Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Pakistan failing on human rights: report

NO PROGRESS:People disappear for criticizing the military or advocating better ties with India, while a controversial blasphemy law continues to be misused, the report said


I.A. Rehman, left, an official from the Human Rights Commission, presents the State of Human Rights in 2017 report with Afrasiab Khattak in Islamabad yesterday.

Photo: AP

An independent Pakistani watchdog criticized the country’s human rights record over the past year in a new report released yesterday, saying the nation has failed to make progress.

The damning report card issued by the Human Rights Commission says people continue to disappear in Pakistan, sometimes because they criticize the nation’s powerful military and other times 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 last year, the report said attacks against the nation’s minorities were on the rise.

This year’s 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.”

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

“The people’s right to socio-economic activities is curtailed by intolerance and extremism and authorities are lenient for fear of political backlash,” the report said.

It said that religious conservative organizations continued 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 society.

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

However, religious minorities in Pakistan continued to be a target of extremists, it said, citing attacks on Shiites, Christians falsely accused of blasphemy and also on Ahmedis, a sect reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretics.

“In a year when freedom of thought, conscience and religion continued to be stifled, incitement to hatred and bigotry increased, and tolerance receded even further,” the report said.

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