The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that Pakistan’s dismal human rights record will further deteriorate due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, heaping misery on the already marginalized sections of the society.
The HRCP released its State of Human Rights 2019 annual report today, in which its honorary spokesperson, I.A. Rehman, termed Pakistan’s human rights record in 2019 “greatly worrisome”.
Rehman noted that the ongoing global pandemic “is likely to cast a long shadow on prospects for human rights,” according to the official press release.
On the release of its flagship annual report, HRCP’s Secretary-General Harris Khalique observed: “Last year will be remembered for systematic curbs on political dissent, the chokehold on press freedom, and the grievous neglect of economic and social rights”.
He informed that the 2019 report also offered standalone chapters on each federating unit and administered territory so that no area was underreported or missed out.
The report stated that Pakistan has failed to protect its most vulnerable. It noted that reports of child labourers being sexually abused in mines surfaced in Balochistan this year, while news of young children being raped, murdered and dumped have “become frighteningly common”.
“Women continued to bear the brunt of society’s fixation with ‘honour’, with Punjab accounting for the highest proportion of ‘honour’ crimes. Equally, Pakistan does not protect those to whom it has a duty of care: prisoners in the country’s sorely overpopulated jails remain relegated to subhuman level,” mentioned the human rights watchdog.
The HRCP statement stated that numerous journalists reported that it had become even more difficult to criticize the state policy.
According to former HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf, the erosion of social media spaces and a deliberate financial squeeze on the media ‘led to Pakistan’s position slipping on the World Press Freedom Index’.
The human rights body observed that mysterious disappearances of people continued during the year as well, demanding that the government should deliver on its commitment to criminalise enforced disappearances.
The report said that the continued operation of internment centres cannot be justified on any grounds.
HRCP director Farah Zia said: “In the case of Balochistan and KhyberPakhtunkhwa) — both historically under-reported provinces — the acknowledgement of real issues and their political resolution is vital if the state is serious about strengthening the federation”.
Religious minorities remained unable to enjoy the freedom of religion or belief guaranteed to them under the constitution, it stated. “For many communities, this has meant the desecration of their sites of worship, the forced conversion of young women, and constant discrimination in access to employment,” said the HRCP report.
The report further noted that constitutional compliance remained a major cause for concern.
“For instance, Article 140-A has yet to be implemented effectively, given the prolonged delay in holding local body elections in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” it mentioned.
The human rights body said that the restoration of student unions and space for trade unions to function should also be mulled over.
Chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan highlighted the HRCP’s distress over the gross violations of human rights committed in Indian-held Kashmir since August 2019 and the impact of the situation on regional peace and stability.