Some positive steps have been taken to empower civilian rule and curb armed militancy but the overall situation of human rights deteriorated further in Pakistan — especially in northwest and Balochistan, said Amnesty International as it launched its global human rights report 2011 here on Thursday on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International secretary general, told The News that Amnesty stood against all forms of terrorism, whether it is the terrorism of the al-Qaeda kind or the one perpetrated by the big powers.

He said the US should have, if it was reasonably possible to do so, captured bin Laden and brought him to the trial. “All the perpetrators of crimes should be brought to justice without any exceptions.”

“We feel for Pakistan at this moment of time as the nation was only recently battered by heavy floods. We feel that Pakistani people are in a difficult situation, it’s an unfortunate reality that the poorest and the most marginalised section have their rights violated by all sides.”

The report termed as positive the 18th constitutional amendment ending the president’s power to dissolve parliament, introduction of citizens’ right to freedom of information, enhanced provincial autonomy, and Asma Jahangir’s election as the first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

Amnesty noted that insurgent groups inflicted cruel punishments on the civilian population and launched deadly suicide attacks in the major cities, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries in hundreds of cases.

The Amnesty report documented that security personnel continued to arbitrarily arrest civilians, subjecting some to extrajudicial executions.

It said the new cases of enforced disappearance soared, particularly in Balochistan, old cases of enforced disappearance remained unresolved and violence against religious minorities intensified.

“The government failed to prevent or punish the perpetrators,” said the report. The report noted that Pakistani army was successful in pushing Taliban forces out of Swat Valley and South Waziristan in 2009, and out of Bajaur and Orakzai but military and civilian authorities failed to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

They did nothing to improve the area’s significant underdevelopment, failing to re-build basic infrastructure, including schools, and neglecting to restore businesses.

It criticised the US for carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan’s border regions, fuelling anti-American sentiment among the population.

The report said the state failed to protect journalists from attacks by armed groups and allegedly from the security agencies.

It said that Umar Cheema, an investigative journalist with this newspaper, was abducted, blindfolded, stripped naked, hung upside down and beaten by people who warned him about criticising the government.

“Prime Minister Gilani ordered a judicial inquiry and the Lahore High Court took notice of the case of its own accord but by the end of the year, no one was held to account,” the report added.

It said the security forces, insurgent groups and lashkars were equally involved in the killings of civilians for their own purposes.

Amnesty reported the rise in extremist militancy and held that the government failed to prevent and prosecute discrimination, harassment and violence against religious minorities. It said mainstream Sunnis as well as other religious denominations were attacked and killed with impunity in apparent sectarian violence by groups reportedly linked to the Taliban.

It said the blasphemy law was used against dozens of people but the state failed to protect several of those charged with blasphemy from subsequent attacks.

The report said: “Violence against women and girls gender-based violence, including rape, forced marriages, honour killings, acid attacks and other forms of domestic violence, was committed with impunity as police were reluctant to register and investigate complaints.”

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s Asia Pacific Director told The News 2010 was a difficult period for Pakistan. Besides being hit by natural disasters, he said, there was rise in violence and the discussion around blasphemy laws became very violent. “That criticism has been shut down and repressed.”

But the free Pakistan offers hope as it continues to ask questions.

The robust political process offers encouragement, civil society is still willing to take chances and asking for reforms, he said.

Source: The News – 13.05.2011