WASHINGTON: The 2022 annual report of the US State Department on human rights, expresses its alarming concerns on enforced disappearances in Balochistan, extrajudicial killings of political activists, excessive use of force by Pakistani arms forces, firing on protestors in Harnai, internet shutdowns and restrictions on media and NGOs.
Released on Monday, the annual State Department report refers to several events that occurred in 2022, including former premier Imran Khan’s Azadi March to protest his removal from office.
The report notes that during this period, judges ordered media regulatory agencies to enforce constitutional bans on content critical of the military or judiciary, “compelling media to censor politicians’ speeches and election-related coverage deemed anti-judiciary or antimilitary.”
Organizations that monitored press freedom “reported direct pressure on media outlets to avoid content on possible military influence over judicial proceedings against politicians and positive reporting of opposition leaders,” the report adds.
In Balochistan, however, there were reports that “security agencies and separatist groups harassed local political organizations, such as the Balochistan National Party and the Baloch Students Organisation,” the report adds.
According to the State Department during 2022, its monitors received credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents; forced disappearances by the government or its agents; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government or its agents.
The report further states “Human rights organizations reported authorities arrested and caused the disappearance of Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baloch human rights activists, as well as Sindhi and Baloch nationalists, without cause or warrant”.
Pakistan also imposes serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and disappearances of journalists, censorship, and criminal defamation laws.
The report also refers to laws against blasphemy, serious restrictions on internet freedom, and substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
The report says that Pakistan also has serious government corruption; a lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial and ethnic minorities. Crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons are also common, it adds.