HRCP report portrays dismal state of affairs
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: The year 2009 saw a sharp increase in violence against women and religious minorities, while new incidents of enforced disappearance continued to be reported throughout the year from across the country, said a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here on Monday.
The report, portraying a dismal state of affairs, said that terrorist attacks constituted the greatest threat to fundamental rights of people.
The report, released at a press conference by HRCP Chairperson Asma Jahangir and Secretary General I. A. Rehman, said the principle that military operations against terrorists should not be carried out in a manner that they did not violate human rights of the combatants and non-combatants alike was not always observed.
It referred to various complaints about extra-judicial and revenge killings in the aftermath of the Swat operation. The most harrowing reports were of bodies strewn upside down with notes attached to them warning that anyone supporting the Taliban would meet the same fate.
The HRCP regretted that its suggestion to set up a parliamentary committee to probe these incidents involving mass graves had gone unheeded.
According to figures compiled by the authorities, only five Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders were killed in 44 strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in tribal areas, while 700 innocent civilians lost their lives in these attacks, it said.
The report questioned the interior ministry’s figure of 256 target killings in Karachi, saying that according to its database, 747 persons were killed in the metropolis during the year.
It said the ruling coalition parties in Sindh were engaged in tit-for-tat killings in Karachi. Any attempt by police to bring the killers to justice met with stiff resistance from their political patrons.
The HRCP said the parliament did very little legislative work and the president’s special powers to issue ordinances were invoked excessively. Only four acts were passed by parliament, while 61 ordinances were promulgated during 2009.
The report said the National Assembly adopted two bills that offered protection to women. The Domestic Violence Bill lapsed because the Senate did not pass it within 90 days of its introduction. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which promised protection to women against sexual harassment by amending the PPC and CrPC, became a law after it was adopted by the Senate in the new year.
The report said 1.52 million cases were pending in superior and lower courts at the end of last year.
According to non-official estimates, 3,021 people were killed and 7,334 were injured in 2,586 incidents of terrorism. Out of these, 1,296 people were killed in 108 suicide bombings.
The report said 118 citizens and 158 security officials were killed in 164 incidents of target killings in Balochistan, while 83 citizens and 7 security officials were injured in these attacks.
It said 592 cases of kidnapping for ransom took place in NWFP, 241 in Balochistan, 224 in Punjab and163 in Sindh.
The report expressed concern over deteriorating condition in jails. According to it, 4,651 prisoners were housed in Lahore camp jail, which has a capacity for 1,050 individuals.
It said seven journalists were killed in the line of duty, while four others were killed in crime-related incidents.
A total of 163 direct attacks, including murders, kidnappings, threats and assaults were made against the media.
The report said 1,404 women were murdered. Out of these, 647 women were killed in the name of ‘honour’ (including the cases of karo kari). The number of rape cases reported was 928. Some 563 women committed suicide, 253 attempted suicide and 135 fell victim to burning.
The number of cases of domestic violence, including torture, beating, shaving, amputation and murder attempts, shot up to 205 from 137 in 2008.
Out of 70 million children of less than 18 years of age, almost 20.3 million do not go to school. Around 20.8 million are less than five years of age.
The HRCP endorsed exclusion of local government laws from the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that enabled the local bodies to become a provincial subject and the provinces started making their own local government laws.