Recommend UsEmail this PageeGazetteAlislam.org
U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
March 11, 2010
Although the civilian government took some positive steps, the overall human rights situation remained poor. Major problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances. Collective punishment was a problem, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which fall under the legal framework of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Lengthy trial delays and failures to discipline and prosecute those responsible for abuses contributed to a culture of impunity. Poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention remained problems, as did a lack of judicial independence. Corruption was widespread within the government and police forces, and the government made few attempts to combat the problem. Rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and abuse against women remained serious problems. Honor crimes and discriminatory legislation affected women and religious minorities respectively. Religious freedom violations and inter-sectarian religious conflict continued. Widespread trafficking in persons, child labor, and exploitation of indentured and bonded children were ongoing problems. Child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and lack of respect for worker rights remained concerns.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
By year’s end the government had not taken steps to address the September 2008 killings of Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqui and Seth Muhammad Yousuf, two Ahmadi leaders in Sindh. In September 2008 the local anchor of a religious affairs program on Geo Television, Amir Liaquat Hussain, declared that Islamic teachings necessitated the killing of members of the Ahmadi sect and prompted two religious scholars who were guests on the program to affirm his position.
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, but there were reports that security forces, including intelligence services, tortured and abused individuals in custody. Under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, coerced confessions are admissible in anti-terrorism courts. During the year the NGO SHARP reported 2,300 cases of torture by police, most of which occurred in Punjab. Observers noted that underreporting of torture was prevalent in the NWFP and Balochistan. Torture occasionally resulted in death or serious injury.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were extremely poor and failed to meet international standards. Overcrowding was widespread, except for cells of wealthy or influential prisoners. According to SHARP, more than 95,000 prisoners occupied 72 jails originally built to hold approximately 36,000 persons.
Inadequate food and medical care in prisons led to chronic health problems and malnutrition for those unable to supplement their diet with help from family or friends.……
Foreign prisoners often remained in prison long after completion of their sentences because they were unable to pay for deportation to their home countries.
Police reportedly tortured and mistreated those in custody and at times engaged in extrajudicial killings. Christian and Ahmadi communities claimed their members were more likely to be abused. Non-Muslim prisoners generally were afforded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates and often suffered violence at the hands of fellow inmates.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
In May 2008 the government announced it had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, although the moratorium was not enforced in practice. In March 2008 the HRCP had noted there was “strong evidence” that the death penalty was applied without regard to due process, and SHARP reported that there were an estimated 7,000 inmates on death row. ……
Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent wealthy, religious, and political figures. The politicized nature of judicial promotions increased the government’s control over the court system. Unfilled judgeships and inefficient court procedures resulted in severe backlogs at both trial and appellate levels.
There were extensive case backlogs in both the lower and superior courts. According to a 2009 report published by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan on National Judicial Policy there were 138,945 cases pending at the superior judiciary and 1,565,926 pending with the lower courts or subordinate judiciary.
Courts routinely failed to protect the rights of religious minorities. Judges were pressured to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. The judiciary rarely heard discrimination cases dealing with religious minorities.
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.
Original trial courts usually denied bail in blasphemy cases, claiming that because defendants faced the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail often was not granted in advance of the trial. Lower courts frequently delayed decisions, experienced intimidation, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements.
The law provides for freedom of assembly and freedom of association, subject to restrictions imposed by law.
Freedom of Assembly
Although the constitution provides for this right, in practice the government placed selective restrictions on the right to assemble. By law district authorities can prevent gatherings of more than four people without police authorization. Separately, Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings since 1984.
The constitution states that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely, but the government limited freedom of religion in practice. Islam is the state religion, and the constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. The Federal Shariat court ensures that laws are consistent with Shari’a. All citizens are subject to the blasphemy laws. Freedom of speech is constitutionally subject to “any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam.”
According to the HRCP, there was an increase in cases of violence against minorities during the year. Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts from Islam occurred. Members of religious minorities were subject to violence and harassment, and at times police refused to prevent such actions or charge persons who committed them, leading to an atmosphere of impunity. The constitution stipulates 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,” the basis for the creation of the country.
The law declares the Ahmadi community, which considers itself a Muslim sect, to be a non-Muslim minority. The law prohibits Ahmadis, who numbered more than two million, from engaging in any Muslim practices, including use of Muslim greetings, referring to their places of worship as mosques, reciting Islamic prayers, using specific Islamic terms, 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. According to Ahmadiyya Foreign Mission, during the year 11 Ahmadis were killed due to their faith; there were nine targeted attacks against Ahmadis that resulted in several serious injuries; 37 Ahmadis were charged under blasphemy laws; and 57 Ahmadis were charged under Ahmadi-specific laws. At year’s end no Ahmadi was in prison on charges of desecration of the Koran.
The penal code calls for the death sentence or life imprisonment for anyone who blasphemes the Prophet Muhammad. 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 offend religious feelings. The latter penalty was used only against those who allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. ……
On January 28, authorities arrested five Ahmadis, including four teenage students and one adult, for carving the name of the Prophet Muhammad onto the walls of a bathroom stall at a mosque in Punjab province. According to the AHRC, no evidence suggested the five individuals were responsible, and authorities did not conduct any investigation before the arrest. The four students who allegedly defaced the stalls at the behest of the adult had no connection to the mosque and did not live nearby, and a police official said police were not aware of any substantial evidence that linked the students with the crime. According to the AHRC, the district police officer told family members of the accused that police were under pressure from religious fundamentalists to act against the students. The students were released in July.
There were no developments regarding the June 2008 case in which police charged all the residents of Rabwah in Punjab under anti-Ahmadi laws and arrested Muhammad Yunus for lighting fireworks and lamps and greeting each other, which the government considered to be preaching their faith, a crime by law.
Police closed the Ahmadi centers in August 2008 following a citizen complaint that Ahmadis were attempting to proselytize. The centers were permitted to reopen on the condition that they remove the Kalima (the recitation of the Shahada, the Islamic recitation of faith) from their centers.
There were no developments in the 2007 case in which an Intelligence Bureau district officer ordered the arrest of five Ahmadis, including two minors, after a teacher discovered the minors carrying an Ahmadi children’s magazine. After the case received wide media coverage, the charges were dropped but then re-filed in February 2007 against two adults.
By the end of the year, there were no developments in the trial of the 2007 case of a retired assistant sub-inspector who shot and killed a recent Ahmadi convert in a restaurant in Seerah, near Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab. At year’s end he was incarcerated and the case was pending.
Complaints under the blasphemy laws were used to harass rivals in business or personal disputes. Most complaints under these laws were filed against the majority Sunni Muslim community by other Sunnis. Appellate courts dismissed most blasphemy cases; the accused, however, 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 extremist religious groups. In 2005 a law went into effect revising the complaint process and requiring senior police officials to review such cases in an effort to eliminate spurious charges. According to human rights and religious freedom groups, this process was not effective because senior police officers did not have the resources to review the cases. There were no legal restrictions on Christian or Hindu places of worship. District nazims had to authorize construction after they assessed the need for a new church or temple. Religious minority groups experienced bureaucratic delays and requests for bribes—routine obstacles all religious groups faced—when they attempted to build houses of worship or to obtain land.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia extremists continued during the year. Shias, Christians, and Ahmadis were the targets of religious violence across the country.
The government did not address the 2008 attacks against one church, one Hindu temple, and five Ahmadi mosques in Punjab.
Since the promulgation of the Anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance in 1984, 295 Ahmadis have faced charges, and at the end of the year two Ahmadis were in prison under the blasphemy laws.
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. Ahmadis claimed that police generally were present during the marches.
Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu, and Shia Muslim communities reported significant discrimination in employment and access to education, including government institutions. These communities also faced societal violence. The National Education Policy mandated Islamic studies in schools; non-Muslim students could opt out of the course in favor of a more general ethics course. Several minority religious groups claimed the policy infringed on the religious freedom of non-Muslim students and made textbooks more biased toward Islam by removing information regarding the practices of other religions.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Elections and Political Participation
There were 10 religious minority members in reserved seats in the National Assembly, and one served in the cabinet as the Federal Minister for Minorities. Such seats were apportioned to parties based on the percentage of seats each won in the assembly. Under the law minorities held 23 reserved seats in the provincial assemblies: eight in Punjab; nine in Sindh; three in the NWFP; and three in Balochistan.
Section 6 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The constitution provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; in practice, there was significant discrimination based on each of these factors.