With the operation aimed at cleaning Karachi up in its third year, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in its annual report for 2015, observed that despite a marked decrease in overall violence in the metropolis, “a few steps taken to restore law and order have instead left a broad trail of human rights violations".
The report was launched at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday during a press conference, addressed by HRCP Sindh Vice Chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt, Szabist Dean Faculty of Education and Social Sciences Dr Riaz Ahmed Sheikh, and senior faculty member and former chairperson of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology’s mass communication department, Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan.
Expressing concerns over rising cases of extrajudicial killings in the province and the metropolis, Butt observed that the accused must be presented before the courts of law if there were any charges against them, as ‘murdering’ them extrajudicially would only pave way for anarchy.
Quoting the provincial police chief, he said that 1,800 accused were killed in police encounters; however, only 500 of them were reported in media.
“It indicates that the data was tampered by some invisible hands,” Butt said, adding, that extrajudicial killings were a crime and the practice needed to be eliminated.
If people who were only reported to have defied laws end up being blatantly killed, the public would lose trust in the judicial system, he remarked.
“Even those arrested have rights! And to ensure that they have access to their rights as per law is necessary,” Butt further observed.
“Those arrested following encounters were lying in jails with open wounds which have been left untreated, because the jail officials apparently want to teach them a lesson.”
Further reiterating the need to establish the rule of law, he added that every state institution should impartially observe that rule of law was being maintained.
Dr Sheikh while presenting recommendations included in the report, said there was a dire need to establish a transparent mechanism ensuring accountability at all tiers, besides depoliticising the police force on a priority basis.
“It was time relevant authorities were questioned over the implementation of the National Action Plan, considering the unprecedented legal cover provided to them,” said Dr Sheikh.
The statistics presented in the report are staggering and need to be taken seriously, he observed.
He further stated that when 6,000 inmates were kept in a jail which had a capacity to hold 2,400 people, the situation was definitely alarming.
Referring to the alleged custodial killing of a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) worker Aftab Ahmed, Dr Sheikh said called to investigate the practice of terming every death that had so far occurred while in the custody of a law enforcement agency as ‘a heart failure’.
Speaking of the 987 recorded cases of honour crimes reported in 2015, he observed that 1,096 were females and 88 were male, however, out of them 170 were minors, said Dr Ahmed.
He observed that despite ‘persistent awareness drives’ the patriarchal mindset was yet to be completely eradicated from the society, only then could gender violence be addressed.