South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

By Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: Describing 2010 as a particularly bad year for minorities, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said the government did not even extend sympathies to the victims of faith-related killings.

The HRCP’s ‘State of Human Rights in 2010’ report released on Thursday noted that there had been few positive developments in the country with regard to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The country witnessed a series of faith-based attacks in which not only were minorities targeted but 418 Muslims belonging to various sects were killed. Suicide attacks on Muslims injured 628 people, mainly Shia and Barelvi.

“All indications suggest that there are even worse times ahead,” the report said.

“Extremist views grew more vociferous as voices for basic human rights and tolerance became more isolated in face of violence and intimidation.”

It said the police were not only not doing enough to protect the minorities from attacks but had also been accused of harassing or being complicit in framing false charges against their members.

Presenting the report, HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hassan said most of the human rights violations were being conducted by government functionaries, including police.

“Under such conditions, who will ensure that the laws are being implemented?”

The report said prejudices of law-enforcement personnel were believed to be a hurdle in effective protection of religious minorities in serious danger from Taliban or sectarian militant groups.

HRCP secretary-general I.A. Rehman said that in most of the religious-based killings the federal and the provincial government concerned even failed to express sympathy with the victims. He referred to faith-based killing of 99 Ahmedis across the country.

The report highlighted a growing spread of hate literature and said it had been monitored that in the mainstream Urdu newspapers 1,468 news articles and editorials promoted hate, intolerance and discrimination against Ahmedis.

“A student in Lahore was denied admission to MSc in zoology in a sate-run college because of his faith.”

The report said little progress had been made in bringing to justice those involved in violence and arson against a Christian locality in Gojra in 2009.

About 25 per cent of the 102 Sikh families in Orakzai Agency were forced to leave their generations-old homeland after Taliban asked them to pay Jaziya or leave the area. They were able to return after a military operation.

According to the Balochistan director of the federal human rights ministry, at least 27 Hindu families from the province sought asylum in India because of security threats.

Mr Rehman said the political parties had failed to contribute towards improving the human rights conditions.

“They cannot even speak clearly on the issue because they are not true political parties, these are just brokers and rubber-stamps,” he said.

The reports said at least 64 people were charged under the blasphemy law in 2010 and many of them were imprisoned.

A Muslim and two Christian men accused of blasphemy were killed in police custody.

The report highlighted a bleak picture of the official state of affairs regarding the blasphemy law and said 2010 saw the government’s flip–flopping on reform of the controversial law and also showed how it lost nerve in the face of intimidation by extremists after the idea of reform was floated.

On the law and order front, about 12,580 people were murdered and 581 kidnapped for ransom. At least 16,977 cases of kidnapping were reported.

US drones strikes were responsible for 957 extra-legal killings and 338 people were killed in police encounters. Only 28 suspects were injured and captured.

At least 1,159 people, included 1,041 civilians, were killed in 67 suicide attacks.

During the year, 2,542 people were killed and 5,062 injured in terrorist attacks.

Target killings in Karachi claimed the lives of 237 political activists and 301 other civilians and 81 people were killed in the Lyari gang wars, the report said.

Another 118 people were killed and 40 injured in 117 incidents of target killing in Balochistan, including 29 non-Baloch settlers and 17 members of the Shia Hazara community.

The bodies of 59 missing persons were found in Balochistan.

The report lauded parliament for adopting the 18th Amendment through consensus and then responding quickly to the Supreme Court’s reservations on the procedure for appointment of judges by passing the 19th Amendment.

Source: Dawn – 15.04.2011