The condition of minorities is worsening and it is nearly impossible for those accused in blasphemy cases to have a trial in Pakistan, according to I.A. Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
Speaking at the launch of HRCP’s annual report “State of Human Rights in 2013’ on Thursday, he said, “We are worried about the big picture and we do not find any indication of a comprehensive approach to human rights.” There is only symptomatic treatment and no holistic approach, he regretted. He said the number of those killed in sectarian clashes do not give an idea of the state of fear they were living in. The State should reorient itself to people’s welfare and meet basic demands, he demanded.
Mr. Kamran Arif said that human rights was in a state of regression and 2013 was no exception. Sectarian clashes had increased and administration of justice was far from satisfactory. There was a heavy backlog of cases across all tiers of the judicial system and 20,000 cases were pending in the Supreme Court, according to the report. The year 2013 witnessed over 14,000 murders which were reported to the police and 694 people died in 45 suicide bombings. In Karachi alone 3,218 people were killed in violence — up 14 per cent from 2012. There were 357 police encounters in which 503 suspects were killed and 49 injured in the encounters. 50 policemen were killed and 99 injured. More than 90 cases of enforced disappearance were reported. 129 mutilated bodies of suspected disappearance victims were also found. In addition 91 aid workers were attacked in Pakistan in 2013.
In the first few weeks of 2013, sectarian violence claimed the lives of over 200 Hazara Shias in Balochistan. The report documented more than 200 sectarian attacks which killed 687 people. Seven Ahmadis lost their lives in targeted attacks and in the deadliest attack ever against Pakistan’s Christian citizens, over 100 people were killed in a Peshawar church. A Muslim mob torched a predominantly Christian neighbourhood in Lahore after a Christian man was accused of blasphemy. 100 houses were burnt as residents fled. Individuals charged with offences relating to religion included 17 Ahmadis, 13 Christians and nine Muslims. In Badin, dead bodies of two Hindus were dug up by mobs that claimed that the graveyards belonged to Muslims and only Muslims could be buried there.
The year also saw 11 journalists losing their lives and many more injured while performing their duties. Pakistan was on the 159th spot out of 179 countries in the World Freedom Index. Internet curbs grew and YouTube was not unblocked and other websites were blocked without prior intimation. The situation of women continued to be grim: 869 women were killed in the name of honour and more than 800 women committed suicide in 2013, the report said, adding that at least 56 women were killed solely for giving birth to a girl child. Punjab reported 2,576 rape cases, the highest in the country.
Nasreen Azhar of HRCP said growing religiosity and imposing views on others was a serious trend. There was a regression in women’s political participation as well, she noted with fewer women in Parliament.