Human rights record
WEDNESDAY saw the release of the annual report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad. Unsurprisingly, it constitutes an indictment. It is no secret that the country’s human rights record is grim, and has been so for decades. Unhappily, a perusal of the statistics laid out in the State of Human Rights 2016 shows that matters are getting worse, perhaps rapidly so. One figure given in the report stands out in particular. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, quoted by the HRCP report, the total number of missing persons in the country currently stands at 1,219. Of these, 728 vanished within the span of just 12 months, the year under review. This is astonishing given that the issue has been at the forefront of public debate as a major human rights outrage for years. The commission files monthly performance reports with the federal and provincial governments, leaving the state no possibility of being able to deny the problem. That this figure rose sharply over 2016 indicates that not only is there lack of purpose when it comes to the state’s ‘promises’ to resolve the issue, but that the perpetrators are operating with greater confidence and impunity.
Other data presented is no less shocking: growing restrictions on freedom of movement, increasing blasphemy allegations and a trend towards mob lynching, and intimidation of the judiciary and the media leading to a climate of fear — and to self-censorship where the latter is concerned. Punjab, it appears, witnessed an increase in cases of rape, gang rape and abduction last year, while in Karachi the frequency of bank robberies and theft of motorcycles and mobile phones went up. Taken together, the picture presented is one of a society increasingly prone to violence and anarchy, with the state, whose duty it is to ensure the rule of law, standing by helplessly. Ponder, for example, another figure that ought to be taken as a clarion call for action: the total number of cases pertaining to child sexual abuse — including abduction, missing children, and child marriage — stood at 4,139 during the year under review, a 10pc increase from 2015. While this could, as in cases of ‘honour’ crimes, partly be a result of increased reporting of such incidents, it nevertheless brings the number of child abuse victims to 11 per day. The country is on a grim human rights trajectory — and is ignoring this dangerous reality at its own peril.