still others use schools, but only a small minority live in approximately 30 official camps, mainly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
There is little support for those living outside of camps, official support consists only of some food and non-food items and government cash grants. Many of those who have been taken in are looked after by political and religious groups providing assistance in return for membership or support. The government has been struggling to provide support to an area traditionally marginalised and remote and is also keen to downplay the scale of the crisis. Before military operations are undertaken, little preparation is made for the predictable increase in displaced peoples in order to avoid attracting the attention of opposing forces. There are also suggestions that help given to IDPs is informed by cultural and political expediency, as in the case of a $300 family cash grant.
The international community's assistance is marginal in comparison to local efforts due to the rate and scale of displacement; the scattering of displaced populations among host families and in spontaneous settlements; access difficulties due to insecurity and the role of the military in the relief effort. International humanitarian organizations have focused on camp-based populations and this limited interaction has hampered their attempts to analyse the full complexity of the situation, the context, its different actors and their interests – all of which are key to ensuring that the humanitarian imperative is achieved in this complex operating environment.
The cluster method often used for the coordination and funding of humanitarian responses to IDPs have been criticised many agencies have bypassed the UN cluster, such as OFDA and DfID. However, operational agencies also indicated that donors have also been slow to challenge government policy due to their overall support to the Pakistani counter-insurgency effort, as well as lack of influence.
The government has come under criticism also for downplaying the crisis, but also for weakening the position of the UN though the ‘One UN Approach’ in Pakistan, leaving a UN unable to function properly. Furthermore, in an effort to force refugees back to the areas they have fled (in order to create a sense of normalcy), the government has cut off power and water supply to the IDP camps.
"Friends of Pakistan"
Many donors see the conflict as an opportunity for more comprehensive engagement in an effort to promote stability in the region, to promote a legitimate government and curtail transnational threats. The ‘Friends of Pakistan’ group, which includes the US, the UK and the UN, is key in the international community's drive to promote stability. The US has adopted a joint ‘Af-Pak’ (Afghanistan and Pakistan) strategy in order to suppress the insurgency and defend its national security interests. This strategy seeks engagement with the government and the military intelligence communities, develop civilian and democratic governance, for instance through the provision of services and support in ‘cleared areas’ in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and increasing assistance including direct budget support, development aid and support with counter-insurgency work. The UK equally sees an opportunity to counter instability and militancy through a combined military and 'hearts and minds' approach, through judicial, governance and security sector reform. The UNDP/WFP takes a similar line.
Yet the success of this approach is by no means clear, as both the government and society at large are not welcoming of foreign interference. USAID takes into account political as well as humanitarian dimensions in its decision making process. Many civilians see little distinction between aid agencies, the military operations and "western interests"; ‘you bomb our villages and then build hospitals’. Many humanitarian organisations thus avoid being too visible and do not mark their aid with their logos. Friends of Pakistan must come forward to assist in her commitment.[according to whom?]
Religious intolerance against Pakistani Christians by Islamists
Controversial blasphemy laws
In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Pakistani law mandates that any "blasphemies" of the Quran are to be met with punishment. On July 28, 1994, Amnesty International urged Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto to change the law because it was being used to terrorize religious minorities. She tried, but was unsuccessful. However, she modified the laws to make them more moderate. Her changes were reversed by the Nawaz Sharif administration which was backed by Religious/Political parties.
Ayub Masih, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 1998. He was accused by a neighbor of stating that he supported British writer, Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Lower appeals courts upheld the conviction. However, before the Pakistan Supreme Court, his lawyer was able to prove that the accuser had used the conviction to force Mashi's family off their land and then acquired control of the property. Masih has been released.
On September 22, 2006, a Pakistani Christian named Shahid Masih was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating Islamic "blasphemy laws" in Pakistan. He is presently held in confinement and has expressed fear of reprisals by Islamic Fundamentalists.
On October 28, 2001 in Lahore, Pakistan, Islamic militants killed 15 Christians at a church. On September 25, 2002 two terrorists entered the "Peace and Justice Institute", Karachi, where they separated Muslims from the Christians, and then executed eight Christians by shooting them in the head.
On September 25, 2002, unidentified gunmen shot dead seven people at a Christian charity in Karachi's central business district. They entered the third-floor offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) and shot their victims in the head. All of the victims were Pakistani Christians. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said the victims had their hands tied and their mouths had been covered with tape. Pakistani Christians have alleged that they have "become increasingly victimised since the launch of the US-led international war on terror."
In November 2005, 3,000 militant Islamists attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan. However, Pakistani Christians have expressed disappointment that they have not received justice. Samson Dilawar, a parish priest in Sangla Hill, has said that the police have not committed to trial any of the people who were arrested for committing the assaults, and that the Pakistani government did not inform the Christian community that a judicial inquiry was underway by a local judge. He continued to say that Muslim clerics "make hateful speeches about Christians" and "continue insulting Christians and our faith".
In February 2006, churches and Christian schools were targeted in protests over the publications of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in Denmark, leaving two elderly women injured and many homes and properties destroyed. Some of the mobs were stopped by police.
In August 2006, a church and Christian homes were attacked in a village outside of Lahore, Pakistan in a land dispute. Three Christians were seriously injured and one missing after some 35 Muslims burned buildings, desecrated Bibles and attacked Christians.
Based, in part, on such incidents, Pakistan was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May 2006 to be designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) by the Department of State.
Discrimination against religious minorities
As of April 2012, Pakistan did not provide a legal system for registration of marriages for certain minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Bahá'í. Denial of recognition of Hindu marriages is often used to intimidate and harass Hindus. Married Hindu women have been forcibly kidnapped and married to Muslims, and are left without legal recourse due to inability to prove their previous marriage. It also makes it difficult for Hindus to obtain the Computerized National Identity Card.
There have been severe persecution of Hindus by Muslims in Pakistan since its formation in 1947.The increasing Islamization has caused many Hindus to leave Hinduism and seek emancipation by converting to other faiths such as Buddhism and Christianity. Such Islamization include the blasphemy laws, which make it dangerous for religious minorities to express themselves freely and engage freely in religious and cultural activities 
Minority members of the Pakistan National Assembly have alleged that Hindus were being hounded and humiliated to force them to leave Pakistan. Hindu women have been known to be victims of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam. Krishan Bheel, a Hindu member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, came into news recently for manhandling Qari Gul Rehman.
Hindus in what is now Pakistan have declined from 23% of the total population in 1947 to less than 2% today. The report condemns Pakistan for systematic state-sponsored religious discrimination against Hindus through bigoted "anti-blasphemy" laws. It documents numerous reports of millions of Hindus being held as "bonded laborers" in slavery-like conditions in rural Pakistan, something repeatedly ignored by the Pakistani government.
Forced and coerced conversions of religious minorities to Islam occurred at the hands of societal actors. Religious minorities claimed that government actions to stem the problem were inadequate. Several human rights groups have highlighted the increased phenomenon of Hindu girls, particularly in Karachi, being kidnapped from their families and forced to convert to Islam.
Kidnapping charges were pending against a Muslim man who abducted a fifteen-year-old Christian, Samina Izhaq, and forced her to convert in August 2004.
On September 2, 2005, Ghulam Abbas and Mohammad Kashif reportedly drugged and kidnapped Riqba Masih, a Christian woman, from the village of Chak, Punjab, and took her to Lahore. The kidnappers repeatedly raped Masih and threatened to kill her and her family if she did not convert to Islam but Masih refused. On September 3, 2005, another unidentified accomplice took Masih into custody and detained her until September 6, 2005, raping her repeatedly. Later that day, the kidnappers took Masih to Faisalabad and abandoned her at a bus stop from where she made her way to her parents' home. Police arrested Ghulam Abbas and Mohammad Kashif and charged them with kidnapping and rape. Following an October 24, 2005, hearing in which a Faisalabad court denied bail, Kashif escaped from the courtroom and remained at large at the end of the reporting period. Abbas remained in police custody, and police are attempting to find Kashif.
On October 18, 2005, Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple residing in the Punjab Colony, Karachi, Sindh returned home to find that their three teenage daughters had disappeared. After inquiries to the local police, the couple discovered that their daughters had been taken to a local madrassah, had been converted to Islam, and were denied unsupervised contact with their parents.
- Asian Human Rights Development Organization
- Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
- Feudalism in Pakistan
- Ministry of Human Rights
- Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani (Human Rights Minister)
- Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict
- Blasphemy law in Pakistan
- Rape in Pakistan
- Religious discrimination in Pakistan
- President Zardari signs bill to establish human rights commission, The News International, May 31, 2012
- "Mystery of Balochistan disappearances". BBC News. February 4, 2010.
- Sara Pantuliano (2009) Uncharted Territory: Land, Conflict and Humanitarian Action Overseas Development Institute
- Religious Intolerance In Pakistan
- PAKISTAN Young Christian arrested for blasphemy - Asia News
- Gunmen 'execute' Pakistan Christians
- Asien, Pakistan: Sangla Hill attack continues to draw condemnation - missio
- PAKISTAN Islamic extremists still unpunished 40 days after the Sangla Hill attack - Asia News
- International Christian Response: Cartoon Protestors in Pakistan Target Christians
- N.J. Civil Unions Hung Up on 'Marriage' | Christianpost.com
- "Fighting for rights: Hindu Marriage Act might be ready in two months". The Express Tribune. 2011-11-13.
- "Divorce remains sticking point in Hindu Marriage Act". The Express Tribune. 2011-10-12.
- "Hindus in Pak protest for Hindu Marriage Registration Act". Jagran Post. 2012-03-30.
- "Pakistan asks Hindus to quit military area". Rediff.com. November 07, 2003.
- Reddy, B. Murlidhar (September 23, 2005). "Hindus in Pakistan allege humiliation". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
- Swank, Grant. "Kidnap Hindu Girl, Force Marriage to Muslim: Pakistan". Retrieved 2006-08-26.
- "Opp MNAs fight in PM’s presence". Retrieved 2006-08-23.
- [dead link]
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies. - Pakistan