Islamabad, Pakistan In a new annual report, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Pakistani government for extending a repression of discord by citizens, journalists and opposition politicians.
United States-based HRW released its annual World Report 2022 on Thursday, with the chapter on Pakistan focusing on freedom of expression and religion, women’s rights and alleged abuse by Pakistan’s police and security forces.
“The authorities have expanded their use of draconian sedition and counter-terrorism laws to stem disunity, and strictly regulated civil society groups that are critical of government actions or policies,” reads the opening of the Pakistani chapter.
“Authorities also attacked members and supporters of opposition political parties.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to the report’s allegations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has come under fire from legal groups inside and outside the country since coming to power in the 2018 general election, the results of which have been disputed by some opposition parties as fraudulent.
Since coming to power, Khan’s Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition government has backed the opposition in a number of corruption cases, with the party saying it was conducting a liability campaign to bring the corruption of previous governments to justice. bring.
At the same time, Pakistani journalists and news organizations reported that they came under tighter control of the government and the country’s powerful army, which ruled directly over Pakistan for about half of its 74-year history.
Journalists criticizing the government have been kidnapped, assaulted, shot or charged with rioting and other alleged crimes under Khan’s government.
Thursday’s HRW report notes “a climate of fear” among journalists when alleged rights violations are covered by the government.
“Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have reported intimidation, harassment and oversight of several by government authorities,” the report said.
“The government has used the ‘Regulation of INGOs in Pakistan’ policy to impede the registration and functioning of international humanitarian and human rights groups.”
The HRW report also focused on issues related to freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan, where strict blasphemy laws was increasingly used against minorities and members of the majority Muslim faith.
Last year, at least three people were killed in connection with allegations of blasphemy, according to an Al Jazeera report, including a Sri Lankan factory manager in the eastern city of Sialkot who beaten to death by a crowd in December.
Since 1990, at least 80 people have been killed in connection with allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan, according to the Al Jazeera report.
HRW has also documented allegations of widespread rights violations against women and children in the South Asian country, which is 167 out of 170 countries on Georgetown University’s Global Women, Peace and Security Index.
“Violence against women and girls – including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriages – is endemic throughout Pakistan. “Human rights defenders estimate that approximately 1 000 women are killed in so-called honor killings every year,” reads the HRW report.
The human rights organization also took note of continued attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, the Baloch Liberation Army and other armed groups on civilians and security forces, while accusing security forces of “numerous human rights violations, including detention without charges and extrajudicial killings ”.