HRCP noted that tensions between the parliament and the judiciary are acquiring serious dimensions and there is no cohesion between the political forces themselves
Lahore, March 27, 2010: While conducting a broad review of the human rights situation in the country, the HRCP executive body that met in Lahore expressed alarm that indications of growing anarchy have multiplied. This is reflected in a number of recent developments such as intra- and inter-institutional clashes.
HRCP noted that tensions between the parliament and the judiciary are acquiring serious dimensions and there is no cohesion between the political forces themselves. The disturbing incidents of violence used by the lawyer community against judges of subordinate courts leading to protests strikes by them only goes to show that even judges are desperate at their inability to stop violent defiance by a community that is expected to uphold the rule of law. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the norms of justice are being distorted and large sections of the population are resorting to rough and easy justice, such as growing incidents of vigilante excesses. Acts of barbarism by the law enforcement personnel are being glorified. There is friction between the law enforcement agencies themselves and in some instances the police have resorted to vandalism to press for their own demands.
The HRCP Council noted that conflicts in the country have acquired a complex character and multiple dimensions. There are clashes between ethnic and sectarian groups as well as between militants and principal organs of the state.
In this state of chaos human rights have been seriously undermined. The situation in the strife-ridden north-western regions of the country is a cause of concern for more than one reason. There are complaints of extra-judicial killings of the suspected militants and of recruitment of children in the private militias (lashkars) raised with the backing of the government. In the Swat valley, a large number of suspected militants have been detained by the security forces in private premises. These instances are in violation of the due process of law and are fuelling revenge killings. HRCP stressed the need for the government to develop a mechanism of civilian oversight of military operations to ensure protection of the rights of citizens in conflict areas. It demanded access to the conflict areas for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations as well as independent journalists.
Another cause of concern in the tribal belt has been signs of famine-like conditions as a consequence of the fighting between the security forces and the militants, mass migration from parts of the tribal areas and depletion of the economic resources. If not addressed in time, this may develop into full-blown humanitarian crisis adversely complicating the war against terror. The authorities also need to seriously address numerous complaints of the discriminatory nature of registration of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), that is being used by the security forces as a tool to strike deals with certain local communities.
In spite of the reforms package for Balochistan announced by the federal government, the people’s deep sense of deprivation and alienation continues to grow. Target killings by sectarian or nationalist organisations, have greatly increased. The illegal detention, including forced disappearances, of Baloch activists and the repressive tactics of the security establishment against civilians are causing widespread resentment. The provincial government itself has declared its helplessness and has talked of a ‘parallel government’ functioning in Balochistan. A delay in finding a durable political resolution of the Baloch demands would have very serious consequences.
The situation of religious minorities has worsened. There are illegal evictions of Hindus in Tharparkar, Sindh, by gangsters who are allegedly supported by agents of the state. There are complaints of young Hindu girls being forcibly converted and migration of religious minority communities is taking place from Sindh and the north-western tribal belt because of a climate of fear especially directed at them. Hate speech against religious minorities is being tolerated with impunity. An ugly example of this is the statement of the chief justice of the Lahore High Court, who proclaimed that terrorism in Pakistan was being financed by Hindus. Condemnation by parliament was not enough, at least a public apology by the author of the calumny was warranted.
HRCP watched the polling during the recent by-elections. While the outcome was not seriously disputed except in the case of Gujrat, quite a few irregularities were observed and there is obviously need for moving towards a truly independent and more efficient election machinery. HRCP was outraged at the obstacles in the casting of votes by women. Such violation of their rights was again addressed by the Election Commission nor was it denounced by political forces.
There are credible accounts of massive land-grabbing in Karachi. Almost every political party, ethnic group and powerful institution of the state is competing in such illegal actions. Kidnapping for ransom is routine in all parts of the country. There are indications that the perpetrators are being protected by elements within the state. In the Punjab, there has been an alarming rise in extra-judicial killings.
HRCP observed that all these are the ugly symptoms of a dysfunctional state where governance is missing and institutions of the state crumbling. The worst is yet to come as an economic meltdown is staring the nation in the face. Power cuts, gas shortage and the rising prices of all utilities will force industrial closure and consequently massive unemployment. This would inevitably lead to deeper anarchy, which the state will be unable to check. HRCP implores the government and all state institutions to rise above their petty differences and to collectively address the catastrophe at hand.
Asma Jahangir and all members of the HRCP Council