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State of Human Rights in Pakistan 2012

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[The following report was issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in March 2013.]

State of Human Rights in Pakistan 2012


There is no question that the human rights situation remained murky across the country in 2012, but the unprecedented milestone of a democratically elected government about to complete its tenure offered hope that, given the chance, the people of Pakistan could extract themselves from the quagmire. It is something worth celebrating that despite their differences the political parties in Pakistan suppressed the temptation to play any role in derailing the democratic process. Even though Pakistan could have done without the lies and half-truths at the UPR process, engaging with the process itself was a step forward. Inviting to Pakistan the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance, and facilitating the visits of the UN high commissioner on human rights as well as the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers were interpreted as a commitment to discard the policy of isolationism. How the working group’s recommendations or suggestions made by other UN authorities are implemented would determine if Pakistan can indeed rid itself of the scourge of enforced disappearances once for all.

2012 was a year of many challenges where Pakistan did not prove equal to the task. The pace of implementation of human rights treaties that the country had ratified left a lot to be desired. No progress was made at all in implementing treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was another year when pervasive intolerance was widely tolerated. The religious and sectarian minorities' introduction paid the price for that with their blood. With violence and intimidation rising ever higher, the Hazaras and religious minorities voted with their feet—leaving Pakistan to seek a sanctuary elsewhere. In the name of honour, cultural practices and religion, women were denied their rights and made to suffer the most horrendous of violations. Human rights defenders, NGO workers, and political activists and journalists were in the crosshairs in particular. The ignominy of a constant failure to protect their lives was matched only by a persistent inability to catch their killers.

Most of the FATA region remained outside the national mainstream. For all the military operations there and elsewhere, the militant extremists kept lurking around the corner. Wanton and large-scale killing of citizens in Pakistan’s biggest city raised questions of both the willingness and the ability of the authorities to stem the rot. The number of persons going missing in Sindh started to match those in Balochistan. New attempts to curtail essential liberties were sold as measures indispensible for citizens’ safety and security. The reform introduced in Gilgit Baltistan in 2009 itself remained in need of reform. The political parties that had forever demanded the devolution of authority from the federal government to the provinces did not allow even minimal power to be passed on to the grassroots.

Health and education no longer appeared to be entitlements. In the public sector, quality healthcare and education were severely inadequate, while in the private sector they were seen as nothing more than profit-making ventures.

The economic rights of the populace did not get due attention, and workers were left to fend for themselves amid a struggling economy weighed down by crippling energy shortages. Internal displacement became a perpetual phenomenon, amid increasing insensitivity to the miseries of the conflict-affected people of FATA in particular.

Faced with such difficult odds, the youth and women of Pakistan, that biggest resource that could help the country turn the corner, remained untapped. Ensuring their inclusion and their right to participation in running the affairs represented the hope that matters of humans and human rights could be dealt with better than they have been thus far.

[Click here to download the full report.]  

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