PAKISTAN: Inaction of judiciary encourages continuing disappearances

During year 2006 there has been no relief in Human rights violations.  On the contrary, as in previous years cases such as torture, disappearances and violence against women has increased. The government lacks the capacity to carry out its obligations under international norms.

Pakistan is remains in the severe grip of military control it has suffered since 1999.  Though the elected parliament is working it is under the control of the Chief of Army Staff, the President of Pakistan. The president has acted in defiance of the constitution and all major decisions are carried out arbitrarily by the office of the president.

The military operations in two provinces of Balochistan and Afghanistan bordering areas of North Western Frontier Province continue. As a result more than 6000 persons are disappeared since 2001 their whereabouts are not known. The phenomenon of disappearances, while not common in Pakistan before 9/11 the military government has made it a common method to victimise its political opponents. During the year 2006, more than 600 people have disappeared after arrests, including 200 persons from Sindh province, where the government is ruled by minority coalition group.  The Army’s secret agencies are very much active in politics and are arresting people with out legal authority.

In Bajaur, the Afghan Border area of North Western Frontier Province, the Pakistan Army killed more than 100 citizens in an aerial bombardment with the help of NATO Forces in two different incidents on the pretext of the war against terror. During the whole year several people were disappeared after arrests, tortured and killed on the pretext of following foreign terrorists.

In the southern province of Balochistan more than 4000 persons have disappeared after military operations since 2001.  Disappearances at the hands of law enforcement agencies, torture and extrajudicial killings continue. During 2006 the military government has taken strong action against the people of the province, killing more than 1000 people purely on political grounds. The leader of a political party and former governor of Balochistan Mr. Akbar Khan Bugti was killed when the army fired at his hide out. People of the province are denied their share in the natural resources and employment. More than 200,000 people migrated to different places of the country particularly from the areas much affected by the military operation.

Journalists also suffered during this year. About 20 journalists were killed by the law enforcement agencies and the dead included their family members. More than 90 journalists faced threats, harassment, physical attacks and criminal cases. Three FM radios and two television channels were banned by the government and later restored after protests from civil society.  Journalists are being abducted by the military, tortured in secret places and in some cases killed, as was Mr. Hayat Ullah Khan of the BBC after 6 months of illegal detention.

The judiciary lacks the courage to perform its duty under the civilian laws and constitutions. The judiciary has become subservient to the army and follows the instructions from the military president. The judiciary is working under the military made provision, constitutional order 2000, and has not taken the oath under the constitution of Pakistan after the restoration of Parliament in 2002.

Despite claims to the contrary from Pakistani authorities, the state of the women’s human rights in the country remains atrocious. Over 200 cases of rapes and sexual assault were reported during year 2006. In many cases the incidents are not reported as they are considered as dishonourable. More than 2,100 women were molested. The Jirga, a parallel judiciary operated by powerful people is working despite being declared ultra constitutional by the government and higher judiciary.  In fact, in some cases ministers and chief minister attend Jirga proceedings. The Jirga generally takes decisions against women including marriages of minor girls with old people in exchange of honor killings and murder cases.

Torture is still considered as the best way of getting confessional statements and bribes by the police. Every prisoner has to pass through physical or mental tortures after their arrests. About 1319 cases of torture have been reported as compared to 1200 cases of torture in 2005 and 900 cases in 2004.

The minorities are still in a vulnerable condition in Pakistan despite the claims from government that they have equal constitutional rights. During the year 2006, four Churches, five mosques of the minority Ahmedi sect of Islam, two temples of Hindu community were burnt or attacked or destroyed in different parts of country, most of them in Punjab province. Under the Law of Blasphemy 10 Christians, 4 Ahmedis were killed in different attacks by fundamentalists. Altogether 49 members of Ahmedi sect and 110 members of the Christian community are facing trials or are in prisons on charges of desecrating the holy book, the Quran. There are 35 reported cases of forcibly conversion of religious minority groups.

Children who come into contact with the criminal justice system are routinely denied basic rights to which they are entitled under Pakistani law. Thousands of children have been denied access to bail and remain in prison for months – sometimes years – while awaiting trial under conditions in which they are vulnerable to abuse by police, prison staff or adult prisoners. Children are routinely transported while chained to each other, adult prisoners, or guards. They are frequently held in lockups with adults. Some children have been sentenced to death.

There are several hundred children in prisons of Pakistan, most of them are kept in with adults; their cases usually take not less than two to one years because of the poor judicial system. Pakistan has only one juvenile court in each province.  The provincial governments and judiciary in particular failed to establish one Juvenile court in each district of province.

According to Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, in only one province of Sindh about 3,100 children were sexually harassed or abused during the first nine months of this year. Working children are generally sexually abused or harassed by the employers, and the police in custody.

The working conditions of the labour force were made more difficult when local government cleverly passed a finance bill through parliament that increased daily working hours from 8 to 10 hours a day. Not unnaturally, it is the women in the labour force that suffer the most.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-310-2006
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions, Judicial system, Torture,