A grim picture of human fright -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

A grim picture of human fright

No wonder the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) presents a dismal state of human rights in the country. During 2009, covered by the Commission’s annual report, violations of human rights rose by many notches, violence spawned and the vulnerable sections of society came under increased repression.

The report, as expected, has rejected quite a few figures given by the authorities about targeted killings in Karachi and casualties caused by the CIA’s drone attacks. It also reports that the Gestapo-type midnight knock on the door has also not ceased and ‘enforced disappearances’ continue to take place. Jails remain overcrowded.

Kidnapping for ransom has acquired status of a ‘regular profession’ and journalists are shot down like sitting ducks. And, rightly, the terrorist attacks have been described as the most menacing threat to people’s fundamental rights. The report does not spare the parliament either; it says during the year the parliament passed only four acts while the presidency issued 61 ordinances. In sum total, the HRCP’s report indicts the democratically elected government of failure in protecting the people’s human rights.

The HRCP’s report makes a painful reading. But, frankly, there was not much on the ground to believe that state of human rights would have improved during 2009. During the year for good or bad – only history would decide if the military-exclusive action in tribal areas was correct or even indispensable – forces moved into the restive areas inviting severe blow-back which came in the form of suicide bombing attacks all over the place.

The report estimates that over 3000 people were killed during the year under review in 2586 incidents of terrorism, including 108 suicide bombings. Now if the first quarter of 2010 the incidents of terrorism have slightly decreased would that make it a trend-setter, it is a matter of opinion.

Then it’s not the Taliban or their prototypes alone who are in the business of promoting violence; sectarianism, a side-show of Talibanisation, is also rampant and exacts equally heavy toll of human life. And no less popular sport is targeted killing which is entirely indigenous and enjoys indirect patronage of political parties and groups. The Commission must take it up with the concerned parties.

No question there was a sharp increase in incidence of violence against weaker sections of the society, women and children in general and religious minorities in particular. But there is the hope – given the growing concern of the civil society and media about their plight, and in case of religious minorities the government’s awareness of international backlash. Some positive legislation too has been enacted to give protection to these vulnerable segments of our society. But what to do with the mindset that refuses to change.

However it is not our position that situation is absolutely hopeless. Violation that stems from acts of terrorism is probably unavoidable – at least for now – though it can neither be condoned nor endorsed. It is the duty of the government to stir hope and boost the prospects of peace by evolving policies and plans of action that should bring the war to an early end.

But what is even more crucial is to strengthen the law-enforcement mechanism and obtain conditions that all are equal before the law. Too often people die in police custody or fake police encounters. Then the laws that are supposed to be sheltering the weak against the strong are not applied with uniformity. And if at all an aggrieved person decides to knock at the door of justice the door doesn’t open promptly; what a shame, according to the HRCP report, at the end of 2009 some 1.52 million cases were pending in superior and lower courts. But an area deserving even sharper focus of the Commission is the violation of economic rights of people that, given the heartless economic planning, is rampant. It breeds discontent and anger and it is from there that most of the human rights violations stem.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:3/25/2010