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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 2006
Pakistan: Human Rights Practices, 2006

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007
Pakistan
The government’s human rights record remained poor. Major problems included restrictions on citizens’ right to change their government, extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape. The country experienced an increase in disappearances of provincial activists and political opponents, especially in provinces experiencing internal turmoil and insurgencies. Poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention remained problems, as did a lack of judicial independence. … The government limited freedoms of association, religion, and movement, and imprisoned political leaders. … Domestic violence and abuse against women, such as honor crimes and discriminatory legislation that affected women and religious minorities remained serious problems. …

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1
Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life


During the year, HRW and AI expressed concern about reports and documentary evidence that armed Taliban supporters in the tribal areas engaged in vigilantism and violent acts, including murder.

Attacks on houses of worship and religious gatherings linked to sectarian, religious extremist, and terrorist groups resulted in the deaths of 127 individuals during the year (see section 2.c.). According to HRW, approximately 4,0004 persons, largely from the Shi’a branch of Islam, died as a result of sectarian hostility since 1980. The Ahmadi community claims that 171 of their members have been killed since 1988 and that the government made little effort to bring those responsible for these and other acts of sectarian violence to justice or to provide protection for the targets or their families.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Police force effectiveness varied greatly by district, ranging from reasonably good to completely ineffective. Some members of the police force committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. Failure to punish abuses, however, created a climate of impunity. Police and prison officials frequently used the threat of abuse to extort money from prisoners and their families. The inspector general, district police officers, district nazims, provincial interior or chief ministers, federal interior or prime minister, or the courts can order internal investigations into abuses and order administrative sanctions. Executive branch and police officials can recommend and the courts can order criminal prosecution. However, these mechanisms were rarely used. Police often failed to protect members of religious minorities particularly Christians, Ahmadis, and Shi’as from societal attacks (see sections 2.c. and 5).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained subject to executive branch influence at all levels. In nonpolitical cases, the high courts and Supreme Court were generally considered credible. Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent religious and political figures. The politicized nature of judicial promotions enhanced the government’s control over the court system. Unfilled judgeships and inefficient court procedures resulted in severe backlogs at both trial and appellate levels. According to the AHRC, more than 15,000 cases were pending before the Supreme Court. Ordinary cases take a minimum of five to six years, while cases on appeal can take as long as 20 to 25 years.

Trial Procedures

Laws prohibiting blasphemy continued to be used against Christians, Ahmadis, and members of other religious groups including Muslims. Lower courts often did not require adequate evidence in blasphemy cases, which led to some accused and convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered them freed.

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Court rulings mandate the death sentence for anyone blaspheming against the “prophets.” The law provides for life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran and up to 10 years in prison for insulting another’s religious beliefs with the intent to outrage religious feelings (see section 2.c.). This law was used only against those who allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Groups such as the Khateme Nabuwwat Movement, which considered anyone who questioned the finality of Prophet Muhammad to be a heretic, were known to insult Ahmadi beliefs; however, the law was not used against them. Foreign books must pass government censors before being reprinted. Books and magazines may be imported freely but are subject to censorship for objectionable sexual or religious content.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for freedom “to assemble peacefully and without arms subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order,” and freedom of association, and the government generally observed these rights, but with some restrictions.

Freedom of Assembly

While the law provided for this right, in practice, the government placed selective restrictions on the right to assemble and sometimes refused permits for processions in urban areas. Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings since 1984 (see section 2.c.).

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution states that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; [**] however, the government limited freedom of religion in practice. Islam is the state religion, and the constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. All citizens were subject to certain provisions of Shari’a, including extensions such as the blasphemy laws. Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts from Islam occurred. Members of religious minorities were subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refused to prevent such actions or charge persons who committed them, leading to an atmosphere of impunity. The constitution stipulates that the president and the prime minister must be Muslim. The prime minister, federal ministers, and ministers of state, as well as elected members of the Senate and National Assembly (including non Muslims), must take an oath to “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology,” which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan (see section 3).

The law declares the Ahmadi community, which considers itself a Muslim sect, to be a non Muslim minority. The law prohibits Ahmadis, who claimed approximately two million adherents, from engaging in any Muslim practices, including using Muslim greetings, referring to their places of worship as mosques, reciting Islamic prayers, and participating in the Hajj or Ramadan fast. Ahmadis were prohibited from proselytizing, holding gatherings, or distributing literature. Government forms, including passport applications and voter registration documents, require anyone wishing to be listed as a Muslim to denounce the founder of the Ahmadi faith. In 2005 the government reinstated the religion column for machine readable passports (see section 2.d.). Ahmadis were frequently discriminated against in government hiring and in admission to government schools and faced prosecution under the blasphemy laws.

On June 24, a mob attacked Ahmadi residents in Jhando Sahi near Sialkot district, Punjab, after allegations of the desecration of the Koran. The rumors alleged that Ahmadi men were seen burning pages of the Koran in public. The police arrested the accused Ahmadis, but a mob gathered and started burning houses, shops, and vehicles of Ahmadis. There were reports that prior to the incident, Muslim clerics had encouraged mobs to attack Ahmadis by calling out to Muslims on the loud-speakers of their mosques that non Muslims should not be allowed to live among Muslims. Reports indicated that two Ahmadis were injured, and about 100 Ahmadi villagers fled their homes where they had lived for 60 years.

On September 10, the government of Punjab banned the century old Ahmadi newspaper the Daily Al Fazal External Link open in new browser Window and raided its office in Chenab Nagar, Chiniot District, Punjab. Police arrested printer Sultan Dogar and journalist Abdul Sattar Khan and lodged cases under (“anti-Ahmadi” provisions) 298B and 298C of the Penal Code, Maintenance of Public Order, and the Anti Terrorism Act against them. Police confiscated all the publications and sealed their offices. While police released Khan on September 23, Dogar remained in custody at year’s end. According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Saeed Tatla, the raid was part of the government’s campaign to confiscate religious “hate literature.” In the FIR, the police accused the newspaper of preaching Qadiyani (“Ahmadian”) beliefs and describing Ahamdis as Muslims, which is illegal. Qadiyani is a derogatory word for Ahmadis.

Complaints under the blasphemy laws, which prohibit derogatory statements or action against Islam, the Koran, or the prophets, were used in business or personal disputes to harass religious minorities or other Muslims. Most complaints were filed within the majority Sunni Muslim community. Most blasphemy cases were ultimately dismissed at the appellate level; however, the accused often remained in jail for years awaiting the court’s decision. Trial courts were reluctant to release on bail or acquit blasphemy defendants for fear of violence from religious extremist groups. In January 2005 President Musharraf signed a bill into law revising the complaint process and requiring senior police officials to review such cases in an effort to eliminate spurious charges. However, according to human rights and religious freedom groups, this was not effective because senior police officers did not have the resources to review these cases. During the year the courts convicted one person and acquitted three under the blasphemy laws; 73 cases were ongoing.

According to AHRC, during the year, four churches, five Ahmadi mosques, and two Hindu temples were burnt, attacked, or destroyed in different parts of the country, with most occurring in the Punjab. Religious extremists killed ten Christians and four Ahmadis who were accused of blasphemy. AHRC reported that 49 Ahmadis and 110 Christians faced trials or were in prison on charges for desecrating the Koran. According to AHRC, there were 35 reported cases of forcible conversion of religious minorities.

All religious groups experienced bureaucratic delays and requests for bribes when attempting to build houses of worship or obtain land. The government prevented Ahmadis from building houses of worship.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’a extremists continued during the year and attacks on mosques and religious gatherings resulted in 127 deaths (see sections 1.a. and 5). Shi’as, Christians, and Ahmadis were the targets of religious violence (see section 1.a.).

Police arrested five suspects in connection with the October 2005 attack in Mongh, District Mandi Bahauddin that killed eight and wounded 14 Ahmadis.

In October 2005 gunmen opened fire at an Ahmadi worship service in Mong, Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, killing eight and injuring 14. On May 11, police arrested four persons linked to the terrorist organization Lashkar e Jhangvi in Toba Tek Sing, Punjab. Police charged Malik Abrar and Amjad Shah for planning and executing the attack. The state filed a case against them under the Anti Terrorism Act. According to the Ahmadi community, judges feared for their lives if they accepted such cases.

Ahmadi leaders charged that militant Sunni mullahs and their followers sometimes staged marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of between 100 and 200 persons, the mullahs reportedly denounced Ahmadis and their founder, creating a situation that sometimes led to violence. The Ahmadis claimed that police generally were present during these marches but did not intervene to prevent violence.

The Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu, and Shi’a Muslim communities reported significant discrimination in employment and access to education, including at government institutions.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The law provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; in practice, however, there was significant discrimination based on each of these factors.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The Shi’a, Christian, Hindu, and Ahmadi communities all faced discrimination and societal violence (see section 2.c.). The government removed religiously sensitive material from new text books.


** Word “freely” which appeared in the original Objective Resolution, passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in March, 1949, was omitted when it was made a substantive part of the Constitution of Pakistan by P.O. (Presidential Order) No.14 of 1985, Art.2 and Sch.item 2 (with effect from March 2, 1985). Resume Reading
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