Feb 27, 2009

PAKISTAN Human rights record

In an annual global report the US State Department has announced that Pakistan’s human rights record remains poor with serious problems in prison conditions and treatment of women, although the situation is improving. The State Department said that the key US ally in the war on terror experienced major problems in 2008 with extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances. However, the report said the number of politically motivated disappearances declined last year, during which Pervez Musharraf, who had imposed a state of emergency, stepped down. The State Department claimed that despite some improvements after the state of emergency, the overall human rights situation remained poor. It said that prison conditions were ‘extremely poor’ due to serious overcrowding and inadequate food. Non-Muslim inmates often had worse conditions and suffered violence from other prisoners. The State Department was also critical of the treatment of women, deploring that few men were punished for violence against women, including gang rape and honour killings. Domestic violence was also ‘a widespread and serious problem,’ with husbands or in-laws abusing married women, including throwing of acid or inflicting other forms of torture. It is also a fact that some unfortunate violations of human rights take place in Pakistan. This situation has earned Pakistan a bad name in the eyes of the world community, especially the human rights organisations like the Amnesty International. While the country’s human rights record may not be something worth repeating, however, it would be difficult to ignore the recent past marked by curbs on the media and denying a large section of society the freedom of expression. However, it may not be out of contest to go over the human rights record of the US which has issued a global report on human rights. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, which led to the war in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, the Muslim community in the US and Europe came under fire. Officially sanctioned anti-Muslim crackdowns in these countries included illegal detention of hundreds who were accused of links with terrorism. Emboldened by their governments’ actions, American and European zealots felt no qualms in meting out inhuman treatment to Muslim migrants, which resulted in many deaths, in addition to the spread of insecurity among Muslims. After the routing of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, it refused to recognize captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters as prisoners of war, as it would have given them all rights guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions. Dubbed ‘enemy combatants’, these captives were transported to the notorious Guantanamo Bay where they continue to languish in sub-human conditions in detention cells without any trial or due process of law. The blatant humiliation of the inmates kept in Abu Ghraib is another stigma that sullies the US’s image and serves to expose its pious claims with respect to human rights and democracy. Europe does not lag behind. In the UK, after 7/7, scores of Muslims were rounded up in police swoops, detained and suffered intimidation. The London police, panicky as it was, even ‘mistakenly’ shot dead a foreign national, which created a lot of diplomatic rancour – all in the name of the war on terrorism, in which all rules and laws seem to have been pushed onto the backburner. In this climate, it can be confidently said that no rules and laws were followed in the West.

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