HRCP terms 2007 as worst year in Pak history
LAHORE – The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has described year 2007 as one of the worst years in Pakistan’s 61 years long history as the country was only half alive in 2007 due to the repeated violation of human rights, terming 27 December 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto as one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.
Releasing its annual report for 2007 at the Lahore Press Club on the other day, the HRCP Chairperson Asma Jehangir and Director IA Rehman claimed that the previous caretaker government and the military regime that preceded it considered itself unaccountable, feeling no need to conduct investigations into various rights violations, such as the carnage in Karachi in May last year and the sacking of judges not toeing the administration’s line.
The report said that last year at least 927 people were killed in 11 suicide blasts, which were more than those decimated in the war-torn Iraq. As many as, 147 cases of torture and 65 of death in police custody were reported. Nearly, 39 people were killed in 29 mine explosions across Pakistan.
Rehman informed that 234 people were killed in police encounters in Punjab alone. By July, families had paid ransom in 41 abduction cases in the Gujranwala police range. By September, there had been 55 abductions for ransom in Karachi.
Prisons housed 95,016 detainees as against an authorised capacity of 40,825. Across Pakistan, 67 per cent of the prisoners were waiting trial. As many as, 134 convicts were executed, and 309 warded death sentence. There were over 7,000 prisoners on the death row. The number of missing persons in lists before the Supreme Court swelled to over 400 before the Nov 3 judicial purge abruptly ended hearings. Ninety-nine out of 198 missing persons in the HRCP’s list before the Supreme Court had been traced before Nov 3.
Police routinely and systematically tear-gassed and beat up peaceful protestors apparently to suppress political opposition of the government. Eighty-eight of National Assembly’s 342 members resigned in protest against Musharraf’s re-election bid in uniform. As many as, 107 members did not say a single word on he floor of the assembly during the 4th parliamentary year.
The National Assembly passed 51 bills in five years compared to 34 ordinances promulgated by the president. The assembly completing its full five-year term was seen as self-serving exercise by Musharraf to get re-elected. It twice elected in its new term a serving military general as president, according to the report.
Draft voters’ lists in June 2007 contained only 52.1 million voters instead of the projected 82 million. The ratio of religious minorities and women among omitted voters was very high and the final list in October swelled to 80.4 million.
Political leaders, judges, activists and many others were subjected to curbs on their movement throughout the year, and were intensely after the declaration of emergency. Section 144 as widely used by the government as the legal cover for such restriction.
The deposed Chief Justice and his family were under house arrest during the most of the year even though the government did not officially announce or admit it. Names appeared on and were taken off the Exit Control List without any reason given and cases were constantly challenged by many on the list which contained hundred of names.
Sectarian violence claimed 580 lives and wounded another 1,120. The militants entrenched themselves in parts of the NWFP and the tribal areas, taking over several towns and implementing their version of Shariah. They also targeted girls’ schools and CD shops and threatened religious minorities to convert to Islam or leave the area, the HRCP noted with regret.
The Shia community remained the main target of sectarian attacks. Five Ahmadis were murdered while 36 faced prosecution in faith-related cases. Places of worship and graveyards remained a target of the land-grabbing mafia.
Unprecedented curbs were placed on electronic and print media following the government’s attack on the judiciary and imposition f emergency. At least seven journalists were killed and 73 injured, mostly by the police. Security forces arrested 250 reporters or covering anti-government protests or for demonstrating against restrictions on the media.
Pakistan’s standing in terms of Press freedom over the last 50 years plummeted to 152 in rankings maintained by an international media watchdog. Another US-based media supervisory organisation included Pakistan among the 10 worst countries for the press freedom.
Political and religious gatherings, rallies and demonstrations were usually banned across the country under the excuse that these increased security risks.
However, the law-enforcement agencies failed to apply this rule to government-favoured party and groups’ rallies. Women protesters were beaten up and manhandled by men assigned law-enforcement duties on many occasions.
All those who were associated with protesting bodies were brutalised by the law-enforcement agencies throughout the year. The government acknowledged the arrests of over 5,000 in November alone.
Students in many educational institutions were warned of expulsion if they showed interests in any protest. Various NGOs working for women’s rights, awareness and family planning were forced to shut down or relocate from the Northern Areas after bomb blasts from militants.
The government tried to tighten its hold around NGOs by formulating a Code of Conduct, but faced extreme criticism for its closed and faulty modus operandi.
The number of violations against women remained high and there were countless reports of brutal attacks on them.
The HRCP recorded 1,202 killings of which honour-killing crimes were 636. There were 755 cases of sexual harassment in which 377 victims, including 166 minors, were raped, and 354 (including 92 minors) were gang-raped. There were 736 kidnappings, 143 attacks by turning and many other abuses against women.
The assassination of Punjab Minister Zile Huma and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto marked 2007 as a deadly year for women politicians. Female students and teachers received numerous threats to their lives and were told to observe Pardah (veil). The ensuing bomb scares and blasts at girls’ educational institutions badly affected the attendance and enrolment.
Around 2,038 juvenile prisoners were awaiting trial all over the country because of the non-implementation of a law made in 2000 for their protection. Children, especially minor girls, continued to be the victims of widespread sexual and physical abuse. At east 258 cases of rape and gang rape, and 138 deaths by killing were reported.
Child labour and trafficking remained rampant in 2007. Children in the earthquake and refugee camps were vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, disease, contaminated water and lack of extensive medical attention, the report said.
Unemployment and financial restraints forced people to take drastic measures. There were 330 suicides and 189 attempted suicides due to these reasons. The number of bonded labourers welled to 17 million. Labour laws were largely ignored and working conditions and salaries were in gross violation of basic worker rights.
Education became a commodity, which only the moneyed people could afford, forcing the poor to send their children to substandard government schools, emerged as another deplorable issue.
The situation on the health front also remained worst. As many as, six cases of polio were reported despite the fact the disease had been ‘eradicated’ in the country. Despite the law to prevent organ transplant, the incidence of renal transplant remained high, the report concluded.
Source: The Nation