2007, the worst year in the history of human rights in Pakistan
by Qaiser Felix
The report by the national human rights commission shows devastating results last year. Murders, rapes, abuses of the rights of adults and children, religious and ethnic minorities at risk, deportations and environmental disasters are only some of the terrible events that have struck the country and make it inhumane.
Lahore (AsiaNews/HRCP) – The report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls 2007 the worst year in Pakistan’s history. Last year, in fact, the country “was only half alive”, and this reduced its ability – which has never been very strong – to guarantee the rights of the people. The interior ministry has furthermore confirmed the data of the HRCP, which show a 20% increase of criminality all over the country compared to 2006.
The long and detailed report says that at least 927 people were killed in 71 suicide bombings, surpassing even the numbers in Iraq, even though the latter country was in the thick of war. Sectarian violence caused the death of 580 people, and another 1,120 were wounded. The militants, entrenched in the northwestern provinces and in the tribal areas, took possession of many of the cities, in which they put their version of sharia law into practice. Schoolgirls and music stores were among their main targets, and the religious minorities did not have many alternatives: they could convert to Islam, or be driven out.
But the Shiite community suffered the most from sectarian attacks. Five Ahmedis were killed, and 36 were persecuted for reasons connected to their religion. Not even the places of worship and cemeteries were spared, becoming targets of organised crime.
The assassination of the minister of Punjab, Zile Huma, and that of Benazir Bhutto, head of the PPP, contributed to marking 2007 as a “deadly” year for women as well. The HRCP reports 1,202 killings, 636 of which were honour killings. 755 cases of sexual molestation were also recorded: 377 victims were raped – 166 of these were minors – and another 354 were gang raped – 92 of these were minors. Female students and teachers received continual threats against their lives and were forced to wear the veil. Bombings of institutes and schools drastically reduced student enrolment and attendance. The grim list also includes 736 kidnappings and 146 incidences of arson.
2007 was also a terrible year for journalists: 7 reporters were killed, 73 wounded, mainly by police, and 250 arrested for having reported on protests and demonstrations against the government and on media censorship.
The report of the HRCP provides the numbers of people deported – more than 1.5 million – on account of constant military operations and armed conflict.
In various areas of Balochistan – the province bordering Afghanistan – many desperate people left without hope or alternatives were forced to sell their kidneys in order to be able to feed their families.
The number of executions is among the highest ever recorded both in Pakistan and among countries worldwide that impose the death penalty. 309 people were condemned, of whom 134 were killed, while more than 7,000 remain on death row. Furthermore, prison conditions are inhumane, and the prisons, with a maximum capacity of 41,000 detainees, in reality contain more than double this figure, about 95,000. As for the rights of children, HRCP reports 258 cases of rape and 138 homicides; even after the implementation of the justice system for children, 2,038 minors remain in jail awaiting trial. The report also says that the exploitation of minors and child trafficking continue all over the country, and there are growing numbers of young drug-addicted beggars, 83% of whom between the ages of 8 and 19 sniff glue.
Finally, unemployment and the financial crisis have led 339 people to commit suicide, and the negligence of the government in addressing the deterioration of environmental conditions has caused the migration of more than 300,000 people. More than 2.5 million people in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan were the victims of flooding