Human rights in Pakistan: Wikis

  
  
  

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Pakistan

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Pakistan’s human rights record has dramatically improved since 1990. The situation of human rights in Pakistan is a complex one, as a result of the country's diversity, large population, its status as a developing country and a sovereign, Islamic republic as well as an Islamic democracy with a mixture of both Islamic and colonial secular laws. The Constitution of Pakistan provides for fundamental rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to bear arms and freedom of the press. Clauses also provide for separation of executive and judiciary, an independent judiciary and freedom of movement within the country and abroad.

The founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be an "Islamic country without Sharia." No Pakistani Government has ever come up with a detailed conclusion on what he exactly meant by this. Nevertheless, Pakistan's status as an Islamic Republic should not be confused or compared with other Islamic Republics in the region, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Unlike Iran, Pakistan is not a theocracy, but rather an Islamic democracy where elections regularly takes place on time and are mostly free and fair. Most of Pakistan's laws are secular in nature, most of which were inherited from the United Kingdom's colonial rule of modern-day Pakistan before 1947. In recent times, there has been increasing pressure on Pakistan to amend or replace some of its outdated laws made during the time of the British Empire.

Although the government has enacted measures to counter any problems, abuses remain. Furthermore, courts suffer from lack of funds, outside intervention, and deep case backlogs that lead to long trial delays and lengthy pretrial detentions. Many observers inside and outside Pakistan contend that Pakistan’s legal code is largely concerned with crime, national security, and domestic tranquility and less with the protection of individual rights.

The 2009 Freedom in the World report by Freedom House gave Pakistan a political rights rating of 4 (1 representing free and 7 representing not free), and a civil liberties rating of 5, earning it the designation of partly free. This designation has remained unchanged over the administration of President Pervez Musharraf and under the new government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani.

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Political abuse of Human Rights

Provincial and local governments have arrested journalists and closed newspapers that report on matters perceived as socially offensive or critical of the government. Journalists also have been victims of violence and intimidation by various groups and individuals. In spite of these difficulties, the press publishes freely, although journalists often exercise self-restraint in their writing.

The 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act, which established Anti Terrorism Court, and subsequent anti-terrorist legislation, has arisen concerns about protection of fundamental rights.

In 2002 citizens participated in general elections, but those elections were criticized as deeply flawed by domestic and international observers. Societal actors also are responsible for human rights abuses. Violence by drug lords and sectarian militias claims numerous innocent lives, discrimination and violence against women are widespread, human trafficking is problematic, and debt slavery and bonded labor persist.

The government often ignores abuses against children and religious minorities, and government institutions and some Muslim groups have persecuted non-Muslims and used some laws as the legal basis for doing so. The Blasphemy Law, for example, allows life imprisonment or the death penalty for contravening Islamic principles, but legislation was passed in October 2004 to eliminate misuse of the law.

Furthermore, the social acceptance of many these problems hinders their eradication. One prominent example is honor killings (“karo kari”), which are believed to have accounted for more than 4,000 deaths from 1998 to 2003. Many view this practice as indicative of a feudal mentality and as an anathema to Islam, but others defend the practice as a means of punishing violators of cultural norms and view attempts to stop it to as an assault on cultural heritage.

Pakistan was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May to be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) by the Department of State because of its government’s engagement or toleration of systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom [1].

Religious intolerance against Pakistani Christians by Islamists

Controversial Blasphemy Laws

In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Pakistani law mandates that any "blasphemies" of the Quran are to be met with punishment. On July 28, 1994, Amnesty International urged Pakistan's Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto to change the law because it was being used to terrorize religious minorities. She tried but was unsuccessful. However, she modified the laws to make them more moderate. Her changes were reversed by the Nawaz Sharif administration which was backed by Religious/Political parties.

Ayub Masih, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 1998. He was accused by a neighbor of stating that he supported British writer, Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Lower appeals courts upheld the conviction. However, before the Pakistan Supreme Court, his lawyer was able to prove that the accuser had used the conviction to force Mashi's family off their land and then acquired control of the property. Masih has been released [1].

On September 22, 2006, a Pakistani Christian named Shahid Masih was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating Islamic "blasphemy laws" in Pakistan. He is presently held in confinement and has expressed fear of reprisals by Islamic Fundamentalists[2].

On October 28, 2001 in Lahore, Pakistan, Islamic militants killed 15 Christians at a church. On September 25, 2002 two terrorists entered the "Peace and Justice Institute", Karachi, where they separated Muslims from the Christians, and then executed eight Christians by shooting them in the head.

On September 25, 2002, unidentified gunmen shot dead seven people at a Christian charity in Karachi's central business district. They entered the third-floor offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) and shot their victims in the head. All of the victims were Pakistani Christians. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said the victims had their hands tied and their mouths had been covered with tape. Pakistani Christians have alleged that they have "become increasingly victimised since the launch of the US-led international war on terror."[3]

In November 2005, 3,000 militant Islamists attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan[4]. However, Pakistani Christians have expressed disappointment that they have not received justice. Samson Dilawar, a parish priest in Sangla Hill, has said that the police have not committed to trial any of the people who were arrested for committing the assaults, and that the Pakistani government did not inform the Christian community that a judicial inquiry was underway by a local judge. He continued to say that Muslim clerics "make hateful speeches about Christians" and "continue insulting Christians and our faith".[5].

In February 2006, churches and Christian schools were targeted in protests over the publications of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in Denmark, leaving two elderly women injured and many homes and properties destroyed. Some of the mobs were stopped by police[6].

In August 2006, a church and Christian homes were attacked in a village outside of Lahore, Pakistan in a land dispute. Three Christians were seriously injured and one missing after some 35 Muslims burned buildings, desecrated Bibles and attacked Christians[7].

Based, in part, on such incidents, Pakistan was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May 2006 to be designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) by the Department of State.[7].

Discrimination against Hindus

There have been severe persecution of Hindus by Muslims in Pakistan since its formation in 1947.The increasing Islamization has caused many Hindus to leave Hinduism and seek emancipation by converting to other faiths such as Buddhism and Christianity. Such Islamization include the blasphemy laws, which make it dangerous for religious minorities to express themselves freely and engage freely in religious and cultural activities [8]

Minority members of the Pakistan National Assembly have alleged that Hindus were being hounded and humiliated to force them to leave Pakistan.[9] Hindu women have been known to be victims of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.[10] Krishan Bheel, a Hindu member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, came into news recently for manhandling Qari Gul Rehman.[11]

Hindus in what is now Pakistan have declined from 23 % of the total population in 1947 to less than 2% today. The report condemns Pakistan for systematic state-sponsored religious discrimination against Hindus through bigoted "anti-blasphemy" laws. It documents numerous reports of millions of Hindus being held as "bonded laborers" in slavery-like conditions in rural Pakistan, something repeatedly ignored by the Pakistani government.

Forced and coerced conversions of religious minorities to Islam occurred at the hands of societal actors. Religious minorities claimed that government actions to stem the problem were inadequate. Several human rights groups have highlighted the increased phenomenon of Hindu girls, particularly in Karachi, being kidnapped from their families and forced to convert to Islam.

Kidnapping charges were pending against a Muslim man who abducted a fifteen-year-old Christian, Samina Izhaq, and forced her to convert in August 2004.

On September 2, 2005, Ghulam Abbas and Mohammad Kashif reportedly drugged and kidnapped Riqba Masih, a Christian woman, from the village of Chak, Punjab, and took her to Lahore. The kidnappers repeatedly raped Masih and threatened to kill her and her family if she did not convert to Islam but Masih refused. On September 3, 2005, another unidentified accomplice took Masih into custody and detained her until September 6, 2005, raping her repeatedly. Later that day, the kidnappers took Masih to Faisalabad and abandoned her at a bus stop from where she made her way to her parents' home. Police arrested Ghulam Abbas and Mohammad Kashif and charged them with kidnapping and rape. Following an October 24, 2005, hearing in which a Faisalabad court denied bail, Kashif escaped from the courtroom and remained at large at the end of the reporting period. Abbas remained in police custody, and police are attempting to find Kashif[2].

On October 18, 2005, Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple residing in the Punjab Colony, Karachi, Sindh returned home to find that their three teenage daughters had disappeared. After inquiries to the local police, the couple discovered that their daughters had been taken to a local madrassah, had been converted to Islam, and were denied unsupervised contact with their parents[3].

Sectarian tensions and riots between ethnic Muslims

Several minority Muslim communities, such as the Mojahir and the Ahmadiyya have been attacked in pogroms in Pakistan over the years [12]. Plus, the ethnic Balochi have allegedly been severely discriminated against, leading them to start a secessionist movement under Nawab Akbar Bugti called the balochistan Liberation Army.

The human rights violation of the Ahmadiyya have been systematic and state-sponsored. The religious establishment in Pakistan does not approve of the reformatory nature of the Ahmadiyya Movement, and it considers it heretic. Politicians have often found it politically attractive to support the mulla in his anti-Ahmadiyya agitation. The first countrywide violence erupted in 1953. A high level judicial inquiry subsequently found and declared that political considerations and exigency were the main cause of the spread of the Anti-Ahmadiyya violence[13]. Many years later, Mr. Bhutto found it politically advantageous in 1974 to have Ahmadis declared a non-Muslim minority[14]. This was done after another countrywide violent anti-Ahmadiyya agitation conceived and engineered by the government and carried out by mullas. Minority status was an innovation, in that, while other groups were a religious minority by their own profession, Ahmadis were forcibly declared a minority through legislation.

General Zia, the military dictator of Pakistan, went many steps further in 1984, when to gain the support of Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, he promulgated the notorious anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX that added Sections 298-B and 298-C in Pakistan Criminal Code[15]. Through this Ordinance, Ahmadis were deprived of most of their basic human rights and their freedom of faith. Under the provisions of this ordinance, an Ahmadi could be given rigorous imprisonment of 3 years and fined any amount. An Ahmadi can be easily charged for profession of his faith or for ‘posing’ as a Muslim. The ordinance was a green signal for anti-Ahmadiyya elements to open the floodgates of tyranny with the help of the State. The ordinance provides a ready and convenient tool in the hands of fundamentalists and the government to incriminate Ahmadis on flimsy grounds and petty excuses[16].

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