Human Rights in Pakistan

Mushahid Hussain
14 April 2003

Pakistan and its proxies who cry hoarse of alleged human rights violations in J&K should see the grim picture of human rights violations painted by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) especially during the year 2002 when the country joined the US led so-called international war on terrorism. The report has apprehended that the US military action in Iraq would further weaken the progressive and democratic forces in the Islamic countries.
Police beating up demonstrators in Karachi

The HRCP is an independent body of activists and is known for its fearless campaign for human rights in Pakistan. The Commission's report is not only a critique of the human rights situation but also throws light on the socio-economic and cultural graph of the country. The latest report covers post 9/11 developments and the general elections that were meant to mark the end of military rule.

According to the report, the year 2002 was difficult for the women and the children, as a number of women became victims of jirqa decisions, acid burning, kidnapping and honour killing. On law and order, the HRCP report said that there were nine major incidents of terrorism, all directed at Western missions, foreign or Christian places of worship or work. It said that extra judicial killings increased as compared to the previous year. At least 236 people were killed in such encounters. More than 50 fell victim to target killings.

The Commission besides highlighting the dismal human rights record during 2002, adds that the international war against terrorism is resulting in further degradation of human rights. It said that the international powers were ignoring the HR violations in Pakistan for ensuring the country's support like the US did for its operations in the hunt for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban activists. The legislative and executive measures which curtailed the personal liberties of the citizens' rights such as amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) were being ignored by the international community. It said that after amendment in the ATA, any citizen, suspected of terrorism, could be detained for one year without registration of a case.

The report said that while the year 2002 revived the democracy, but the will of the people was not reflected in election results. The peoples' disenchantment with the judiciary also contributed to law and order situation in the country, and the people were reverting back to primitive ways of settling their disputes.

The HRCP said that the promise of restoration of democracy was not honestly respected. "A series of extraordinary constitutional amendments, orders and ordinances introduced shifted the locus of power from elected representatives to the un-elected President of the country and the military dominated NSC". It said that at least 176 legislative measures were promulgated by the Pak President General Pervez Musharraf - an unprecedented record in the country's history. About the judiciary, the Commission said that the Supreme Court dismissed all the petitions challenging the acts of the military ruler, and borrowed the expression of Supreme Court Bar Association that the "judiciary has ceased to be independent". The Commission also noted the extension in the retirement age of the judges of superior judiciary two days before the October 10, 2002 election.

About the emergence of the religious parties on the political horizon, the HRCP said, it was "not without design". All such measures were designed to ensure that there was no real transfer of power. It also rejected election of the President through referendum. "The voters cast multiple ballots at will".