Pakistan’s human rights situation is a complex one, as a result of the country’s diversity, large population, its status as a developing country and a sovereign, Islamic republic as well as an Islamic democracy with a mixture of both Islamic and colonial secular laws. The Constitution of Pakistan provides for fundamental rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to bear arms. These clauses are generally respected in practice. Clauses also provide for an independent Supreme Court, separation of executive and judiciary, an independent judiciary, independent Human Rights commission and freedom of movement within the country and abroad.
Although the government has enacted measures to counter any problems, abuses remain. Furthermore, courts suffer from lack of funds, outside intervention, and deep case backlogs that lead to long trial delays and lengthy pretrial detentions. Many observers inside and outside Pakistan contend that Pakistan’s legal code is largely concerned with crime, national security, and domestic tranquility and less with the protection of individual rights. In May 2012, President Asif Ali Zardari signed the National Commission for Human Rights Bill 2012 for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Political abuse of human rights:-
Provincial and local governments have arrested journalists and closed newspapers that report on matters perceived as socially offensive or critical of the government. Journalists also have been victims of violence and intimidation by various groups and individuals. In spite of these difficulties, the press publishes freely, although journalists often exercise self-restraint in their writing. The government often ignores abuses against children and religious minorities, and government institutions and some Muslim groups have persecuted non-Muslims and used some laws as the legal basis for doing so. The Blasphemy Law, for example, allows life imprisonment or the death penalty for contravening Islamic principles, but legislation was passed in October 2004 to counter misuse of the law.
Furthermore, the social acceptance of many these problems hinders their eradication. One prominent example is honor killings (“karo kari”), which are believed to have accounted for more than 4,000 deaths from 1998 to 2003. Many view this practice as indicative of a feudal mentality and falsely anathema to Islam, but others defend the practice as a means of punishing violators of cultural norms and view attempts to stop it to as an assault on cultural heritage. Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the police have been accused of arresting and kidnapping political leaders who have demanded more autonomy or freedom from Pakistan. They have also been accused of arresting student activists and teachers protesting the exploitation of Pakistani government. Many human-rights activists in Pakistan have protested against force disappearances and kidnappings.
Humanitarian response to conflict:-
Violence in Pakistan and the Taliban conflict with the government have heightened humanitarian problems in Pakistan. Political and military interests have been prioritised over humanitarian considerations in their offensives against the Taliban, and issues likely to get worse as people are encouraged back home prematurely and face once again being victims of the insurgents. Displacement is a key problem and humanitarian organisations are failing to address the basic needs of people outside displacement camps, nor are they able to address issues such as the conduct of hostilities and the politicisation of the emergency response.
Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute argue that aid agencies face dilemmas with engaging with the government, as this does not always produce the desired results and can conflict with their aim of promoting stability and maintaining a principled approach. A principled approach limits their ability to operate when the government emphasises political and security considerations. There were over 500,000 people displaced in 2008, mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the border with Afghanistan, and a further 1.4 million from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in May 2009.
By mid-July 2009, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) put the total of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) at just over 2m, while unofficial figures are as high as 3.5m. Most of those displaced (up to 80%) were taken in by relatives, friends and even strangers – Pashtun communities in particular have displayed great efforts in assisting the displaced despite their own high levels of poverty. Still others use schools, but only a small minority live in approximately 30 official camps, mainly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
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