Recommend UsEmail this PageeGazetteAlislam.org
U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
February 25, 2009
Despite some improvements after the state of emergency at the end of the previous year, the human rights situation remained poor. Major problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances. There were also instances in which local police acted independently of government authority. Collective punishment was a problem particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which falls under the legal framework of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Lengthy trial delays and failures to discipline and prosecute those responsible for abuses consistently contributed to a culture of impunity. Poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention remained problems, as did a lack of judicial independence. Corruption was widespread within the government and police forces, and the government made few attempts to combat the problem. Although implementation of the 2006 Women’s Protection Act somewhat improved women’s rights, rape, domestic violence, and abuse against women remained serious problems. Honor crimes and discriminatory legislation affected women and religious minorities respectively. Religious freedom violations and inter-sectarian religious conflict continued. Widespread trafficking in persons, child labor, and exploitation of indentured and bonded children were ongoing problems. Child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and worker rights remained concerns.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Attacks on houses of worship, religious gatherings, and religious leaders linked to sectarian, religious extremist, and terrorist groups outside FATA resulted in hundreds of deaths during the year. Examples of these cases include the following:
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; there were reports, however, that security forces, including intelligence services, tortured and abused individuals in custody. Under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, coerced confessions are admissible in antiterrorism courts. The NGO SHARP reported 1,013 cases of torture by police between January and June, including approximately 500 cases by the Punjab police and nearly 350 cases by the Sindh police.……
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were extremely poor and failed to meet international standards. Overcrowding was widespread, except for cells of wealthy or influential prisoners. According to SHARP, nearly 90,000 prisoners occupied 87 jails originally built to hold a maximum of 36,075 persons.
Inadequate food and medical care in prisons led to chronic health problems and malnutrition for those unable to supplement their diet with help from family or friends. Foreign prisoners often remained in prison long after completion of their sentences because they were unable to pay for deportation to their home countries.
Police reportedly tortured and mistreated those in custody and at times engaged in extrajudicial killings. Christian and Ahmadi communities claimed their members were more likely to be abused. Non-Muslim prisoners generally were afforded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates and often suffered violence at the hands of fellow inmates.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Arrest and Detention
Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent wealthy, religious, and political figures. The politicized nature of judicial promotions increased the government's control over the court system. Unfilled judgeships and inefficient court procedures resulted in severe backlogs at both trial and appellate levels.
Laws prohibiting blasphemy continued to be used against Christians, Ahmadis, and members of other religious groups, including Muslims. Lower courts often did not require adequate evidence in blasphemy cases, which led to some accused and convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered them freed.
Original trial courts usually denied bail in blasphemy cases, claiming that since defendants faced the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail was often not granted in advance of the trial. Lower courts frequently delayed decisions, were intimidated, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements.
The law provides for freedom of assembly and freedom of association, subject to restrictions imposed by law.
Freedom of Assembly
Although the constitution provides for this right, in practice the government placed selective restrictions on the right to assemble. By law, district authorities can prevent gatherings of more than four people without police authorization. Separately, Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings since 1984.
The constitution states that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely, [*] but the government limited freedom of religion in practice. Islam is the state religion, and the constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. According to the constitution, Shari’a can be applied to a situation deemed to be in contradiction to the Koran, and therefore citizens who are normally governed by secular law can be subject to Shari’a. Shari’a also was applied in some tribal areas. In the PATA of NWFP, religious advisors assisted judges. All citizens were subject to certain provisions of Shari’a and the blasphemy laws. Freedom of speech is constitutionally subject to “any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam.”
Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts from Islam occurred. Members of religious minorities were subject to violence and harassment, and at times police refused to prevent such actions or charge persons who committed them, leading to an atmosphere of impunity. The constitution stipulates the president and the prime minister must be Muslim. The prime minister, federal ministers, and ministers of state, as well as elected members of the Senate and National Assembly (including non-Muslims), must take an oath to “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology,” the basis for the creation of the country.
The law declares the Ahmadi community, which considers itself a Muslim sect, to be a non-Muslim minority. The law prohibits Ahmadis, who numbered more than two million, from engaging in any Muslim practices, including use of Muslim greetings, referring to their places of worship as mosques, reciting Islamic prayers, using specific Islamic terms, and participating in the Hajj or Ramadan fast. Ahmadis were prohibited from proselytizing, holding gatherings, or distributing literature. Government forms, including passport applications and voter registration documents, require anyone wishing to be listed as a Muslim to denounce the founder of the Ahmadi faith. The Ahmadi community claimed that during the year, 31 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws or because of their faith. As of November, there had been four targeted killings of Ahmadis during the year, according to the AHRC.
The penal code calls for the death sentence or life imprisonment for anyone who blasphemes the Prophet Muhammad. The law provides for life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran and as long as 10 years in prison for insulting another’s religious beliefs with the intent to offend religious feelings. The latter was used only against those who allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Groups such as the Khateme Nabuwwat Movement, which considered anyone who questioned the finality of Prophet Muhammad to be a heretic, were reported to insult Ahmadi beliefs, but authorities did not prosecute these cases.
On June 8, police charged all the residents of Rabwah in Punjab under anti-Ahmadi laws and arrested Muhammad Yunus. The basis for the police charges against the thousands of Rabwah residents, according to the FIR, included lighting fireworks and lamps and greeting each other, which the government considered to be preaching their faith, a crime by law. The case was pending at year’s end.
In August communities near Multan warned Ahmadis in the area to close their places of worship. When they refused, the communities lodged a complaint with local police, alleging the Ahmadis were attempting to proselytize. Police ordered the “temporary closure” of Ahmadi centers in the area. They remained closed at year’s end.
There were no developments in the trial of the March 2007 case of a retired assistant sub-inspector who shot and killed a recent Ahmadi convert in a restaurant in Seerah, near Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab. The retired officer, Riaz Gondal, later surrendered to police and admitted to the killing, claiming the act was justified under Islamic apostasy laws. At year’s end, he was incarcerated and the case was pending.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia extremists continued during the year. Shias, Christians, and Ahmadis were also the targets of religious violence across the country.
According to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), one church, one Hindu temple, and five Ahmadi mosques were attacked and damaged in different parts of the country during the year; four of the seven attacks took place in the province of Punjab.
In the same period, the NCJP reported 53 Ahmadis and 93 Christians faced trials or were in prison on charges of desecrating the Koran.
Human rights lawyer and chairman of the NGO Legal Aid for Destitute and Settlement Parvez Aslam Chaudhry was forced to travel with police security during the year, following an attack on him in January 2006 for his work defending blasphemy cases. Although Punjabi authorities filed a case against an unknown assailant in 2007, no arrests were made during the year.
Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu, and Shia Muslim communities reported significant discrimination in employment and access to education, including at government institutions.
Shia, Christian, Hindu, and Ahmadi communities faced discrimination and societal violence. The government removed religiously sensitive material from new textbooks on religious differences and on how to worship. Other religions can opt out of these readings and read the more generic “Book of Ethics.”
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2008 International Religious Freedom Report.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Elections and Political Participation
The government required voters to indicate their religion when registering to vote. The Ahmadi community boycotted the elections, according to the European Union Election Observation Mission, because they were required to register on a separate voter roll.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The constitution provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; in practice, however, there was significant discrimination based on each of these factors.