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As many as 324 people, most of them having no links to terrorism, were put to death in Pakistan, while another 8,000 prisoners stayed on death row as the 21st constitutional and corresponding amendments to the Army Act 1952, has given the military courts the jurisdiction to try all persons, including civilians and juveniles, in offences related to terrorism under military tribunals.
This grim picture of administration of justice in the country is sketched by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its 2015 report that was submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government in Islamabad recently.
The commission further noted that 1,390 cases of enforced disappearance remained pending with the commission of inquiry. HRCP data suggested that at least 151 cases of disappearances were reported in Balochistan between January and November 2015.
Pakistan's new counterterrorism strategy encourages more disappearances, specifically in the province of Balochistan. The Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) that was signed into law in late 2014 has worsened the situation. The PPA militarises the counterterrorism policy allowing security agencies to hold suspects in preventive detention for up to 90 days and detaining suspects without due process or informing their families of their whereabouts, the HRCP observed.
Reports of enforced disappearances in Karachi have increased since the Sindh Rangers have been granted powers to operate in the city under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997. Persons picked up by the Rangers have no guarantee of their fundamental rights to fair trial or due process. Rangers were given powers in Karachi, based on changes made to the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Act in 2014, which allow them to try and investigate broad terrorism related offences in the city.
Outlining that attacks on buses and killing and abduction of passengers, restricted freedom of movement of certain ethnic and sectarian groups, the HRCP report noted that Pakistan's passport ranked one of the worst in the world to travel with, sharing a place with Somalia as the third worst passport in terms of travel restrictions.
Some 58 incidents of sectarian violence were reported from across Pakistan. Hundreds of people lost their lives and many more were injured in faith-based attacks against religious and sectarian minorities.
According to Human Rights Watch annual report on Pakistan for 2015, Violent attacks on religious minorities, fostered in part by the institutionalised discrimination of the "blasphemy laws," continued. Ongoing rights concerns in Balochistan province related to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture remained unaddressed. Lack of government response to continuing abuses by the security forces in Balochistan fostered a long-standing culture of impunity.
The HRCP observed that gender justice in access to education, health, economic opportunities and political empowerment continued to elude women in 2015.
It noted killing of 2,108 men and seven women through police encounters across the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan witnessed 10 and one percent surge, respectively, in total crime in 2015 as compared to 2014. During 2015, as monitored by HRCP, 939 women became victims of sexual violence, 279 of domestic violence. 143 women were attacked with acid or were set on fire. 833 women were kidnapped. HRCP database recorded 987 cases of honour crimes in 2015 with 1096 female victims and 88 male victims out of which at least 170 were minors. Despite the volume of cases, the rate of prosecution remained fairly low, the report says.
A total of 3,768 child abuse cases occurred during this year, a seven percent increase leading to average of ten cases a day. Out of the total number, 1,974 victims were girls and 1,794 boys and most victims fell in the age group of 11-14 years.
According to Human Rights Watch's annual report the human rights situation in Balochistan remained abysmal. Despite the May 2013 election of a civilian government, the military has retained all key decision-making functions in the southwestern province and blocked efforts by civil society organisations and media to cover ongoing violence there. Enforced disappearances linked to the security forces continued with impunity.
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