Sherry appeared on Geo, Zardari retaliated by ordering Gherao of her house: HRW
ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that while the US remained Pakistan’s most significant ally and was the largest donor to Pakistan’s flood relief effort, it imposed sanctions on six units of the Pakistan military.
“The Leahy sanctions have not ended continuing reports of summary executions by Pakistani security forces,” Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch Hasan said. “Killings by the army need to end, and the US should stop sending mixed signals that allow the army to continue with business as usual.”
These findings, contained in the 649-page report, Human Rights Watch’s 21st annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarise major human rights trends in more than 90 states and territories worldwide.
Since the military regained control of Swat in September 2009, Taliban-perpetrated abuses such as public floggings and hangings have mostly ended. Despite this, Human Rights Watch continued to receive credible reports of military and police abuses in the district including summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced evictions and house demolitions. Human Rights Watch investigated some of these allegations and documented scores of executions.
Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani promised to investigate a video allegedly documenting soldiers executing a group of men and boys in Swat. Till now, however, no perpetrators have been held accountable for the killings. The HRW clearly puts the blame on President Asif Ali Zardari for the harassment that former information minister Sherry Rehman has faced recently.
In October the ruling Pakistan People’s Party announced a boycott of Geo TV, an anti-government television channel, and affiliated newspapers. When the government’s former information minister Sherry Rehman appeared on the channel, President Asif Ali Zardari in retaliation ordered PPP activists to besiege Rehman’s Karachi home for several hours, threatening her and her family.
The HRW points out that security forces routinely violated basic rights in the course of counter-terrorism operations. Suspects were frequently detained without charge or convicted without a fair trial. Credible reports emerged that a few thousand suspected members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other armed groups were rounded up in a countrywide crackdown that began in 2009 in Swat and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but few were prosecuted before the courts. The army repeatedly refused to allow lawyers, relatives, independent monitors and humanitarian agency staff access to persons detained in the course of military operations.
The Taliban and other religious extremists in Pakistan increased their deadly attacks against civilians and public spaces during 2010, while the Pakistani government’s response was marred by serious human rights violations.
“Taliban atrocities aren’t happening in a vacuum, but instead often with covert support from elements in the Intelligence services and law enforcement agencies,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Pakistan government needs to use all lawful means to hold those responsible to account.”
The government’s response to militant attacks instead has routinely violated basic rights, Human Rights Watch said. Thousands of Taliban suspects have been held in unlawful military detention without charge, many of them in two military facilities in Swat, one in the Khyber agency of the tribal areas, and at least one more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Persecution and discrimination under cover of law against religious minorities and other vulnerable groups have remained serious problems, Human Rights Watch said. On November 7, Aasia Bibi, a Christian from Punjab province, became the first woman in the country’s history to be sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy. Attempts by government officials and legislators to seek a pardon and amend the blasphemy law were greeted with threats, intimidation, and violence. On December 30, the government backtracked on its promise to review the blasphemy law.
On January 4, 2011, Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor, a vocal critic of the blasphemy law, was gunned down in Islamabad by a bodyguard who admitted to the killing, saying he did it because of Taseer’s stance on the issue. Taseer had received numerous death threats for his support of Aasia Bibi. A former information minister, Sherry Rehman, who proposed amendments to the blasphemy law, has also received death threats in the face of government inaction.
“Instead of capitulating to extremists who intimidate, threaten and kill those with opposing views, the government should protect those at risk, such as Rehman, and hold those inciting violence accountable,” Hasan said. Aerial drone strikes by the United States on suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan escalated in 2010. These strikes were accompanied by persistent claims of large number of civilian casualties, but lack of access to the conflict areas has prevented independent verification.
Pakistan’s media remained vocal critics of the government and experienced less interference from the elected government than in previous years. However, fearful of retaliation, the media rarely reported on human rights abuses by the military in counter-terrorism operations, Human Rights Watch said.
Pakistan’s independent judiciary repeatedly caused controversy relying on overly broad “contempt” laws to check criticism of judicial conduct, Human Rights Watch said. Journalists told Human Rights Watch that major television channels were informally advised by judicial authorities that they would be summoned to face contempt charges for criticising or commenting unfavourably on judicial decisions or specific judges. Publications, including the English language newspapers Dawn and The News, were compelled to apologise publicly to the courts. Journalists at Dawn faced contempt proceedings for publishing a story alleging misuse of office by the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court.
“No government institution, including the courts, should be immune from public debate in a democratic society,” Hasan said. “Judicial independence does not mean that judicial decisionsÃ‡ or even judges themselvesÃ‡ should not be subject to public criticism.”
In November, the Lahore High Court unconstitutionally prevented President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, the blasphemy law victim. The court also voluntarily accepted for hearing a frivolous petition seeking Rehman’s disqualification from parliamentary office on the grounds that she had committed “apostasy” by trying to offer amendments to the blasphemy law.
“It is the right of any member of Parliament to propose legislation,” Hasan said. “For the Lahore High Court to entertain such litigation amounts to legal persecution.” On December 23, the Federal Shariat Court ruled unconstitutional several key provisions of the 2006 Women’s Protection Act, which had sought to nullify the provisions of the Hudood Ordinance, another relic of the Zia ul-Haq era. The verdict withdraws the relief provided by the Women’s Protection Act and undermines protections provided in accordance with the fundamental rights’ provisions of Pakistan’s constitution.
“It is sad that Pakistan’s judicial system is using its newfound independence to undermine Parliament and restore discrimination and abuse rather than to end it,” Hasan said.
Source: The News