close
Friday May 24, 2024

Pakistan dangerous turn for journalists,minorities in 2014: HRCP

KarachiThe challenges to and constraints on freedom of speech in Pakistan did not decline in 2014 as the government’s response to information requests submitted was dismal, especially from the federal, Balochistan and Sindh authorities.This was stated in the “State of Human Rights in 2014” report released by the Human Rights

By Shahid Husain
May 11, 2015
Karachi
The challenges to and constraints on freedom of speech in Pakistan did not decline in 2014 as the government’s response to information requests submitted was dismal, especially from the federal, Balochistan and Sindh authorities.
This was stated in the “State of Human Rights in 2014” report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan last week.
It said the year 2014 saw the enactment of some distressing occurrences, from a major news network being forced off the cable operators’ list to a political figure hurling threats at journalists and the National Assembly’s Standing Committee wanting to impose restrictions on the scope of reporting.
It further referred to the controversies pertaining to airing of “blasphemous” content on the electronic media, besides crippling fines and blanket bans forcing media outlets to practice a great deal of self-censorship.

Minorities’ persecution
Meanwhile, while documenting the facts pertaining to the security of minorities in the country, the report highlighted that a total of 144 incidents of sectarian violence occurred in 2014 while 11 places of worship of minority communities were attacked across Sindh.
Moreover, it said, two more attacks were carried out against the Zikri sect in Balochistan. Out of the 144 incidents of sectarian violence reported from across the country, three were clashes between communities of different sects. Furthermore, a total of 11 members of the Ahmadi community also lost their lives in targeted attacks.
Meanwhile, the report also cited the lynching and burning of a Christian couple in Kot Radhakishan, Punjab, for alleged desecration of a copy of the Holy Quran.
The report highlighted that no laws were formulated by the federal government to safeguard the interests of religious minorities. The only province to pass laws in this regard was Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa whose constituent assembly enacted two bills to safeguard minorities.
The report also highlighted the plight of around 157 families from minority communities who are among those displaced from FATA due to Pakistan Army’s Zarb-e-Azb operation against militants in the region. It cited a few accounts of the families who faced religious discrimination at IDP camps.

Political participation
However, according to the report, the year 2014 also saw people’s active participation in politics in the form of protests, sit-ins, social media campaigns, civil disobedience, subsequently followed by countrywide shutdowns.
The protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and PAT demonstrations highlighted the need to rethink a balance between the people’s right to protest and the state’s obligation to protect the rights and interests of the public.
But because of it, states the report, the year 2014 also saw the space for marginalised groups in politics shrink even further.
It said the year also saw the extension of “kill and dump” policy, previously used against dissidents in Balochistan, to the Sindhi nationalists. Moreover, unprecedented participation of women in political movements was attacked as immoral by some conservatives and retrogressive elements.
Meanwhile, violent attacks against religious minorities continued to hinder every aspect of their lives, including political participation.
Except for Balochistan, said the report, all provincial governments dragged their feet in fulfilling the legal and administrative requirements to hold local government elections while the new system in Gilgit-Baltistan failed to offer a sense of empowerment to the local population.

Freedom of assembly
Fourteen persons were killed and several hundred injured when clashes erupted between the police and Pakistan Awami Thereek (PAT) workers on June 16. The PAT rallies were held to demand the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and revamping of the political system of the country.
The PAT rallies started on August 14 to protest against alleged rigging in 64 constituencies in the 2013 election held in May and ended on December 16 after an attack on a school in Peshawar.
Meanwhile, thousands of people, predominantly women and children, took to the streets in Panjgur, Balochistan, to protest against the closure of private schools due to threats by militants.

Freedom of association
According to HRCP’s own monitoring of 48 volatile districts in Pakistan, journalists and human rights defenders suffered 19 attacks in the year 2014.
Its coordinator for South Punjab and human rights activist Rashid Rehman was shot dead on May 7 in Multan for defending a blasphemy accused.
According to the National Internal Security Policy, a document published by the government, about 60 banned organisations were operating in Pakistan.