Conflict Alerts # 84, 6 May 2020
In the news
On 30 April, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) released its annual report on the 'State of Human Rights in 2019.' The report marked 2019 as the year of widespread economic and social marginalisation, soaring poverty, unemployment, systematic curbs on political dissent, gagging of press freedoms and abuse of women, children, religious minorities and prisoners. The HRCP honourary spokesperson called the report's findings "greatly worrisome" and cautioned of further deterioration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pakistan's Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari accused the HRCP of overlooking major milestones by the country in 2019 and questioned the HRCP's intent. HRCP welcomed the ministry's response and clarified that their judgment was despite the measures taken by the government. The Pakistani daily, Dawn, have criticised the State institutions for not prioritising human rights.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Press Freedom Report called Islamabad as the most dangerous region for journalists. Furthermore, the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) reported an increase in casualties from militant attacks in April.
Issues at large
In 2019, the ruling PTI government in an effort to safeguard the vulnerable groups had initiated measures such as the National Action Plan against Child Abuse, the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, Response and Recovery Act, Zainab Alert, Journalist Protection Bill, renovation and reopening of Hindu temples and the acquittal of blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi and Wajih-ul-Hassan. Despite these measures in place the human rights violations in the country, from honour killings, forced conversions, flouting of child labour laws, dehumanisation of prisoners, police extortions to custodial tortures have continued.
As per the report, women, children and religious minorities face physical violence and sexual abuse. They are often most discriminated against equal political representation, employment, education and financial inclusion.
First, the HRCP report, that analyses law and order situation, curbs on free speech, constitutional compliance and marginalisation of vulnerable groups, rightly harped on the federal and the democratic character of the Constitution that should aim at protecting and upholding civilian supremacy through the Parliament in Pakistan.
Second, the worsening human rights situation is a matter of grave concern for the country. Pakistan should implement systematic changes through rights-based legislation and executive body to improve the human right scenario within the country.
Last, the recent reports by Transparency International, HRCP, PICSS and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) highlight the need to address the human rights situation in Pakistan.
Lakshmi V Menon is a Research Consultant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)