Economic woes, curbs on dissent in Pakistan marred 2020: Report

ANI
·2-min read
Representative image
Representative image

Lahore [Pakistan], May 5 (ANI): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)'s annual report has asked the Imran Khan government to deliver to the public the "rights and freedoms to which they are legally and constitutionally entitled."

An HRCP release said that the pandemic aggravated existing inequalities, leaving millions of vulnerable workers at risk of losing their livelihoods.

"The Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Programmes, which the government sensibly made part of its approach to the pandemic, likely saved thousands of households from sinking deeper into poverty, but these programmes are only a small facet of what a robust, pro-poor strategy should look like," HRCP said.

The report noted that the pandemic was also a huge blow to educational institutions, with students compelled to attend online classes to the detriment of thousands in Balochistan, the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan, who had little or no access to reliable internet connections.

This is now the third year running in which HRCP has underscored escalating curbs on freedom of expression and opinion in its report.

"From the abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan to the arrest of Jang Group chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, it is clear that media groups continue to be pushed into towing the line. Worryingly, the National Accountability Bureau continued its operations as an instrument that violates fundamental human rights, including the right to fair trial and due process, among other things," the report said.

Prisons in Pakistan remain sorely overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of 124 percent. This is marginally lower than in 2019, but the ever-present risk of infection in the country's prisons shows that the state has failed in its duty of care, the report added.

"The long-awaited bill aimed at criminalising enforced disappearance has still not been passed despite commitments to this effect by the incumbent government since 2018. Indeed, despite the fact that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has failed to address entrenched impunity, the government extended the latter's mandate by another three years," HRCP said.

Meanwhile, Balochistan remained especially vulnerable to excesses of power, from the extrajudicial killing of Hayat Baloch, an unarmed student, by a Frontier Corps soldier, to the shooting of four-year-old Bramsh and allegations that the men responsible had been sent by the alleged local leader of a 'death squad.' (ANI)