Thursday, 21 August 2014

Human Rights abuses in  some  Islamic countries. (Part 2)

What follows is proof that there are countries that are too much of a hazard to live in. Here is one of them. 

Pakistan is a federal republic. With the election of the national assembly and the president and head of state Asif Ali Zardari in 2008, democratic rule was restored after years of rule by the military government.

Previously, the military and intelligence services nominally reported to civilian authorities but essentially operated without effective civilian oversight. The police generally reported to civilian authority, although there were instances in which it acted independently. The most serious human rights problems included extrajudicial and targeted killings, forced disappearances, and torture, which affected thousands of citizens in nearly all parts of the country.

Other human rights problems included poor prison conditions, arbitrary detention, lengthy pretrial detention, a weak criminal justice system, insufficient training for prosecutors and criminal investigators, a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts, and infringements on citizens’ privacy rights.

There was a constant harassment of journalists along with some censorship. There were some restrictions on freedom of assembly and some limits on freedom of movement. Religious freedom violations and discrimination against religious minorities continued, including some violations that were sanctioned by law.

The human rights situation in Pakistan is generally regarded as poor by domestic and international observers. Pakistan is a center of Islamic fundamentalism. The human rights record of Pakistan was particularly grave under the dictatorship of the US-supported General Zia. He introduced Sharia Law which led to Islamization of the country. The current regime in Pakistan has been responsible for torture, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Honor killings are also common in Pakistan.

Pakistan had a disastrous year in 2011, with increasing attacks on civilians by militant groups, skyrocketing food and fuel prices, and the assumption of near-total control of foreign and security policy by a military that operated with impunity. Religious minorities faced unprecedented insecurity and persecution. Freedom of belief and expression came under severe threat as Islamist militant groups murdered Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minorities’ Minister Shahbaz Bhatti over their public support for amending the country’s often abused blasphemy laws. Pakistan’s elected government notably failed to provide protection to those threatened by extremists, or to hold the extremists accountable.

Security continued to deteriorate in 2011, with militant and sectarian groups carrying out suicide bombings and targeted killings across the country. The Taliban and affiliated groups targeted civilians and public spaces, including marketplaces and religious processions.

Corruption was widespread within the government and the police forces, and the government made few attempts to combat the problem.

Rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, “honor” crimes and other harmful traditional practices, abuse, and discrimination against women continued to remain a serious problem. Child abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children persisted. Widespread human trafficking, including forced and bonded labor was also a serious problem.

Nothing has really changed in the following years. Ongoing rights concerns include the breakdown of law enforcement in the face of terror attacks, a dramatic increase in killings across the southwestern province of Balochistan, continuing torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects, and unresolved enforced disappearances of terrorism suspects (some whom might have been innocent)  and opponents of the military. Abuses by Pakistani police, including extrajudicial killings, also continued to be reported throughout the country.

Lack of government accountability remains a pervasive problem. Abuses often go unpunished, thereby fostering a culture of impunity. Only in very few instances do authorities punish government officials for human rights violations.
Rights violations are widespread due to the failures of, and lack of reform in the country's institutional framework, in particular, key institutions of the rule of law: the police, prosecution and judiciary. This is compounded by persisting impunity enjoyed by Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies. Ineffective investigations and ineffective prosecutions, in the rare cases where alleged perpetrators are brought to court, resulting in violations going unpunished, especially where those responsible are state agents or members of powerful organizations.

Throughout the year 2013, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has documented how too many lives, and the dignity of those living, have been destroyed by a callous state and its inhuman cruelty to the people of Pakistan. The AHRC's State of Human Rights Report in Pakistan for the year of 2013 that was released to the public,  cast its eye on the year of 2013 in Pakistan, analyzing the most critical factors that affected the lives of all its citizens.
Their report showed that during that year, the absence of a functioning criminal justice framework had allowed, or even caused, torture in custody and extrajudicial executions to increase rapidly. Every police station has its own private torture centre, in addition to its lock ups. Every cantonment of the armed forces ran at least one torture centre and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offices have their 'safe houses' where they could torture their suspects.

During that year, there were hundreds of incidents of sectarian violence, targeted killings, terrorist attacks, and suicide bombings that were witnessed, as well as killings conducted by armed forces and intelligence agencies.  In these incidents, at least 7,200 persons have been killed and 8,792 injured. Counting sectarian violence and incidents of targeted killings and bombings by un-manned US drones, a total of 6,982 persons were killed in Pakistan in this fashion that year. In US Drone attacks, 188 persons had been killed, which included, local and foreign terrorists. In sum, Pakistan had turned into a killing field in which an enormous amount of innocent Pakistani citizens (men, women and children) were brutalized and in far too many cases, killed.

The new government, on assuming power, immediately began acting on its distaste for human rights. Unfortunately it merged the Ministry of Human Rights with the Ministry of Law and Justice, thereby denying the people an opportunity for redress for human rights abuses. The new government has turned a blind eye to the arrogance of the police and armed forces in its refusal to comply with the orders of the courts.

Within a few days of taking power, the new government lifted the moratorium on death sentences. The European Union stopped trade relations with Pakistan as a result, and the government found itself having to restore the moratorium. More than 8,000 convicts are still on death row in Pakistan. I am curious as to what their crimes were.

The government in its attempt to limit freedom of expression, freedom of movement, constitutional protection from arbitrary arrest, security of individuals, right to property, and civil liberty, brought in two ordinances— Pakistan Protection Ordinance and an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorist Act 1997. With these ordinances, it has provided law enforcement and security agencies unlimited powers to search houses without warrants, shoot suspects on sight, confiscate property, tap telephones, hack computers, along with establishing a parallel judiciary, creating special courts and special prosecutions. These ordinances were promulgated to bypass Parliament and open thereby end any hope of debate.

In 2013, 450 persons were disappeared after their arrest by the Frontier Corps (FC) and other forces in Balochistan. In Sindh province 35 persons disappeared this year; the number of disappeared for KPK province is 110 persons. Meanwhile in Pakistan-held Kashmir, nationalists struggling for independence of both India-held and Pakistan-held Kashmir disappeared constantly. As many as 52 such persons disappeared after their arrests.
As many as 180 bullet riddled bodies of Baloch missing persons had been found in 2013. In Sindh, during joint operations of Pakistan Rangers and Police, 53 persons were extrajudicially killed in a number of encounters. In Karachi alone, 34 persons were killed in extrajudicial executions.
However, the military and intelligence agencies have brazenly ignored Supreme Court orders to produce the missing victims. Two judicial commissions established to probe cases of disappearances have been unable to get explanations from the intelligence agencies, so subsequently;  the court’s orders have been ignored.
Appeasement for hardliners means religious minorities have been harassed and killed daily. Leaders and spokesmen from banned organizations comprising of these hardliners—some of them being on the international wanted lists, are still allowed to make hate fuelled speeches in public. The government has arrested thousands of alleged extremists over the past four years, but there have been no successful prosecutions due to lack of proper witness protection and due to half-hearted attempts by the prosecutors.
In spite of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, minority groups are not really protected. Targeted attacks of the Shiites take place in daylight and on public roads in the presence of persons in military uniform. Every year, around 200 Shiites are killed in this manner. The groups that claim responsibility for these killings move freely and even have offices in major cities. The Ahmadis are also frequently targeted for their belief, their places of worship are attacked and they are not allowed to carry out their religious observances. More than two dozen members of Ahmadi community were assassinated in target killings in 2013.
Religious fanatics who rape and abuse Christians and Hindus with no fear of consequence or reprisal consider the women of these communities free game. Harassment, forced marriage, and forced conversions of both Christian and Hindu women to Islam are common. Religious discrimination is forcing native Pakistani Hindus to flee their homes and Pakistan.

Pakistan ranks third in the Global Slavery Index. It is estimated that there are between 2,000,000 and 2,200,000 victims suffering from various forms of modern slavery in Pakistan. Often children working in brick kilns and construction sectors are not paid money but remunerated with food, once a day. There are also reports that over 2,000,000 children have gone missing and possibly been trafficked to other counties as slaves.
As many as 350 women and 270 men were killed in honour killings. Six hundred thousand women were trafficked for sex slavery inside and outside of Pakistan. The local None Government Organizations claim that every month, at least 200 girls from Hindu and Christian minorities are abducted and forced to convert to Islam.

The economic conditions of the country have been deteriorating and the government has to borrow money from the market to cover daily expenses. Foreign debt has ballooned to $ USD 45 billion, which is 42 % of the annual budget. This has directly hit the budgets on education, health, and poverty elimination. Yet the defense budget never fails to increase; up to 29% from 23% of the budget in 2013; thus development allocation has to be slashed to fulfil the demands of the powerful armed forces so Pakistan’s government’s concept of ‘democracy’ does not suffer. Additionally, prices of essential items increased in 2013, up 13% compared to the previous year. The reason is said to be the government’s renewal of the contract it has with the International Monetary Fund by paying of its debt.

For some reason that is beyond my understanding, the present government has not made any concerted effort to rid the northeastern part of their country of the Taliban terrorists that reside there.

This is a country that very few people are happy to live in. No doubt they are government officials, the senior officers of the military, the police officials and of course their families. Those of us who live in countries were such abuses are rare, are very fortunate that we are not citizens of Pakistan under its present regime. 

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