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March 14, 2019

HR violations often go unattended in Pakistan


March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON: The annual US report on human rights has stated that the security agencies in Pakistan essentially operates without effective civilian oversight.

The report released by the State Department on Wednesday covered human rights issues during 2018. In the executive summary on Pakistan, the report said that there was a lack of government accountability, and abuses often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among the perpetrators, whether official or unofficial. Authorities seldom punished government officials for human rights abuses.

"Terrorist violence and human rights abuses by non-state actors contributed to human rights problems. Military, police, and law enforcement agencies continued to carry out significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups," the report's summary said, adding, "Nevertheless, violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organisations and other non-state actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness."

It stated that as of December 23, terrorism fatalities stood at 686, in comparison with 1,260 total fatalities in 2017, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a database compiled by the public-interest advocacy organisation Institute for Conflict Management, which collects statistics on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia.

According to the annual report, human rights issues included credible reports of extrajudicial and targeted killings, forced disappearances tortures arbitrary and lengthy pretrial detention, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, censorship, site-blocking, and arbitrary restrictions on journalists' freedom of movement, severe harassment and intimidation of and high-profile attacks against journalists and media organisations, government restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including overly restrictive nongovernmental organisations (NGO) laws, restrictions on religious freedom and discrimination against members of religious minority groups, restrictions on freedom of movement, corruption within the government, recruitment and use of child soldiers by non-state militant groups, lack of criminal investigations or accountability for cases related to rape, sexual harassment, so-called honour crimes, female genital mutilation/ cutting, and violence based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, legal prohibitions of consensual same-sex sexual conduct, forced and bonded labour and transnational trafficking in persons, and the worst forms of child labour.

The report mentioned that there were kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons in nearly all areas of the country. "The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received an increased number of complaints compared with 2017. The commission had received 899 cases as of October 31, while there were a total 868 complaints in 2017. Some officials from intelligence agencies, police, and other security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location," it said.

The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received 5,507 missing persons cases between 2011 and October 31. The commission had closed 3,633 of those inquiries, while 1,874 remained open.

The military and paramilitary organisations conducted multiple counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to eradicate militant safe havens, the report said, adding that law enforcement agencies also acted to weaken terrorist groups, arresting suspected terrorists and gang members who allegedly provided logistical support to militants.

Along with that it mentioned that militant and terrorist activity continued in all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan. "Militants and terrorist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Islamic State Khorasan Province targeted civilians, journalists, community leaders, security forces, law enforcement agents, and schools, killing and injuring hundreds with bombs, suicide attacks, and other forms of violence."

"Militant and terrorist groups often attacked religious minorities. A low-intensity separatist insurgency continued in Balochistan," the report said, adding that extrajudicial killings in the fight against militant groups have also been reported.

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