South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday offered a mixed report card in its annual look at the state of human rights in the country, welcoming the enactment of new laws to protect women but decrying an uptick in religiously motivated vigilantism.

The independent monitoring group said Pakistan was among the world’s most prolific enforcers of the death penalty, having executed 87 prisoners in 2016. Another 426 were sentenced to death last year.

Four prisoners convicted of terrorism charges in military courts were hanged early Wednesday, the Pakistan Army said.

Pakistan has executed 432 prisoners since 2014 when it lifted a ban on executions following a Taliban attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School that killed some 150 people, mostly children.

But most of those executed were convicted criminals and not militants, the HRCP said in its report. 40 were convicted by military courts, which have been criticised by rights groups concerned about due process.

The report noted that though fewer people died in terrorist attacks last year, but Pakistan’s judges and lawyers were under increasing threat from targeted killings.

It also said minorities continued to suffer discrimination and attacks from religious militants, with little state protection. It noted that Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates.

Pakistan last year booked 15 people, 10 Muslims and five non-Muslims, on blasphemy charges, according to the human rights report.

Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy, but the mere accusation is enough to ignite mob violence and lynchings in the deeply conservative country, the group regretted.

Freedom of speech also took a hit last year with threats of blasphemy charges levelled against those who challenged state authority, said the report.

Six journalists and a blogger were killed last year. There has been a spike in the level of “intimidation of the media and increased levels of self-censorship by the media,” the report further said.

“The year 2016 saw a disturbing rise in assaults on media houses, TV channel and newspaper offices as well as press clubs by militant, religious and political groups,” the report said.

It also criticised a new cyber law that allows the authorities to access a person’s online accounts without a warrant.

The report said attacks against minorities have taken aim at professionals, particularly those belonging to the Ahmadiyya community.

“The country saw several incidents of violence against Christians. The Hindu community complained of land grabbing, attacks, kidnapping, forced conversions, desecration of temples, rape, and murder,” said the report.

Militant groups also attacked Muslim shrines and mosques.

“In more than 30 attacks during the year, militants targeted different Muslim sects mainly Sunni, Shia, including Hazaras, and Bohra and worship places and shrines, killing about 110 people and injuring 162 others,” the report added.

Updated On: 10-05-2017