Violence against minorities in Pakistan on rise: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
28 April, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern in its flagship annual report State of Human Rights in 2022 that political victimization persisted throughout the year.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern in its flagship annual report State of Human Rights in 2022, which was released earlier this week, about last year’s political and economic turmoil, both of which had a serious impact on the human rights situation.
Both the current and previous governments failed to respect Parliament’s supremacy, while squabbles among the legislature, executive, and judiciary undermined institutional credibility, according to the report. According to the report, political victimisation persisted throughout the year, with colonial-era sedition laws being weaponized to stifle dissent.
Dozens of journalists and opposition politicians were arrested, prompting claims of torture in custody–ironically, in the same year that the Parliament passed a bill criminalising the use of torture, according to HRCP’s report.
Following the successful vote of no-confidence in former Prime Minister Imran Khan, law enforcement officers clashed with protesters across the country, with the right to free assembly not only violated but also abused.
The year saw an alarming resurgence in terror attacks, the highest in five years, with 533 lives lost, the HRCP report said, adding that despite citizens’ warnings that such developments were imminent, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the state continued to fumble in addressing militancy.
HRCP also noted an uptick in enforced disappearances, particularly in Balochistan, with 2,210 reported cases remaining unresolved even as a bill criminalising the act was passed by the National Assembly.
The report also noted that as climate change-induced floods ravaged much of the country, relief and rehabilitation for over 33 million affected persons fell woefully short.
According to the HRCP, the lacklustre response has highlighted the need for empowered, well-resourced local governments in every province and territory.
Escalating threats to religious or belief freedom remained a major concern, it said, adding that while the number of police reports on blasphemy charges has decreased, the incidence of mob lynching appears to have increased.
The Ahmadiyya community was particularly vulnerable, with several places of worship and over 90 graves desecrated, primarily in Punjab, according to the HRCP report, which also stated that violence against women continued unabated, with at least 4,226 cases of rape and gang rape, compounded by an appallingly low conviction rate for perpetrators.
Additionally, the scale of violence and discrimination against trans persons, the theme of this edition of the report, was compounded by the conservative backlash against the hard-won Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018.
In a year that began to see the country’s economic situation unravel, the report notes that the rights of workers and peasants were sorely neglected. Although the minimum wage was increased, the state has yet to acknowledge that this falls below the threshold of a living wage, the report stated.
Furthermore, while approximately 1,200 bonded labourers were released in Sindh, the district vigilance committees established in 2022 remained largely dysfunctional, according to the HRCP, adding that the death toll in the country’s mines remained extremely high, at 90 workers.
The HRCP demanded that the state take immediate action on these issues if it is to move towards a pro-people approach to politics, law, and governance.