Pakistan's Record On Human Rights Remained Dismal Through 2022

Pakistan's Record On Human Rights Remained Dismal Through 2022
A culture of impunity and repression remained prevalent in Pakistan through 2022. Religious minorities were subject to persecution, citizens forcibly disappeared, transgenders were killed and millions continued to live without protection from the active threat of militancy in Pakistan. Climate crisis induced floods and heat waves made citizens even more vulnerable to human rights violations. The ruling elite’s focus on amassing power exacerbated the political instability, with severe impacts on the common Pakistani. Despite the change in regime and the formation of a fragile government by the ruling coalition of the PDM in early April, the status of the marginalized did not improve, and reprisals for defending human rights did not come to a halt.

Religious persecution

Islam and blasphemy were used as excuses for at least five premeditated murders. A mentally unwell man in Mian Channu was lynched to death for alleged blasphemy. Two Ahmadis were target killed for their faith by self-proclaimed followers of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in Okara and Rabwah (Chanab Nagar). An attack on an Ahmadi owned business resulted in the killing of the man’s non-Ahmadi relative in Peshawar. A female seminary teacher from the Deobandi denomination was killed by a fellow teacher and her student for alleged blasphemy in Dera Ismail Khan. One Ahmadi man accused of blasphemy died in custody. Two accused of blasphemy, a woman and a Christian man, were sentenced to death in separate cases. From February till December, multiple Ahmadi graves were violated and worship places desecrated by the police in Punjab and Sindh. This violation continued throughout the year with impunity. In December, minarets of an Ahmadi worship place were blatantly demolished by the police. In August, a Hindu sanitary worker in Hyderabad was arrested on false blasphemy accusations. The police managed to save him from the lynch mob through timely action. A Hindu teenager was named in an FIR with section 298 of religion related offenses and causing enmity among religious groups for a Facebook post. Forced conversion cases of Christian, Hindu and Sikh women and girls were also reported this year. While the landmark ruling of Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani is yet to be implemented, the Supreme Court passed progressive rulings and gave bails to blasphemy convicts. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court ruled that Ahmadi citizens can practice their religion in private, a right protected by the constitution. The court stated that keeping the Islamic holy book inside private residences or a worship place, reciting or writing of the kalima by Ahmadis is not blasphemous. It was a landmark judgment as Ahmadis have long been persecuted and subjected to incarceration and criminal litigation for attempting religious rituals. However, since then at least ten police cases were registered against Ahmadi individuals for observing the sacrificial ritual of Eid-Al-Adha in their homes.

Use of force to target peaceful assembly

The year saw peaceful assembly disrupted and violated through use of force by law enforcement authorities. In March, Baloch students protesting enforced disappearance and harassment in Punjab were baton charged by the Islamabad police. In May and June, Karachi’s beleaguered families of forcibly disappeared Baloch men and human rights defenders were dragged on the roads, rounded up, and then locked in arbitrary custody. In Quetta, the families of the disappeared were teargassed. Even during the last week of the year, the policy of repression continued. Peaceful protesters organized by the Gwadar Rights Movement (GRM) were shelled and baton charged. The GRM is asking for an end to illegal fishing, demanding permission to trade with Iran due to regional proximity and access to benefits linked to CPEC development projects, were met with tear gas and baton charges. In November, Karachi police baton charged, manhandled and rounded up healthcare workers protesting. Political workers and supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were dispersed using tear gas and batons by riot police in May.

Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings

Dead bodies of men forcibly disappeared for months and years were dumped in Balochistan and Sindh. In April, after the suicide attack targeting Chinese nationals in Karachi, a spike in short term disappearances of the Baloch youth including doctor and university students were seen. Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan continued even when floods had hit the province and an emergency declared. A Baloch human rights defender “disappeared” from Karachi in August and was released after two months. The father of an activist, a healthcare worker was picked up for a week. In June, journalist Arsalan Khan was forcibly disappeared by security forces in an arbitrary raid at his residence in Karachi for social media posts criticizing the former COAS Qamar Bajwa, and released after hours. Minor boys were forcibly disappeared in Sindh and Balochistan. In April, the whereabouts and fate of a 15-year old Sindhi minor was unknown till his release in August. The Islamabad High Court took on cases of enforced disappearance and declared the state responsible for this crime. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif also appeared before the court in a missing persons case. The National Assembly passed the bill to criminalize enforced disappearance but its passage is pending in the Senate. The Senate and National Assembly passed a bill criminalizing custodial torture, but it is yet to be written into a law.

Reprisals for defending human rights

Human rights defenders were subjected to reprisals for their work. The appeal of Pashtun human rights advocate Idris Khattak, remained pending in the military court. Khattak was forcibly disappeared in November 2019, and in June 2020, the defence ministry acknowledged his detention. He was tried for espionage under the draconian Official Secrets Act and given 14 years of imprisonment. WHRD in exile Gulalai Ismail’s father HRD Professor Muhammad Ismail and his wife were subjected to continuous judicial persecution in fabricated cases including treason and terror financing. Manzoor Pashteen and Alamzaib Khan of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement were charged with sedition and terrorism again. The recent cases of 2022 added to the pile of false cases against these HRDs. Pashtun political leader from National Democratic Movement Abdullah Nangyal was barred from international travel, MNA Mohsin Dawar remains on a partial travel ban list. MNA Ali Wazir remained incarcerated and was slapped with more trumped-up charges through false FIRs. Citing lack of evidence, the Sindh High Court acquitted the five sentenced in murder of lands rights defender Parveen Rehman who was gunned down in 2013 for her work against land grabbing and extortion in the provincial capital.

Trans rights

In November, a dangerous campaign against the transgender rights bill started by the Jamat-e-Islami. Pakistan’s Oscar contender “Joyland” was also targeted in the said campaign for featuring a transgender actor. Murders of trans women were reported in Punjab, Sindh and KP.

Housing Crisis

The housing crisis in the province and across the country worsened further due to floods. In Sindh alone, more than two million houses have been damaged, of which 1.4 million houses are fully destroyed. In Karachi, hundreds of houses in low-income informal settlements were demolished and residents evicted in the name of development and infrastructure building. In 2021, the Supreme Court directed the Sindh government to rehabilitate residents of Orangi Nullah area who had lost their homes to demolitions and forced evictions. The provincial government failed to implement the court’s orders.



The writer is a multimedia journalist and researches human rights abuses. She hosts a show on social justice stories on Naya Daur TV.