Pakistan

The human rights situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate. Political instability and corruption, the pervasive presence of extremist groups and terrorist organizations, the prevalence of sectararian violence, combined with a lack of the rule of law, police corruption, impunity and state tolerance of persecution at all levels of authority (government, executive, judiciary and law enforcers alike) has contributed to a culture of extremism throughout the country.

Consequently, a large number of human rights violations, including physical assaults, killings, attacks on property, businesses and places of worship, and sexual violence and kidnappings continue to be committed against minority individuals and communities. Kidnappings, sexual violence and forced conversions of minority women are being increasingly discovered and reported in local and international media, despite the small number of women who are willing to public report these heinous crimes to the police.

Discrimination against religious minorities and restrictions on freedom of religion and belief are embedded in several laws and in the Pakistan Constitution and this is reflected in Pakistani society and among extremist groups*. The blasphemy laws continue to be used as a tool for targeting individuals for personal disputes and poorly drafted legislation enables police and individuals to abuse the laws and incarcerate individuals indefinitely without adequate evidence, proof of intent and most often on the basis of hearsay. Discrimination against religious minorities in education and employment combined with grinding poverty embeds the lack of opportunity and equality for these groups.

Minority women are targeted.

Those willing to speak up for legislative and social reform are targeted by officials and extremists alike and human rights defenders are in constant danger of death threats, false accusations and imprisonment, beatings, torture and killings, effectively hampering the way activists, aid workers, journalists, and human rights defenders conduct their work.

Key issues: Rights of religious, ethnic, social and sexual minorities; sectarian violence; terrorism/ extremism; violence against minority communities; safety of human rights defenders; bonded labour; legislative and constitutional restrictions on freedom of religion and belief; blasphemy laws; forced conversions; discrimination against minorities in education and employment, freedom of expression, police impunity. *( Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam as the State religion and Article 41 states that only a Muslim can become President of the country. Article 260(3) of the Constitution makes a distinction between 'Muslims" and "non Muslims" (the provision refers to the latter being Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, 'Qadani' or 'Lahori' groups who call themselves Ahmadis, and Bahai), effectively relegating religious minorities to a status as second class citizens. Sections 298B and 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code ("PPC") refer specifically to Ahmadis, prohibiting them from calling themselves Muslims and using Muslim practices in worship or in the propagation of their faith.)