ISLAMABAD: In 2017, the overall human rights situation in Pakistan could be deemed better in terms of policymaking and drafting legislation related to key social issues, but worse when observed through the prism of some atrocious incidents such as the Mashal Khan lynching case, and the forced disappearances of bloggers, peace activists, and journalists, which not only dominated the national discourse, but also created panic and a sense of insecurity among the people of the country.
These incidents certainly cast a shadow on the efforts by the government and other authorities to improve the country's human rights record.
But, despite witnessing some terrifying incidents that shook the masses, the state claims that the overall situation of human rights in Pakistan has shown improvement in 2017.
According to data gathered by The Express Tribune, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has — between December 15, 2015 and December 27, 2017 — received a total of 1,207 cases of human rights violations. These include complaints, petitions and suo motu cases across the country and abroad. Out of these, 702 cases of human rights violations were reported from January 2017 to December 27, 2017, alone.
During the 2015-2017 period, Punjab had the most cases reported with 506, including 203 in 2017, followed by Sindh with 239, 154 if those being in 2017, Islamabad Capital Territory with 203, 108 of those in 2017, 182 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with (98 in 2017, and 39 in Balochistan, with 31 in 2017. In addition, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas had 20 cases, including 10 in 2017, Gilgit-Baltistan had one, and 17 cases were reported through the UN or other foreign sources, including eight in 2017).
According to the statistics shared by the government-constituted commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances, 144 new cases were brought to the attention of the commission from April to June 2017.
Meanwhile, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, its June to July human rights monitoring revealed that 77 death row convicts were executed and as many as 32 people were sentenced to death.
According to transgender rights activists, since 2015, at least 54 transgender people have been killed in K-P alone. Of these, seven were murdered in 2017. In addition to this, 607 cases of violence against transgender persons were reported in K-P during the last two years, with 208 of the cases reported in 2017.
“This year, the number of cases of police torture and violence against individuals from the transgender community remained high,” NCHR Chairman Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan said while commenting on the human rights situation in 2017. He said the law on torture has yet to be implemented as well as Pakistan’s other commitments at the UN, with respect to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that need to be enforced.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, he said that human rights violation cases were reported from across the country and that the NCHR has taken suo motu on 234 cases in 2017 and on 318 cases since 2015.
“The overall situation of human rights in Pakistan has improved in 2017, but is still not satisfactory. A lot needs to be done to improve it,” he said.
The chairman of the NCHR said that an annual report on blasphemy, persecution of the Hazara community, forced conversions, activist disappearances, the second report on the Kasur child abuse scandal, honour killings, shortages of drinking water, and many other issues has been drafted by NCHR.
Ministry of Human Rights Director General Mohammad Hassan Mangi, while sharing his review of 2017, said that this year saw several important bills drafted and passed.
“One of the major positive human rights developments was that the Pakistani government, for the first time, drafted a bill meant for the protection of the rights of transgender people,” he said while adding that the issuance of the first gender-neutral passport with a third-gender option was also a positive move in this regard.
Besides this, another significant move was the restoration of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act. This change in the law means that Christians can now divorce for reasons other than adultery.
In October this year, the National Assembly passed the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (Amendment) Bill, paving the way for organ donors to stipulate so on their National Identity Cards.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2018.