ISLAMABAD: Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has said that human rights abuses continue in Pakistan despite the country`s new commitments to safeguard rights.

The report said extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and forced disappearances at the hands of security agencies continued, while lashkar (armed groups) sponsored by the army killed hundreds of civilians without any monitoring or checks.

Citing Human Rights Commission of Pakistan`s statistics, Amnesty said 282 bodies of suspected insurgents were found between the end of military operations in Swat Valley in July 2009 and May this year. The killings, it said, were attributed to security forces by locals of the area.

Thousands of people, including children related to suspected insurgents, the watchdog`s report said, continued to be held in military custody after search and military operations in Swat.

“New cases of enforced disappearance soared, particularly in Balochistan, where many victims were found dead. Old cases of enforced disappearance remained unresolved,” the report noted.

It is alleged that several activists campaigning against enforced disappearance in Balochistan disappeared themselves and were killed.

The report mentioned five instances of assassinations of Baloch activists, including Senator Habib Jalib Baloch, Mohammad Khan Zohaib, Abdul Majeed, Faqir Mohammad Baloch and Zaman Marri. Though no evidence of involvement of law-enforcement agencies in these killings has been quoted, some indirect circumstantial evidence has pointed fingers at security forces.

In a grim assessment of the freedom of expression in the country, the report said: “Journalists were harassed, ill-treated and killed by state agents and members of anti-government armed groups. State agents failed to protect journalists from attacks by armed groups; 19 media workers were killed, making Pakistan the most dangerous country for media workers in 2010, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists. The authorities blocked some online news sites.”

On the issue of minorities, the report accused the state of failing to prevent and prosecute discrimination, harassment and violence against religious minorities and, increasingly, moderate Sunni Muslims.

“Ahmadis, Shias and Christians were attacked and killed in apparent sectarian violence. Sectarian groups reportedly linked to the Taliban attacked Shias, Ahmadis and Sufis with impunity. Blasphemy laws continued to be misused against Ahmadis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims and Sunnis.”

Gender-based violence, including rape, forced marriages, honour killings, acid attacks and other forms of domestic violence, the report said, were committed with impunity as police were reluctant to register and investigate complaints.

Quoting women`s helpline Madadgaar, it said, 1195 women were murdered as of late November 2010. Of these, 98 had been raped before they were killed. Madadgaar figures showed a total of 321 women raped, and 194 gang-raped.

Last December, it said the Federal Shariat Court ruled to reverse several provisions of the 2006 Women`s Protection Act.

“The verdict sought to reinstate certain provisions of the 1979 Hudood Ordinance which were extremely discriminatory against women.”

Notwithstanding an informal moratorium on executions since late 2008, death penalty was imposed on another 356 people, including one juvenile, mostly for murder. Some 8,000 prisoners remain on death row, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan had on March 24 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture, with sweeping reservations. No steps were subsequently taken to incorporate these international commitments into domestic law, the Amnesty report said.

Source: Dawn – 14.05.2011