“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; forced disappearance, torture, and cases of cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary detention, political prisoners, transnational repression against individuals in another country, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy."
The annual US State Department Report that rates the human rights situation, has a long list of violations referring to Pakistan and states the same remains a cause of concern.
The Report further reads, “Serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and disappearance, censorship, and criminal defamation laws, and those against blasphemy; on internet freedom, substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including overly restrictive laws for the operation of non-governmental and civil society organisations; severe restrictions of religious freedom, of movement, serious government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes or threats of violence targeting members of racial and ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct between adults; restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, and worst forms of child labor."
Formally stating what human rights organisations have been saying for the longest time, the authorities have arrested and caused the disappearance of Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baloch human rights activists as well as nationalists without cause or warrant, and even children detained to put pressure on their parents.
Impunity From Grievous Human Rights Crime Is A Serious Security Issue
There's been an increase in enforced disappearances all over the country, torture was perpetrated by the police, military, and intelligence agency members who frequently operated with impunity, and the government did not do much to curb the abuse.
Impunity is a significant problem in the security forces due to politicisation, corruption, and a lack of effective mechanism to report and investigate abuses. This takes care of the outrageous claims (read: patent lies), made recently by Pakistan's delegation to the last Universal Periodic Review(UPR) of the human rights status in the country.
The UPR is a state-driven process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council which “provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and fulfil their obligations."
Back then, Pakistan has been declaring that there is "zero tolerance for enforced disappearances and claimed that the Commission Of Inquiry On Enforced Disappearances or COIED set up by the government has a 70% "dismissal rate". Everybody knows that it is a totally useless body of investigation.
Apparently, Pakistan believes, “in the free flow of information and welcomes criticism" as all the journalists and scholars who criticised the country know, especially those forced to leave and seek political asylum after facing death threats.
They also mentioned a welfare scheme for retired journalists and their widows, that security has been “beefed up on important religious days for all minorities” (somebody should tell the victims of bomb blasts), agencies ordered to 'take action against hate speeches perpetrated everywhere (including those democratically asking the heads of kafirs, I guess).
The fact is, the human rights situation in the country does not change, despite change in government. Enforced disappearances, mass graves, kill and dump, arbitrary arrests, murdering of opposers abroad, death threats to journalists, blasphemy cases, or even pile of dead bodies recently found decomposing on the rooftop of a hospital, is the new normal in Pakistan. And the situation has worsened with the mass arrival of the Chinese.
China Factor in Pak Atrocities
Strangely enough, the areas where people are disappearing, those at the highest risk of human rights violations, are mostly where the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) projects stand.
Although Pakistan has repeatedly assured its intention to join the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), it has never been acted upon.
The state continues to make people "disappear," and crackdowns against families of the disappeared exercising their right to peaceful protest, continue frequently and in a violent manner. But then again, despite the Report and the sessions at Human Rights Commission, nobody is really bothered by the appalling situation of Pakistani citizens.
If the IMF or similar organisations would link their funds not only to economic goals but also to real improvement of the human rights record, Islamabad would be forced to accomplish at least to a certain extent, the way they have been forced to do with terrorist organisations. Another farce? Maybe. But nevertheless, a good beginning.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)