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June 18, 2021

Religious minorities, women faced tough time in 2020: HRCP

 
June 18, 2021

MULTAN: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) 2020 report says the religious minorities and women experienced a tough time also in Punjab while the COVID-19 pandemic exposed health infrastructure, facilities and patients’ access to health services in the province during 2020.

Addressing a press conference at Multan Press Club on Thursday, HRCP vice chairperson Raja Ashraf, council member Nazir Ahmed and others said the HRCP-2020 report indicates that Punjab was also not free from problems of violence against women and the religious minorities.

The HRCP chairman said initially, negligence in the application of standard rules and regulations endangered the security of the people, especially in Punjab's jails.

He said the condition of jails had reached dangerous level in terms of presence of excessive prisoners and poor hygienic conditions.

He said no significant progress has been made in dealing with the backlog of pending cases. By the end of December 2020, 188,176 cases were pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC) while 1,372 and 908 were pending in district courts, according to the HRCP.

The report says 148 people have been sentenced to death in 91 cases, however, no one has been executed.

The report maintains that the passage of the Punjab Textbooks and Textbook Amendment Bill and the Punjab Protection of Basic Islam Bill 2020 have angered the people, who have said that these laws are an attempt to impose further restrictions on freedom of expression and belief under the guise of protection of religion.

Law enforcement in Punjab has been plagued by frequent transfers and infighting in the police force, while accountability institutions have been targeted for making politically-motivated arrests, the HRCP report has said.

It says the biggest problems faced by factory workers and daily workers were that thousands of workers were laid off during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Online classes only proved useful in areas where there was a stable Internet service delivery system. The painful reality forced students to protest. However, the actions of restricting such public gatherings were a reflection of the authorities' temperament and political gatherings faced more restrictions than religious gatherings or protests by ordinary citizens, the report maintains.

Incidents of child abuse continued unabated and out of the total number of such incidents reported from across the country, 57 percent were reported from Punjab alone, the HRCP report indicates.

It says it appears that women became more vulnerable during the epidemic and religious minorities were largely discriminated and allegations of blasphemy were made during the whole year. The HRCP report adds allegations of religious derogation, forced conversions and the demolition of homes of low-income Hindus, especially in south Punjab surfaced during the whole year.

Reports received from districts highlighted that 487 cases of blasphemy were registered in Punjab alone in 2020, the HRCP report concludes.