Human rights record
IN the introduction to its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department has listed “specific countries where abuses were especially seriousÂ”.
One of these countries is Pakistan. Along with only two other states in South and Central Asia and 23 other states around the world (from over 190 that were included in the report), we are among a subset of nations that have failed particularly badly to provide citizens with the dignity, equality and justice they deserve. The detailed write-up on Pakistan makes it clear why, with a slew of abuses that should be a source of embarrassment for the nation. More disturbingly, the violations are all too familiar: extrajudicial killings and detentions, torture, discrimination against religious minorities, violence against women, honour killing, murders of journalists, bonded labour – the list goes on. While some specific instances reared their heads last year, including increasing targeted killings in Karachi, discoveries of the dead bodies of missing people in Balochistan and murders in the name of the blasphemy laws, the broad categories have remained the same. Recent years have also seen the addition of terrorism and of actions against suspected terrorists and militants, thousands of whom have been detained or killed without trial.
Nor did we need the United States to tell us all this – Pakistani human rights activists and journalists have been pointing out human rights abuses for decades, sometimes at great risk to their lives and their families. Consistently, however, any steps taken by one organ of the state are stymied by another or are abandoned due to inertia or lack of political will. Gen Kayani`s promised investigation into a 2009 incident of soldiers carrying out extrajudicial killings seems to have been forgotten. Judicial inquiries into the cases of missing people are obstructed or delayed. And there are certain issues the government treats as being untouchable through legislation, such as violence against women and the blasphemy laws.
Given that the report was not conducted by an international human rights agency but rather a particular country`s government, it is tempting to respond with questions about the United States` own human rights record. This is particularly true when it comes to drone attacks and to torture and extrajudicial detention, especially the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay and its trials by military commissions. But criticism of this kind cannot become an excuse to ignore our own unacceptable human rights record. It is a source of deep shame that anyone is able to declare us among the worst offenders in the world when it comes to protecting the rights of our own citizens.