Pakistan has failed to act on forced disappearances: AI

International watchdog says Pakistani security and intelligence forces are blamed for torture and killing of civilians, journalists, activists 

By Asif Mehmood

LONDON: The Amnesty International (AI) on Wednesday said Pakistan has failed to bring perpetrators of forced disappearance to justice as most of the victims were still missing.

On the launch of Amnesty International Report 2012 at the international headquarters, AI Secretary General Salil Shetty said in March, the Pakistani government established a new commission to probe forced disappearances but took six months to appoint former Supreme Court judge Justice Javed Iqbal to head it. A previous commission formed in March 2010 traced 220 of the several hundred missing people. Both commissions were criticised for failing to protect witnesses and for conducting inadequate investigations, especially in cases where security forces and intelligence agencies were implicated.

The AI report accuses Pakistani security and intelligence forces of violations, including forced disappearances, torture and killing of civilians, journalists, activists and suspected members of armed groups in indiscriminate attacks and extrajudicial executions.

Reports of extrajudicial executions were most common in Balochistan province, as well as the northwest and violence-ridden Karachi. Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab governor, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the minorities minister, were assassinated in January and March, respectively, because of their criticism of the blasphemy laws, according to the report.

The report also said in May, US forces killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad. Senior US officials publicly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban and other armed groups killed civilians in targeted and indiscriminate attacks across the country. Karachi was gripped by a wave of killing sparked by rival gangs associated with different ethnic and political groups. A successive year of monsoon floods led to further displacement and outbreaks of dengue fever countrywide. Chronic energy shortages caused violent protests in most major cities and stifled economic activity. Women and girls in conflict-prone areas in the northwest and Balochistan faced severe difficulties in accessing education and health care.

According to the report, the Pakistani Taliban targeted civilians and carried out indiscriminate attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings. Several tribal elders were victims of targeted killings. The Taliban also tried to assassinate a number of politicians affiliated with the Awami National Party. According to the government, 246 schools (59 girls’ schools, 187 boys’ schools) were destroyed and 763 damaged (244 girls’ schools, 519 boys’ schools) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a result of the conflict with the Taliban, depriving thousands of children of access to education. Threats of violence from the Pakistani Taliban imposed severe restrictions on access to health services, education and participation in public life for women and girls.

At least nine journalists were killed during the year. Media workers were threatened by security forces, intelligence agencies, political parties and armed groups for reporting on them. Pakistani authorities failed to bring perpetrators to justice or provide adequate protection to journalists. Sectarian groups continued to threaten minority Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and Shias, as well as moderate Sunni practitioners, and incited violence against those calling for reform of the country’s blasphemy laws. The state failed to prevent sectarian attacks against religious minorities or bring perpetrators to justice. The trial judge who sentenced Salmaan Taseer’s assassin to death was forced to go into hiding due to death threats while Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers had yet to be brought to justice. Politician Sherry Rehman withdrew a blasphemy law reform bill from the National Assembly following death threats. Aasia Bibi, a Christian farmer sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2009, remained in detention while her case was on appeal, says the report.

The report also says crime against women is rampant. Women faced legal and de facto discrimination and violence at home and in public. The Aurat Foundation documented 8,539 cases of violence against women, including 1,575 murders, 827 rapes, 610 incidents of domestic violence, 705 honour killings and 44 acid attacks. More than 8,000 prisoners remained on death row. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 313 people were sentenced to death, over half of them for murder. Three people were sentenced to death for blasphemy. The last execution took place in 2008, the report adds.

Courtesy:  Daily Times

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