PAKISTAN: The government must take cognisance of human right violations in the country and make the ICESCR, ICCPR and CAT part of the country’s laws

December 11, 2008

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The government must take cognisance of human right violations in the country and make the ICESCR, ICCPR and CAT part of the country’s laws

The AHRC is publishing its 2008 annual human rights report on Pakistan. A pre-publication version of the report can be downloaded at

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, which is also the 60th anniversary the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations in 1948, the Asian Human rights Commission issued the following report on Pakistan.

Pakistan has still long way to go in the effective instigation of human rights action and the rule of law. It needs strong actions by government institutions for implementation of democratic norms, tolerance, an atmosphere of environment free of violence, and recognition of human rights as a fundamental rights for the people of Pakistan. The newly elected government has started taking steps in the right direction to adopt the different UN declarations and covenants but speedier action is required.

The year started violently under General Musharraf’s military regime, particularly for lawyers, political workers and civil society activists. Musharraf was sworn in for a second presidential term on November 29, 2007 under emergency rule, which he then lifted on December 15, 2007. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and the chairperson of the then-running Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was assassinated on December 27, 2007. General elections of the legislative assembly were then postponed (from January 8 until February 18) by the military regime, on the pretext of a crisis in law and order. About 80 persons were killed in riots following the assassination, mostly in the crossfire between the police and citizens.

The government of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), in its first action after coming into power, ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and signed the International Covenant on Cultural and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture (CAT). The AHRC sincerely hopes that the government will continue in this course and take steps in the direction of ratifying the ICCPR and the CAT in order to make them part of the Pakistan Penal Code. The investigation and prosecution system require drastic change as the previous system is prevailing and at present there is little hope of remedies for the people where justice is concerned. During the first nine months of the new government’s rule the police have become more powerful and are taking advantage of the absence of the criminal justice system. In a recent case, the Sindh police arrested eight women and four children from Tando Allah yar village in order to seek the surrender of a suspected bandit. The police held these people in illegal and arbitrary custody for 16 days.

The same exercise was done in Punjab province where a high police officer, who was running a brick kiln, kept one person in illegal detention in his own private jail for ransom. Please see 

In the city of Faisalabad, Punjab, the police kept a girl aged 16 years in illegal detention for 16 days during which time she was raped. During this period her elder sister was kept nude in the police lock up, please see

On a positive note, one good step was taken by the government towards the right to life. The government has stopped executions and making a constitutional amendment to abolish the death sentences which was inserted in the constitution by the military governments. President Asif Zardari has stopped the execution of more than 400 condemned prisoners and shifted them to the ordinary barracks of the jails.

The question of the restoration of the judiciary and the deposed chief justice has still not been solved despite being promised on several occasions by the government. In fact, it was one of their election promises. Instead the government is using tactics to intimidate the judges and crushing the lawyer’s movement which has been going on now for 19 months.

Sadly, the question of the disappearances of more than 4,000 persons has still not properly been addressed despite government promises to obtain the release of disappeared persons who were arrested and disappeared by state agencies.

Military operations still continue in the southern province of Balochistan where aerial bombardments are being carried out by the air force. In the province of North Western Frontier more than 40, 000 persons have been evacuated from their homes because of the continuous military operation and US aerial bombardment. Militancy from Muslim groups has made the life of the ordinary folk miserable. More than 120 schools were closed downed; no girl’s schools are allowed to open and women are barred from coming out of their houses.

Religious minority people remain under threat from Muslim religious groups and law enforcement agencies who turn a blind eye to their plight. The blasphemy law is being increasingly used against them in ordinary feuds, and the charge carries an obligatory death sentence (though this can often be lifted, conveniently, with blood money). Though Muslims do fall foul of this law, Christians, Hindus and particularly the Ahmedis, a minority sect of Islam, are the main victims, who also suffer from attacks during worship. On numerous occasions their daughters are abducted and forcibly married to Muslims and thus ‘converted’, often never to be seen again.

The issue of torture in custody is not being properly handled by the government. Torture is still considered the best way of taking confessional statements by the police, and the government appears to be doing little to discourage the practice. During the last nine months at least fifteen people have died under police interrogation and there are currently no independent procedures for looking into such cases. There is also an alarming lack of sensitivity among legal professionals, particularly the lower judiciary, regarding the use of torture. The cost of using torture as a tool of law in Pakistan is underestimated and there has been a significant lack of development in criminal law jurisprudence in the country. There are at least 52 torture centres operating in Pakistan, all under control of the army.

Incidences of violence against women remain very high, and not enough is done to discourage it. One recent report* (*‘Policy and data monitor on violence against women’ from the Aurat Foundation) shows a sharp increase in acts of aggression against women in the second quarter of 2008. The report announced cases of violence to be up to 1,705, compared with 1,321 between January and March. Of these cases, the largest portion (20.9%) was for the murder of women, the second largest was bodily assault (11.4%) and honour killings were at 7.9%. Suicide and sexual assault statistics are also high. There were 107 cases of rape reported in this period, 66 of which were gang rapes (up from 19). However statistics vary. Pakistan’s Additional Police Surgeon (APS) Dr Zulfiqar Siyal recently announced that on average 100 women are raped every 24 hours in Karachi city alone. However a tedious, inefficient medical and judicial system, with few women working in either, discourages most women (up to 99.5%, says Siyal) from reporting abuse and subjecting themselves to more unwelcome male attention and further potential assault. Rape and sexual harassment in police custody remains a big problem, and few cases result in prosecution. If the mindset among the authorities is not challenged, little change can be expected to be seen in the general public. In another case eight women were buried alive in Balochistan. Please see the following links and

in yet another case a girl was mauled by the dogs and later shot by her assailant.

The government of Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani must take cognisance of human right violations in the country and make the ICESCR, ICCP and the CAT part of the laws of the country.

The AHRC is publishing its 2008 annual human rights report on Pakistan. A pre-publication version of the report can be downloaded at

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-315-2008
Countries : Pakistan,