Will Pakistan seize chance on human rights?
May 14th, 2013
10:54 AM ET

Will Pakistan seize chance on human rights?

By Mustafa Qadri, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mustafa Qadri is Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher. The views expressed are his own.

Saturday was a milestone is Pakistan’s short history – for the first time since the country’s creation in 1947, one elected civilian government will be followed by another after seeing out a full term in office. Up until now, every democratically elected government’s term in office has been cut short by an intervention from the powerful military. But this historic moment was overshadowed by a wave of coordinated attacks targeting election candidates, their supporters and election officials. More than 100 people were killed and many more injured countrywide.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the majority of the attacks, which have mostly targeted secular political parties, especially the Awami National Party and Muttahida Quami Movement. The Pakistan Peoples Party also had to drastically scale down on campaigning in the face of threats.

In cities and districts from Karachi in the south to Khurram Tribal Agency in the north, the Taliban distributed leaflets and issued statements threatening “dire consequences” for those who participate in the elections.

Such intimidation and attacks were part of a long line of attempts by the Taliban and other armed groups to prevent the people of Pakistan from freely engaging with and shaping their society. No matter how you look at it, these attacks and the general situation in the country demonstrate that human rights must be a priority for Pakistan’s incoming government.

More from CNN: Vote first step on long road

The violence continued right up to election day, including a bombing in Karachi that claimed 11 lives. Unfortunately, women in some districts of the north-west were also prevented from voting, a glaring reminder that discrimination on the basis of gender remains a serious problem.

But the remarkably high turnout of men and women voters across the country represented a clear rejection of the Taliban’s campaign of fear.

Pakistan is facing enormous human rights challenges – something we at Amnesty International noted in an open letter to all political parties during the election campaign. We set out concrete measures that must be taken to improve the human rights situation.

Over the past five years, serious human rights abuses by both state and non-state actors have continued, and in some respects taken a further dive. The state’s record of bringing those responsible for these abuses to justice in fair trials is poor at best, in effect sending the signal that perpetrators can literally get away with murder.

Arbitrary or secret detention, and abduction by state security forces continue at an alarming rate, particularly in the north-western tribal areas, and in Balochistan and Sindh provinces. The bodies of many victims are found simply dumped by a road somewhere, often bearing signs of torture. As far as Amnesty International is aware, no member of Pakistan’s security forces has ever been brought to justice for their alleged involvement in these violations.

Millions of people living in perpetual lawlessness in the underdeveloped, war-weary tribal areas continue to be held hostage to Taliban violence, while U.S. drone strikes and bombings by Pakistan forces are a constant threat. There are no quick and easy solutions for this region. But as highlighted in an Amnesty International report from December 2012, the situation is made even worse by a deeply flawed legal system that grants security forces sweeping powers, yet excludes oversight by the courts and parliament.

However, the people in the tribal areas are not the only ones living with minimal legal protection – the same goes for Balochistan. Men and boys from the ethnic Baloch community have been abducted or extrajudicially executed by the security forces, with those advocating for greater autonomy or separation from Pakistan most at risk.

Pakistan’s vibrant and independent media scene is in many ways telling people what the government will not – but even this is under threat. Media workers, too, have fallen victim to human rights abuses, with at least 48 killed since the last elections in 2008. As far as Amnesty International is aware, no one has been held accountable for these killings. Media workers who report on security issues and in violence-hit areas like Karachi, the tribal areas and Balochistan live with the fear that they could be killed at any moment and the state will not bring those responsible to justice.

The blasphemy laws in practice pose a serious threat to social harmony and the rule of law. In March, a mob of thousands destroyed a poor Christian neighborhood in Lahore after one of its residents had a drunken argument with a Muslim friend – just one of countless such examples.

Still, for all the gloom, there is also the courage of the people of Pakistan. It has been a privilege to meet and work with ordinary men and women campaigning for their rights, and to see how millions of people have shown courage in simply voting in Saturday’s elections.

All the more reason for the next government of Pakistan to live up to its duty to enforce human rights protections and bring those responsible for abuses to justice. Pakistan has just passed a historic milestone – let’s ensure that the courage of the people who made it possible has not been in vain.

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Topics: Pakistan

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soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Quigley

    As for human rights, the Pakistanis can start by opposing those dastardly drone strikes in the north, killing a great number of civilians along with the purported Taliban "militants". The question is, will they do so or will they meekly keep on taking orders from Washington D.C.?

    May 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      To answer you question Quigley, those wimps in Pakistan will continue to serve the neocons in Washington without question!

      May 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
      • James

        What bothers Punjabis about drones is not the cost in human life. The Pakistani military has killed far more innocent Pashtuns than drones after all, and the Pakistani state is essentially a mild apartheid state where the majority of the state's resources go to the Punjab. It's the audacity of the US to think they can bomb Pakistan's trash dump in the corner of their backyard–aka the FATA. Well–if you can't clean up your own mess and you insist on making it worse, someone else will have to do it for you. Besides, the Pashtuns of the FATA prefer drones to the Pakistani military, by far!

        May 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  2. Wahid Iqbal Qureshi

    Baluchistan and its myriad of issues are stuck on Pakistan's neck like a giant cauliflower sized tumor.
    For over 64 years now, its draining Pak's resources in military and finances and in return giving us a bad name year after year, and the list continues to grow. To focus on Pakistan's main issues as priority, we must cut out the tumor, no matter how painful it is and free ourself from its blood sucking problems and its disease.
    It is time to free Baluchistan as independent country with solid agreements to share resources, which they will oblige gladly because they want freedom and convert them into a trustworthy ally who will not stab Pak in the back.
    Look at USA and Canada. Even though they are two separate nations, they share everything including foreign policy and will jump to help each other. This will unite and multiply our strength instead of infighting and backstabbing and replace Pakistan's old failed policies.

    May 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • Dennis

      Balochistan is very rich in natural gas and minerals. Pakistanis live off on income generated by Balochistan's resources. If Balochistan is gone, Pakistanis will starve without that sustaining income from Balochistan.

      May 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Thank you, Wahid. I agree that Baluchistan like Kurdistan needs to be granted their well deserved independence from Pakistan and Turkey respectively. The right-wing news media never mentioned anything about Baluchistan or their plight lately. That's the reason most Americans never heard of that country!

      May 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  3. Hahahahahahahaha

    The author used the words "Pakistan" and "Human rights" in the same sentence!!!! Hahahahahahahhaha

    May 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  4. Jim

    Pakistanis have been systematically and brutally killing all minorities like Shiites, Ahmadis, Hindus, and Christians. Pakistan's human rights records is truly appalling.

    May 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Do you really think that the right-wing thugs in Washington care anything about human rights in Pakistan, Jim? Of course not, as long as Pakistan remains subservient to the U.S. and it will!

      May 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  5. MM

    Joseph,
    What about Altaf Hussain (MQM)?, a thug hidding under wings of UK?

    May 15, 2013 at 12:11 am | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    Economy is high on the new governments's agenda. The outgoing government had been blamed for power shortages and the incompetence to solve all social-economic problems.
    Indeed the security forces in Pakistan have "sweeping powers". It's unlikely that Nawaz Sharif would dare to challenge them and he would hardly forget the military coup in 1999 led by Pervez Musharraf.

    May 15, 2013 at 5:27 am | Reply
  7. Milagros

    A culture that still hasn't taken the initiative to build adequate clean water, sewer, power, and roads can't be expected to make any cultural changes. The hatred and other bad tendencies developed long ago have become part of the Pakistani DNA. Life is too short to waste one's time contemplating a better future for people who are hate zombies.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:37 am | Reply
  8. J.T. Burton

    Human rights: yes, but having a strong, peaceful Democracy is also important. An awesome infrastructure would be key. A peaceful Taliban, or a disband Taliban is right. No more violence is important for Pakistan's future. Peace and Prosperity. Best Wishes to Pakistan.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  9. shey mureed baloch

    wow...
    Interesting article to be understood!
    do not ashamed us(world) by saying that Pakistan is a democratic state, NO one is safe over there and specially media which is one of the powerful tools to pose the current scenario of Pakistan is failed and recently a well knows bureau chief of new-York times was threaten to leave the country while seeing him with Baloch.
    we are not against of any one rather we want freedom.Do not you all people think its the right of any nation according UN charter of freedom?
    and as for as dear Milagros than i want to add that baloch's has one of the oldest culture and that is about 7000bc according encyclopedia in which mohajadaro is an live fact of it.
    and it is my amble request to all of you to visit in balochistan and judge the fact rather misunderstanding me .
    thank you!

    May 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  10. sasss31

    Drones would not operate without the support of the local governments and in the case of Pakistan the Pakistani ISI. Keep the drones coming. We are fighting a war on terror and must not waver. Remember, drones operate in Pakistan with the assistance of the Pakistani military.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Reply
    • Marine5484

      What an ignorant comment this is, sasss31! Of course the clowns in Pakistan are going to support those cursed drone strikes no matter how many people get slaughtered since our government is paying them off!

      May 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  11. Eye opener

    New Great game is being played in Balochistan province to keep away China using Gawadar Port for its Western China which will reduce over 3500 miles journey using their own ports.
    Indian agency RAW with tactical help from CIA is waging proxy war inside Baluchistan and tribal areas alongside Afghan border to destabilize Pakistan making transit infrastructure for China and Russia as well to reach warm waters. But people of Pakistan are committed to built infrastructure which is crucial for their development and will never become staging ground for foreign powers like they did for USA in fighting USSR resulting in decades long violence.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  12. The Christian Louboutin Slippers put out middle primarily on plenty of ground hello

    Will Pakistan seize chance on human rights? – Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs The Christian Louboutin Slippers put out middle primarily on plenty of ground hello http://breenda94.siswa.sman1-slo.sch.id/2013/05/15/the-christian-louboutin-slippers-put-out-middle-primarily-on-plenty-of-ground/

    May 16, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply
  13. Chunilal Temu Irani

    Sorry mine english gamar not good so some people please trazlate.
    Merko do chij bolna hai.
    Yeh dunia me jitna Pakistan ne logo kesaat gand ungli kia he utna kisi ne nahi kia. Mera grandabba ke pas 4 dukaan Karachi me tha, usko bazar me maar diya or hum logo ko watan se nikala. hamar zameen or makan madar chodo ne laliya. ek cori hum ko nai diya or hamare logo ko zalil kar ke nikala azadi ke wakhat.
    Pakistanio ne kisiko nahi shora, sub ki gaand me ungli kar ta hey tum log. Hum Khuda ka shukr maan te he k hum log wahan se bach ke nikal gaye or hum ko Hindustan me panaah mila, jahan mare paas 7 dukan or 4 makan salat he or mera parivar Khuda ki mahrbani se bohut acha chal raha he.
    Pakistan kab sudhre ga ?
    Kyun ap log kisi ko chain se jine nahi dete?
    Khuda ko kiya moo dikhawo ge, kiya jawab do ge?
    Chunibhai.

    May 16, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
  14. Joseph Corea 3rd

    Mr. Chunilal Temu Irani, I'm sure you have an important message to the world, unfortunately I have no clue what Language you wrote your message. I tried Google translator, but to no avail. I am very curious what your message is about and certainly deserves a response.
    Can someone for dear God's sake translate what his message and questions are and at least respond?
    Its bugging the heck out of me.
    Thank you.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  15. Ex muslim

    Fareed, Islam is enemy of Humans and human rights. Fk Islam and u will b free from all such radical inhuman practices. islam is rootcause of 90 percent world problems including ofcourse Jihadi terrorism.

    May 21, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
  16. Ex muslim

    Fk u and ur racist Islam Fareed, u muslims are not even humans.

    May 21, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
  17. PRADA

    フェラガモ PRADA http://www.cdrad.com/

    August 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply

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