A Statement from CIVICUS forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The CIVICUS Monitor added Pakistan to its watchlist of countries in March 2024, following the repression against the opposition, the censorship of journalists and attacks on peaceful protests around the elections. Other ongoing concerns include the criminalisation, threats and harassment of human rights defenders and the failure to hold perpetrators to account. There have also been violations documented against ethnic Pashtun and Baloch minorities and women’s rights activists.

Amnesty International in their annual report released on 24th April 2024 stated that the authorities continued their assault on dissenting voices, while human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, excessive restrictions on protests and violence against religious minorities continued unabated.

On 3rd May 2024, Pakistan dropped two places in the 2024 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It now ranks 152 out of 180 countries, compared to its standing at 150 in the 2023 index. In its country profile, RSF said that Pakistan has “oscillated between civil society’s quest for greater press freedom and a political reality in which the political-military elite retains broad control over the media”.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in their annual report “State of Human Rights 2023” released on 8th May 2024, said that there was increasing political polarisation in the country resulting in greater restrictions on civil and political rights. It noted that the “state’s response to the May 2023 riots was to quell dissent — to the extent of resurrecting military courts to try civilians, perpetrating enforced disappearances, ordering mass arrests and allegedly orchestrating public disassociation from the Pakistan Tareek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) among many senior party leaders.”

Since March 2024, a Baloch activist has disappeared and journalists have been threatened and killed. The authorities admitted to blocking the social media platform X for security reasons following the elections and are amending a law to increase oversight of online expression. Police arrested farmers amid protesters in Punjab, while protests in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were met with excessive force. Scores from the May 2023 protests, that turned violent, remain in military custody.



Jameel Umar, a Baloch civil society activist was forcibly disappeared on 19th April 2024.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Jameel Umar was on his way to Turbat from Kolwah when unknown gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on his car and abducted him. HRCP demanded his “immediate recovery and the assailants be identified and brought to justice”.

Other groups that raised concerns include the Human Rights Council of Balochistan (HRCB) and the Human Rights Department of the Baloch National Movement.

Human rights groups have documented the continued use of enforced disappearances by Pakistan authorities to target human rights defenders, journalists and people voicing criticism of the authorities, including against the Baloch community.



On 17th April 2024, in a written court submission the authorities stated that they had blocked access to social media platform X around the time of elections in February 2024, citing national security concerns based on confidential reports from intelligence and security agencies.

Users had reported problems using the platform since mid-February 2024, when jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party called for protests against a government official’s admission of vote manipulation.

At the time, both the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the state regulatory body, refused to comment on the outages that were also widely reported by internet watchdog groups.

Activists challenging the ban said it was designed to quash dissent after the general elections that were marred by widespread protests and opposition claims of vote rigging. Expert Usama Khilji told AFP that: “The X block seems to be intended to discourage the democratic accountability that a platform with instant updates of real time information enables, especially at a time when a controversial election with strong allegations and evidence of rigging surfaced.”


On 2nd May 2024, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that prominent television anchor Hamid Mir was facing death threats and online harassment.

Mir, who hosts the flagship political show “Capital Talk” on Geo News told CPJ that he had received multiple death threats on social media and warnings that his life was in danger from two journalists familiar with the situation. Mir reported the threats to the police in the capital, Islamabad. Mir also told CPJ that he saw at least two people filming him while he was in his vehicle near his Islamabad home, but they ran away when he approached them. Mir also reported this to the police.

Journalist Muhammad Siddique Mengal died in a bomb attack on 3rd May 2024. According to CPJ, an unidentified motorcyclist placed a bomb on Mengal’s vehicle at a busy crossing in Khuzdar city, in southwestern Baluchistan province.

Mengal was president of the local Khuzdar Press Club and journalist for the local newspaper The Daily Baakhbar Quetta and Independent News Pakistan news agency. He was killed alongside two others in the blast, which also injured at least six people. Mengal had received death threats prior to his death.

Journalists have faced various restrictions to their reporting in Pakistan, including censorship and being denied travel into the country. Others have faced arrests, harassment, attacks and even enforced disappearances.


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved a significant move to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, aimed at regulating social media. The approved draft includes the establishment of the Digital Rights Protection Agency (DRPA) under the PECA Act of 2024.

Under the new PECA law, the authority will be empowered to investigate social media law breaches and take appropriate actions against offenders. Individuals implicated in digital rights violations can be summoned and interrogated by the Digital Rights Authority.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 is a law that contains broad and vague provisions and disproportionate penalties to criminalise online defamation. The law also grants the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority broad censorship powers to block and remove internet content considered offensive under the Pakistan Penal Code, including content containing indecency, blasphemy or false information, without providing any definitions.

It also provides other agencies with the ability to conduct wide-ranging surveillance. It has been criticised by human rights groups and activists for criminalising legitimate forms of expression, including by journalists, while citing national security concerns and the protection of majoritarian interpretations of Islam.

There are also concerns about the creation of the National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA) to investigate cybercrimes, enacted under PECA. Earlier, these powers were held by the Federal Investigation Agency. Internet rights experts and journalists fear this is another move to silence online expression.


In the last week of April 2024, farmers from across the Punjab province gathered to protest against what they believe to be an unfair wheat procurement policy.

Farmers have been protesting against the decision of the newly elected government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to drastically reduce the public procurement of wheat. Farmers have alleged that this will destroy agriculture in the country and cause massive distress to the farming community.

The protesters, led by Kissan Ittehad Pakistan, managed to assemble at The Mall in Lahore and attempted to march towards the Punjab Assembly, where a heavy contingent of police intercepted them.

Police not only blocked the road by placing containers, but a heavy contingent of Punjab police in anti-riot gear also arrested more than 250 farmers. There were reports that arrests were also made in Rahim Yar Khan, Khanewal, Vehari, Kasur, Multan, Sadiqabad, Pakpattan, Muzaffargarh and Sahiwal districts. Police sources, however, claimed 46 protesters were taken into custody.


Protests against rising costs of food, fuel and utility bills erupted on 11th May 2024 in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Traders in some of the cities pulled their shutters down while protesters burned tyres to express their anger. The protests were organised by the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC).

The authorities tried to quell the protest by attempting to stop a rally headed for the Azad Kashmir capital of Muzaffarabad from Kotli and Poonch district and arresting around 70 JAAC activists during raids at their residences and those of their relatives in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur divisions, triggering serious clashes. The police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesting crowd, some of which also landed in a nearby school and injured several girls. A police officer who was deployed along with other police personnel to stop a rally was killed in Dadyal town while dozens of police were reported injured.

JAAC spokesperson Hafeez Hamdani told that the action committee had nothing to do with violence. He added: “It seems that such elements have been purposely planted in the ranks of protesters to bring a bad name to a struggle that aims nothing but the legitimate rights of the people.”

The authorities also placed mounds of earth on roads leading to Muzaffarabad, as well as making more arrests, to prevent people from heading towards the state capital. The administration also implemented Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the region to restrict protests.


At least 85 individuals remain in military custody, a year on from the 9th May 2023 protests – that turned violent – after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest. During the protests, government buildings and even military installations were attacked. The military cracked down on protesters and they were charged under a section of the Official Secrets Act (OSA), which the government amended, among others, to broaden its scope in August 2023, nearly two months after most of the arrests had been made. The amended law punishes anyone who “approaches, inspects, passes over or is in the vicinity of, or enters, attacks, destroys or otherwise undermines any prohibited place”.

Their cases are currently on hold, due to a restraining order from the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a case regarding the constitutionality of the military courts. According to Amnesty International, they have repeatedly been denied bail. The group raised concerns about the prolonged detention of women protesters, including PTI’s Sanam Javed, Yasmin Rashid and Alia Hamza.

Human rights groups have stated that trying civilians before military courts violates Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights law to ensure the due process and fair trial rights of criminal suspects. The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body authorised to monitor compliance with the ICCPR, has stated that the “trial of civilians in military or special courts may raise serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned.”