The 264-page report by the Independent Pakistan Human Rights Commission laid out a litany of human rights failings. They include unabated honor killings, forced conversions of minority Hindu under-age girls and continued use of a blasphemy law that carries the death penalty to intimidate and settle scores.
Pakistan’s media operated in a climate of fear that impeded coverage of abuses by both government security forces and extremist armed groups. The report recounts all the restrictions put on Pakistani media in the past year. It recounts the death of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a freelance journalist who ran a popular YouTube channel covering politics, was stabbed to death in Islamabad, restrictions on big news Channels like Geo for editorial pieces criticising the current government.
In December, Pakistan was ranked 151st out of 153 by the World Economic Forum on the Global Gender Gap Index. “Despite the legislation enacted to protect and promote women’s rights in recent years, violence against women has escalated,” the report released Thursday said. Crimes against children multiplied with at least 2,846 cases of abuse, although the true number was likely higher. In April, a powerful cleric who has the ear of the prime minister blamed the global coronavirus pandemic on women who dress immodestly. Jameel, who did not rescind his remarks, later said he was addressing the failings of the “collective” society.
Pakistan has more than 4,600 prisoners on death row, one of the world’s largest populations facing execution. At least 511 individuals have been executed since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on death penalty in December 2014. Those on death row are often from the most marginalized sections of society.
“The weakest segments of society remained invisible, unheard, neglected, and undermined when it came to the real priorities of the state — be it children who were malnourished, subjected to hazardous labor, sexually abused, physically tortured and murdered; or women who continued to face violence and discrimination at home, at the workplace and in public spaces,” the report said.
“Pakistan continued to bear a dismal human rights record in terms of complying with the constitutional guarantees to its own citizens and the international obligations to which it is a state party,” it said. The government’s own National Commission on Human Rights has been without a chairperson and six of its seven members for nearly a year.
Requests for country visits by U.N. special investigators on a number of issues are still pending. Those include extrajudicial killings and freedom of religion and the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.