Human Rights 2004

Posted by sepoy on May 25, 2004 · 3 mins read

Finally got around to reading the State Department's annual Human Rights Report on Pakistan. Some highlights: [please check irony at the door - in fact, this report was delayed due to the Iraqi prison scandal]

Government: The Government's human rights record remained poor; although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. On October 29, opposition leader and member of Parliament, Javed Hashmi, was arrested for releasing an anonymous letter allegedly written by army officers that was critical of President Musharraf's leadership. Hashmi was charged with conspiracy, forgery and inciting the armed forces against the government. The Government has sought to hold all court proceedings before a panel of judges inside the prison where Hashmi was held. The incitement charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Authorities refused family access and legal counsel for the first several weeks of his incarceration. Hashmi remained in detention at year's end. The Government does not respect the right to privacy. The Anti-Terrorist Act allowed police or military personnel acting as police to enter and to search homes and offices without search warrants, and to confiscate property or arms likely to be used in an alleged terrorist act (which is defined very broadly).
Police: Killings between rival political factions and sectarian groups continued to be a problem. Police abused and raped citizens. Prison conditions remained extremely poor and life threatening, and police arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. Several political leaders remained in detention or exile abroad at year's end. Case backlogs led to long delays in trials, and lengthy pretrial detention was common. In the absence of a warrant, a policeman is subject to charges of criminal trespass. However, police seldom were punished for illegal entry.
Women: Domestic violence against women, rape, and abuse of children remained serious problems. The Government publicly criticized the practice of "honor killings" but such killings continued. Discrimination against women was widespread, and traditional social and legal constraints generally kept women in a subordinate position in society. Human Rights organizations estimated that at least 631 women and girls were killed by family members in so-called honor killings; however, many more women are believed to be affected by this crime. According to UNICEF, about half the honor killing deaths took place in Sindh, and it is believed that many more cases go unreported in Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Approximately 102 honor killings took place in Punjab according to the HRCP. The problem was believed to be even more extensive in rural Sindh and Baluchistan, where "karo/kari" killings were common. Tribal custom among the Baluch and the Pathans sanctions such killings.
Minority Rights: During the year, the number of cases filed under the blasphemy laws continued to be significant. A local NGO estimated that 157 persons had been incarcerated for violations of the blasphemy law during the year. For example, in July, Munawar Mohsin, an editor at the Frontier Post newspaper, was convicted of publishing a blasphemous letter and sentenced to life imprisonment (see Section 2.a.).