Pakistan Watchdog Slams ‘Grim’ State Of Human Rights

Pakistan’s fragility has made it a volatile state in which terrorism, human rights violations, and government corruption are widespread. While the United States has tried to maintain a relatively stable relationship with Pakistan over the years, it has become increasingly strained. Amidst accusations of harbouring terrorist groups like the Taliban and senior level Al Qaeda members, President Trump has suspended a significant amount of security aid until Pakistan begins to crack down on these terror groups. Reports of human rights violations continue with many of these being perpetrated by the weak central government. Prosecutions against sexual assault perpetrators remain at a low and disappearances are failing to be further investigated. The sheltering of terrorist groups and infractions against the civilian population can be traced back to corrupt Pakistani government institutions like the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Pakistan has not been a reliable ally as far as cracking down on terror groups. It has continually harboured groups such as the Taliban and its much more potent branch, the Haqqani Network, which operates out of Pakistan. Vanda Felbab-Brown highlights in a report from the Brookings Institute that the driving force behind Pakistan’s willingness to aid terror groups comes from its fear of an unstable Afghanistan, in which it believes anti-Pakistan militant groups would have a safe-haven. By harbouring the Taliban, Pakistan hopes the group can eventually gain more political recognition in Afghanistan.

The Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s primary intelligence agency, lacks a cohesive and coherent counterterrorism strategy. For many years, it has been characterized as reactive rather than proactive, focusing efforts after an attack has happened rather than preventing attacks altogether. Some agents of the ISI have even taken part in the organization of terror attacks against India, a state Pakistan sees as one of its oldest enemies. In his book Hunting in the Shadows, Seth Jones explains how top-level ISI agents orchestrated the 2008 Mumbai attacks with the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In an article published in Vox, Kiran Nazish explains how increased funding from the United States and Pakistan after 9/11 has allowed the ISI to “expand and act however it sees fit.” Khushal Khan, a research officer of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), explains that “anyone who reports on terrorism in Pakistan, knows the military agencies will come after them.” Journalists and activists in Pakistan are disappearing and many of these cases are either underreported or agencies like the ISI refuse to investigate them further.

On Sunday, April 22nd, thousands of citizens attended a rally in Lahore demanding basic human rights for ethnic Pashtuns. The protests explicitly called for putting an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of convicted criminals. In an article from Al Jazeera, Manzoor Pashteen, leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, explained that the purpose of the protests was to hold government institutions accountable for such blatant rights violations by military personnel.

Other violations against religious minorities, as well as women and children, have proven to be a significant problem in Pakistan. The refusal by the Pakistani government to officially recognize the Muslim Ahmadi sect. has led to persecutions and killings of those affiliated with the religious group. Many members of Muslim minorities, like the Ahmadis and Hazaras, have been forced to flee and seek asylum in places across Europe.

Persecution and attacks against other minorities, like Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs, also continue unrestrained, with many of these minorities being forced to either convert or face banishment from their homes, even the country. False accusations under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have also been used to persecute and evict religious minorities. While Pakistan has been caught up in its emphasis on punishment, women and children face a constant fear of sexual assault.