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Wednesday December 07, 2022

State of human rights

By Editorial Board
May 02, 2022

For the 30th year, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has put forward its detailed review of the state of human rights in the country and the measures that should be taken to reduce human rights violations in the country. The main takeaway from the report is that there were blatant and unrelenting attempts to crack down on dissent, with at least nine journalists having faced harassment in an attempt to silence them in their work. As happens every year, violence against women took every possible form: from rape to domestic abuse to horrific murders to honour killings. The report has noted that 478 honour killings were reported in the country in 2021, although the number is almost certainly much higher with many never reaching the press, and over 5000 cases of rapes were reported by the media. Overall, violence in the country appeared to have increased quite dramatically. The HRCP has especially noted the case of Nazim Jokhio, and the mob lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot. These are but just a few examples of the disturbing trend of increased violence in the country. Just a few months back, research had revealed how many of these cases of violence are perpetrated by young people. The past few years we have watched in horror as Pakistani society has increasingly grown more violent -- bringing nightmare-inducing optics straight to our phones. This is a direct result of the extremist tendency prevalent in society, an inevitable consequence of consistent state policies.

The report has also noted the way the previous government used ordinances to push through laws, some of them highly detrimental to freedom of expression. The HRCP has also noted that religion was used multiple times over the years to try and stop various acts of legislation from being passed. One of the most difficult issues human rights defenders in Pakistan have faced over a number of years has been that of missing persons or enforced disappearances. In 2021, says the HRCP, the highest number of enforced disappearances was reported to have been in Balochistan, with the government having failed to resolve concerns of families of the missing despite sit-ins in Islamabad.

From missing persons to the Gujjar and Korangi nullah evictions to sectarian violence to violence against transgender persons -- the HRCP's State of Human Rights 2021 is a timely reminder to the current government that it must do better on all these counts and more. It is on the Shehbaz Sharif led government to ensure that media freedom is upheld, there are no more arbitrary anti-journalism laws, and journalists are not harassed for doing their jobs. The incumbent government must not make the mistake of taking human rights issues lightly during its tenure. This report card on human rights by the HRCP comes out every year but each successive government has failed to take suggestions from rights activists seriously. It is hoped that with a change in government there will finally be a change in how citizens' rights are treated and that all citizens from all communities and regions in the country can feel safe and less vulnerable to injustice and state or non-state violence.

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