Pakistan: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan releases State of Human Rights in 2012 Report
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has released its State of Human Rights 2012 report, documenting human rights abuses in a period of heightened political activity in the run up to the May 2013 elections.
The report is scathing of the level of rights violations in the country, and classifies 2012 as ‘another year when pervasive intolerance was widely tolerated.’
Key points highlighted by HRCP concerning religious minorities include:
• Violence against and harassment of religious and ethnic minorities continued and little effort was made to bring the perpetrators to justice.
• The issue of blasphemy law reform was left untouched.
• 583 people were killed and 853 injured in 213 incidents of sectarian-related terrorist attacks and sectarian clashes.
• As many as 20 Ahmadis were killed on account of their religious identity.
• In Karachi, at least six churches were attacked, two of them within a period of 10 days in October.
• In March, the 150-year old Baba Karam Singh temple was demolished overnight by the land mafia in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Legislation that had been scheduled to improve the lives and legal standing of minority groups was shelved, with bills on accountability, freedom of information and minimum minority seats, failing to complete the legislative process. The law for the establishment of a National Commission of Human rights came into force, but by the end of the year it remained unimplemented, much to the dismay of the international community. For instance, in November 2012 in Geneva at the UN Forum on Minority issues, Arooj Khalid of the Pakistani NGO, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, spoke out on this issue.
Throughout 2012, a total of 23 charges were registered against Muslims under the blasphemy provisions, 8 against Christians and 5 against Ahmadis. The HRCP report reiterates calls for the blasphemy provisions to be removed from law, and recommends that until this is achieved, trials on a blasphemy charge should be heard in a high court after first being investigated by a senior police officer and then endorsed by a high prosecution authority.
Blasphemy law provisions were cause for particular concern for the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms Gabriela Knaul, who remarked that many defence lawyers appeared reluctant to take on these cases out of fear.
Minority discrimination remains evident in Pakistan’s electoral processes, where Ahmadis remain the only community whose electoral candidates appear on a separate electoral list rather than the joint list occupied by all other candidates.
Balochistan remains unstable. The report states that 758 members of the Shi’a community were killed between 2008-2012 in the region. In 2012, 100 Shi’a Hazaras were killed in Balochistan alone. Ethnic and sectarian violence was widespread in Karachi, where 2,284 people died in ethnic, sectarian or politically motivated clashes; at least six churches were attacked and 356 political activists were killed.
The full HRCP report is available to download here.
PHOTO: Siikhs at a temple in Hassanabdal, Pakistan, 2009. (By Jared Ferrie)