592 with no political affiliation killed
Karachi: At least 592 people with no political affiliations fell prey to target killings in the city in the past nine months stated a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here on Friday.
Although the report does not mention the ethnicity of the victims, clubbing the figures under the category ‘Targeted killing – non-political persons’, it can be safely assumed that the ongoing ethnic warfare is much to blame for the deaths.
The number of political activists killed from January to September 2012 stood at 264.
According to the report, compared to the past several years, sectarian killings spiked in 2012, with 48 sectarian deaths — the most number of people killed were from the Shia community.
The Lyari gang war also took 94 lives in these nine months, and the number of people killed in police encounters across the city stood at 76.
The number of law enforcement personnel killed in this period was 97 — 88 policemen and nine paramilitary soldiers. Four people lost their lives in police custody and at least one was killed by a paramilitary. As many as 278 people were killed after being kidnapped in the metropolis, while robbers took the lives of 56 people.
In the same period, a total of 18 children died after being hit by stray bullets and another 10 fell prey to target killings. Seven children were abducted and later killed, while nine were killed after being abducted and raped.
HR violations increasing
Target killing had intensified in Karachi to the extent that an average of six to ten people were being murdered on a daily basis and the month of August saw a 100 people lose their lives to the violence, said a joint statement of several civil society organisations.
The activists highlighted the figures quoted in a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report stated that in the first eight months of 2012, some 1,345 people were murdered in target killings. They claimed that the state never deployed the resources needed to curb lawlessness nor did it make an effort to eliminate the growing ethnic and sectarian divide in the city.
In their statement, the activists also expressed their disappointment over the government’s version on the state of human rights in the country that was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). They called on the council to take serious notice of the state’s failure to respect global human rights guidelines.
“The State report overlooks the violation of fundamental rights. There needs to be stronger commitment to safeguard human rights in Pakistan.”
In their joint statement, over a dozen civil society organisations and networks, including the National Commission for Peace and Justice, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, South Asia Partnership and Sungi Development Foundation stated that “There is hardly any evidence that the recommendations of the last UPR review were implemented by Pakistan.”
“In the last four years, the condition of human rights has degraded as the state has adopted an increasingly withdrawn posture with regards to its constitutional obligations towards citizens, compromising the right to life, security and livelihood of people as well as access to basic necessities and fundamental rights.”
Terming the presentation to the United Nations Human Rights Council as a “glossy document”, activists said it did not reflect the ground realities of the country. “Instead of presenting the true picture of the state of human rights in the country and devising a plan to face the challenges, the government relied on the old bureaucratic rhetoric of ‘all is well’ and ‘we remain committed’. This may never help to address the blatant violation of human rights.”
The statement outlined a number of areas which lacked the implementation of the laws needed to ensure the rights of citizens and their security.
Discrimination against religious minorities was further institutionalised through the addition of sections in certain laws which contained vague text and paved the way for abuse of the law, the activists said. They highlighted that religious minorities were frequently victimised through fake blasphemy charges under Sections 295B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
At least 292 cases were registered and around 18 people were killed after being accused of blasphemy during 2008-12. Religious minorities, though just over three percent of the population, made up around 50 percent of the victims of blasphemy laws. The group of organisations also expressed their concern over the progressive erosion of labour rights and accused the government of trying to mislead the UN council by referring to certain actions which even if implemented in letter and spirit, would only benefit a small fraction of Pakistan’s 57 million labourers.
The recent fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town that claimed the lives of nearly 300 workers showed the lack of compliance with health and safety regulations, the civil society organisations said. They also pointed out that the accident took place at a time when labour inspections were suspended in Punjab and Sindh, two of the biggest industrial provinces of the country. The activists said that this was a total violation of the Constitution that bound the state to make provisions for secure working conditions (Article 37(e)).
A large number of the people killed in the fire were women and the organisations highlighted the plight of female workers in the country. They said that many of the women in Pakistan, including a large number of home-based workers, were not formally employed. In addition to that, their wages were extremely low and some of these women worked in miserable conditions.
The statement also underlined the violence against women and accused the state of standing idle on the issue. Honour killings continued unabated, with 436 women falling victim to the heinous crime this year alone, it added.
It also said that the access to education for girls was extremely limited. Apart from the deteriorating state of security in areas plagued by militancy, where girls schools were frequently bombed, the government’s measures were inadequate to establish institutions, provide secure transport and ensure quality services.
Turning their attention to human rights violations in Balochistan, the activists said the area was fast becoming a no-go zone due to the state’s reluctance to seek a peaceful political solution to the existing crisis.
In its report, the government bluntly claimed that missing persons were returning from intelligence agencies, while refusing to accept that it was the state apparatus itself that was responsible for forced disappearances.