Pakistan should not have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council today, as it fails to meet the basic membership criteria. See full UN Watch report on candidates here.

 

Pakistan’s Horrific Human Rights Record

Pakistan commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Extrajudicial and targeted killings
  • Disappearances
  • Torture
  • Death penalty
  • Lack of rule of law
  • Discrimination against women
  • Violence against women
  • Violence against LGBT
  • Sectarian violence
  • Persecution of religious minorities
  • Poor prison conditions
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Lengthy pretrial detention
  • Governmental infringement on citizen privacy
  • Lack of independent judiciary
  • Harassment of journalists
  • Harassment of human rights defenders
  • Restrictions on freedom of assembly
  • Restrictions on freedom of movement
  • Discrimination against religious minorities
  • Political corruption
  • Child labor
  • Human trafficking, including forced labor
  • Lack of respect for workers’ rights
  • Widespread societal discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, race, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status.

Discussion

Large areas of Pakistan suffer from terrorist violence. Pakistani military and security forces are accused of heavy handed tactics in responding to the militants, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances. The Karachi-based political party MQM alleged that the Pakistani paramilitary Sindh Rangers extrajudicially killed 61 MQM members in security operations in Karachi. It has also reported 171 of its political workers missing since January 2016. Other Pakistani parties made similar allegations against the government.[1]

In one case from May 2016, Pakistani police arrested senior MQM official Aftab Ahmed and a few days later news of his death surfaced along with photographs showing he had been tortured in custody. Another high profile detainee Dr. Asim Hussain, a senior member of the Pakistan People’s Party, is suspected of being mistreated while in the custody of the Rangers’ who detained him in August 2015.[2]

Many political detainees are subjected to torture in prison, including harsh beatings, cigarette burnings, whipping the soles of feet, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denying food or sleep, hanging upside down, and forcibly spreading legs with bar fetters. Local human rights groups reported more than 124 cases of police excess as of the end of November 2016.[3]

While officially Pakistan has freedom of the press, journalists and their families are often victims of violence and harassment by government organs and others, including sexual violence, abduction and murder. Many media outlets say they practice self-censorship and are routinely denied access to conflict areas. Content is also restricted through the “Code of Ethics,” and anti-blasphemy laws.[4] According to Freedom House, more than 200,000 websites are banned for anti-Islamic, pornographic or blasphemous content.[5] In January 2016, the Pakistan Rangers searched the house of New York Times journalist Salman Masood without a warrant.[6] At least two journalists were killed in 2016.[7]

Human Rights Watch describes violence against women and girls in Pakistan as “routine,” with local human rights groups estimating 1,000 honor killings per year.[8] These horrific crimes, in which women are often also tortured and/or mutilated, are under reported and often pardoned by the family. In July 2016, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother for shaming the family with her liberal lifestyle.[9]

Furthermore, rape and domestic violence are widespread. While rape is a criminal offense, domestic violence is not. Moreover, criminal prosecutions for rape are rare and rape victims face many obstacles from the police and court system in seeking justice, including abuse or threats by the police. Pakistani women also suffer from Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, being used as chattle to settle disputes, forced sequestration to keep property within the family and many other forms of discrimination and abuse.[10]

Under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, it is a capital offense to insult the Prophet Muhammed. Moreover, these laws are misused to accuse people in unrelated personal disputes and frequently embolden vigilante violence.[11] Pakistani courts fail to protect religious minorities subjected to these accusations, often convicting them on insufficient evidence.[12] According to Amnesty International, the mere accusation of blasphemy can result in arrest even if the charges make no sense and, once charged, the accused is often denied bail and subjected to a lengthy, unfair trial.[13]

In 2011, two government officials—Punjab province governor Salmaan Taseer and government minister Shahbaz Bhatti—were assassinated for publicly criticizing the blasphemy law.[14] In 2014, human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman was killed for trying to “save a blasphemer.” According to Human Rights Watch, there are currently 19 people on death row for blasphemy.[15] One of these is Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five, convicted in 2010 for derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammed during an argument. An appeal in the case due to be heard in October 2016 was delayed and has not yet been rescheduled.[16] Bibi has suffered both mentally and physically while in custody, according to her husband who said she has been held in solitary confinement with no access to reading material.[17] In addition, in April this year, university student Mashal Khan was brutally lynched after having made comments that supposedly offended Islam.[18]

U.N. Voting Record

Negative: At the General Assembly, Pakistan backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes, by voting to delay the work of the Special Rapporteur on violence against LGBT. Pakistan also voted against resolutions to protect human rights defenders and to promote entrepreneurship in developing countries. Pakistan voted against a General Assembly resolution that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran, and abstained on a resolution that spoke out for human rights victims in Syria and North Korea. At the Human Rights Council, Pakistan voted against a resolution to allow the High Commissioner to choose his own staff.

[1] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 2-5, 20, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[2] Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Pakistan, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/pakistan/report-pakistan/; Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Pakistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/pakistan.

[3] Id.; “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 6, 40, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[4] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, p. 25, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[5] Freedom in the World 2017, Pakistan Profile, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/pakistan.

[6] Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Pakistan, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/pakistan/report-pakistan/.

[7] Freedom in the World 2017, Pakistan Profile, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/pakistan.

[8] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Pakistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/pakistan.

[9] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, p. 43, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546; Lizzie Dearden, “’Rampant’ violence against women in Pakistan revealed as groups fight ‘un-Islamic’ law against domestic abuse,” The Independent, April 5, 2016, available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rampant-violence-against-women-in-pakistan-revealed-as-groups-fight-un-islamic-law-against-domestic-a6969311.html.

[10] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 6, 42-46, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[11] “Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse,” Amnesty International, Dec. 21, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/12/pakistan-how-the-blasphemy-laws-enable-abuse/;  Sune Engel Rasmussen and Kiyya Baloch, “Student’s lynching sparks rare uproar in Pakistan over blasphemy killings,” The Guardian, April 26, 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/lynching-of-a-student-sparks-uproar-in-pakistan-against-blasphemy-laws; “Why doesn’t Pakistan reform its blasphemy laws?” The Economist, Apr. 25, 2017, available at https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/04/economist-explains-14.

[12] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, pp. 17-18, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[13] “Pakistan: How the blasphemy laws enable abuse,” Amnesty International, Dec. 21, 2016, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/12/pakistan-how-the-blasphemy-laws-enable-abuse/.

[14] “Why doesn’t Pakistan reform its blasphemy laws?” The Economist, Apr. 25, 2017, available at https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/04/economist-explains-14.

[15] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Pakistan country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/pakistan.

[16] “Pakistan 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, 2017, p. 18, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265546.

[17] Jon Boone and Kiyya Baloch, “Asia bibi blasphemy case to be heard by Pakistan supreme court,” The Guardian, Oct. 11, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/asia-bibi-pakistan-blasphemy-law-supreme-court-death-sentence-salmaan-taseer.

[18] Sune Engel Rasmussen and Kiyya Baloch, “Student’s lynching sparks rare uproar in Pakistan over blasphemy killings,” The Guardian, April 26, 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/lynching-of-a-student-sparks-uproar-in-pakistan-against-blasphemy-laws.

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