Pakistan is a country that is frequently in the news, but often for all the wrong reasons. Human rights abuses are commonplace in Pakistan. The government has been repeatedly accused of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture, and other unlawful acts. The Pakistani government has also been accused of not doing enough to protect its citizens from militant groups and supporting some of them. Human rights abuses in Pakistan are thus a serious problem and one that the international community needs to pay attention to.
Freedom of speech in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. It is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 55 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. There are many reasons why freedom of speech is limited in Pakistan. The first is that the Pakistani government has strict laws that limit what can be said and published. These laws are often used to silence dissent and criticism. The second reason is that many influential groups in Pakistan do not tolerate any form of criticism or dissent. These groups often use violence to silence those who speak out against them. The third reason is that the media in Pakistan is not free from government or group control. Many media outlets are owned by political parties or other groups with vested interests. It means that they often self-censor their content to avoid offending these groups. These factors combine to create an environment where freedom of speech is severely limited. It has severe consequences for democracy and human rights in Pakistan.
Forced disappearances in Pakistan
Pakistan is no stranger to human rights abuses. Several serious human rights violations in recent years have plagued the country. One of the most alarming problems in Pakistan is the increasing number of forced disappearances. Forced disappearances occur when someone is abducted by state actors or their agents and then held in secret detention without any acknowledgement of their arrest or access to a lawyer or family members. Forced disappearances are a grave violation of international law and can amount to crimes against humanity. According to Amnesty International, over 1,000 cases of forced disappearances have been in Pakistan since 2014. Most victims are young men from ethnic and religious minority groups, such as the Shia Muslim community. In addition, activists, journalists and human rights defenders are also at risk of forced disappearance. The Pakistani government has denied involvement in forced disappearances. Still, Amnesty International has documented numerous cases where security forces have been complicit in these crimes.
In some cases, victims have been tortured in secret detention before being released or killed. Unfortunately, the problem of forced disappearances in Pakistan is only getting worse. Suppose the Pakistani government does not address this issue soon. In that case, it will only continue to erode respect for human rights in the country.
Sex and gender-based violence
It is estimated that over half of Pakistani women will experience some form of sexual or gender-based violence in their lifetime. This violence takes many forms, including rape, so-called “honor” killings, acid attacks, and forced marriage. Gender-based violence is often seen as a way to control and subdue women. This violence can devastate women’s mental and physical health, leading to long-term trauma. Sadly, the justice system in Pakistan is often complicit in this violence. The police are often reluctant to investigate cases of gender-based violence; when they do, the perpetrators are often not brought to justice. This impunity only serves to perpetuate the cycle of violence against women. There has been some progress made in recent years to address this issue. In 2016, Pakistan enacted the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which criminalized cyberstalking and online harassment. And in 2017, the government passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill, which increased penalties for acid attacks. But much more must be done to address the pervasive problem of gender-based violence in Pakistan. The government must do more to protect women from this type of violence and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
Freedom of religion and belief
Pakistan is one of the few countries with a blasphemy law. The law, enacted in 1986, prescribes the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The law has been used to target religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis. In 2010, a Christian woman named Asia Bibi was sentenced to death under the blasphemy law after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Bibi has been on death row for eight years, and her case sparked international outrage. Pakistan’s government has refused to repeal the blasphemy law, despite calls from human rights groups and Western governments.
Sadly, successive governments have treated even the most fundamental human rights as gifts that can be given away for pleasure. Practically every aspect of life exhibits this mentality, including the court system. And it keeps the government from putting money into programs and organizations that would promote social and human development and protect the populace from the forces of exploitation. The country can only implement respect for human rights when the state is prepared to acknowledge and change its methods. Pakistan continues to violate international law in significant ways. Forced disappearances still marred this nation’s reputation, and the government didn’t seem any closer to making it a crime to “disappear” people. Moreover, two critical national institutions for human rights have been operating without chairs since 2019, which calls into question the center’s dedication to upholding people’s rights. The picture does not give us much hope.
A sense of impunity, unfortunately, permeates society when the state rejects an impartial administration of justice, which is not surprising given that the general populace takes its cues from those who rule it. Numerous fatal blows have been delivered to the nation’s precarious justice and equality system. A selective blindness that prohibits the state from upholding the citizens’ fundamental rights and constitutional protections, despite domestic legislation and accepted international agreements. On the one hand, it has professed its aim of genuinely becoming a welfare state. Still, on the other, it has turned a blind eye to the people’s suffering and has even joined in on it.