For years, Pakistan has been tumultuous at raking issues with regards to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) before the world leaders. On September 22nd 2023, the present interim Prime Minister of Pakistan Anwaar-ul-HaqKakar, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took a swipe at India on the subject of J&K. Like his predecessors, Anwaar tried to impale India as a violator of human rights with its age old rhetoric in terms of J&K.
The Hypocrisy of Pakistan
As the care taker PM raises the allegations against India, Pakistan fails to acknowledge the reports which are surfacing of its gross violations of Human Rights (HR). Pakistan persistently maintains its delusional narrative of an illegal occupation of Kashmir by India, while taking shots on international platforms to project India as a fascist and an authoritarian nation. Strange enough, it fails to mention its own treatment towards the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh province.
In the process of appeasing China, Pakistan has delivered heavy military assaults, carried extra-judicial killings as well as undertaken forced disappearance of many Baloch, Sindhis, Pashtuns and other minorities. Several individuals have been designated as terrorists and have been detained or eliminated under the pretext of being terrorists.
To make matters worse, Pakistan has also implemented one of the strictest blasphemy laws to appease the large contingent of religious heads and fanatics. Under these laws, the state can prosecute and even carry executions of individuals whom the state may declare in violation of the Islamic laws. In case of such a development, there is a growing concern on how the state may misuse the laws to do away with the individuals it considers blasphemous.
However, Pakistan continues to propagate its narrative of being a saviour for Kashmiris and Islam, when indeed it has been responsible for the cross-border infiltration and the terror attacks on the Indian soil. While the Baloch, Sindhis and Pashtuns continue to protest against Pakistan’s inflicted atrocities in their nation, the Pakistani government continues to be obsessed with Kashmir.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, an independent non-governmental HR organization was quoted on media platforms stating “Pakistan’s submission to the UN about its HR record is filled with lies”.
According to her, their reports comprised of 10 false claims made by Pakistan and she urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to hold Pakistan accountable for misconstruing the truth and for covering up the HR violations in Pakistan.
She reiterated that “The UN must urge Pakistan’s military-dominated regime to put an end to torture, enforced disappearances, child labour, and violence against women, and to stop crushing independent media, censoring Facebook and Twitter, persecuting Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Shia, and Ahmadis, hosting terrorist groups, and backing China’s persecution of Muslim Uighurs.”
On 1st February 2023, Pakistan’s fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) also drew attention to the serious HR violations in the country.
Pakistan was handed a draft of UPR outcome report with a total of 340 recommendations. On basis of online reports, 122 delegates attended the meeting raising concerns in regards to HR violations in Pakistan.
The main points recommended were as follows:
1. Reinstating a moratorium on executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty.
2. Repealing or ammending “blasphemy laws” in conjunction with international human rights law.
3. Safe guarding of the rights of religious minorities, human rights defenders, journalists, and other vulnerable groups.
4. Effective and thorough investigations of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.
5. Setting minimum legal marriageable age to 18yrs.
6. Ending of forced conversions and gender based violence.,
7. Ending of discrimination against marginalised groups and to repeal section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”).
Despite the consistent recommendations from UNHRC, Pakistan, like water on a ducks back, continues to shrug off the suggestions. According to Freedom House, Pakistan scores 37/100 on the global freedom score for political right and civil liberties and it is designated as “partly free”. Not only does it rank much lower than India but it is also labelled as not a “free democracy.” According to Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, Pakistan portrays a façade of a democratic nation while it truly exhibits its ideologies and actions as that of “a hybrid regime”. The ISI and its military runs the nation.
In December 2021, activist Idris Khattak was arrested. Many UN experts condemned the military court’s conviction of HR activist. He was given a sentence of 14 yrs and was tried in a secret military court.
In response to this, the Human Rights Watch said “Pakistan’s security forces have with impunity long carried out enforced disappearances” and called for Idris to be tried publicly in a civilian court.
Amnesty International called the verdict “the culmination of a shameful two-year process that has been unjust from start to finish”
Death of Free Speech
It is no wonder,Reporters without Borders (RSF) has also ranked Pakistan 157 out of 180 nations for media freedom. In 2022 two journalists were killed in Pakistan while this year, the editor of Pakistan Daily,Hamza Azhar Salam, has also received threats. It is imperative to mention, the Pakistan military not only tries to constrict the democracy but also tries to control the Narrative of how it expects to be perceived by the world. Hence, the obvious threat to their policies and modus operandi will indefinitely be the media personnel.
Case of Enforced Disappearances and Extrajudicial Killings
In its submissions to the UPR this year, Pakistan hardly mentioned its efforts on the matter of enforced disappearances. Instead, it claimed that it was in the process of creating policies to criminalise such acts. A Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was formed in 2011.According to Pakistan, the commission has been “expeditiously and efficiently” handling the cases of missing persons and has managed to close files in many instances.
In 2022, the Chief Justice from Islamabad High Court,Athar Minallah released an order saying that “When there is sufficient evidence to conclude that it is, prima facie, a case of ‘enforced disappearance’ then it becomes an obligation of the State and all its organs to trace the disappeared citizen.”. However, this directive too has failed to deter the military from arbitrarily detaining people or carrying enforced disappearances. There are more than 8,463 cases of enforced disappearances received by Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. Most victims belong to the marginalized sections of Pakistan’s demographic. Each year, protests are orchestrated across Pakistan and internationally by the families of the missing people.
The Europe-based Human Rights Council of Balochistan (HRCB) also reported that 35 people had succumbed to “enforced disappearances” while 42 were killed in November 2022 in Balochistan. The HRCB pointed the targeted killings and honour killings were done bythe Frontier Corps (FC) – a paramilitary force that operates in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions.
FC personnel have been reported to abduct the Baloch from Khuzdar, Panjgur, Quetta, Awaran, Kech and other areas.
Pakistan has assassinated Baloch individuals not just in Pakistan but also on international soil, notably Europe. Several Baloch journalists and activists were found dead in Sweden, Canada and Azerbaijan.
To further affirm the treatment Pakistan has meted to the Baloch, an interview with Major General Ayman Bilal of the Frontier Corps emerged. The General confessed to overseeing Operation Ground Zero in the province of Balochistan. The order was to eliminate the Baloch insurgents, secure the area for the Chinese workers who were assigned to work in Gwadar on CPEC projects and if necessary, relocate the Baloch citizens out of the Balochistan province. Major General Bilal was stationed in Ketch at the time and had no qualm sadmitting to China’s role in his deployment.
Blasphemy Laws and Religious Intolerance
While Pakistan weaves a narrative of a Secular India being intolerant to non Hindus, Pakistan has reportedly detained or killed several of its citizens in name of blasphemy.
At least five churches were vandalised in Pakistan’s Faisalabad district over an alleged incident of blasphemy. Videos went viral on social media showing mobs infiltrating into places of worship, vandalising the property and kicking the holy cross.
A 150yr old Temple of Mari Mata was also demolished in Karachi while another temple was attacked by supposedly a gang of dacoits with “rocket launchers” in Sindh’s Kashmore region.
October 19 2022,Gurdwara Chubcha Sahib, located in Lahore, was also demolished by district authorities on the pretext of safety concerns.In June 2023, a large Muslim mob attacked a Gurdwara in Sukkur, in the Sindh province of Pakistan. The attackers demanded the worshippers to halt their Kirtan and warned them from conducting kirtans in the future.
Another high profile case involving the misuse of Blasphemy laws on minorities, was that of Asia Bibi (also known as Asia Noreen).
In 2009, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, was arrested for blasphemy.
Asia Bibi denied the allegations and said thatthe allegations placed on her arose from a brawl with her female colleagues, who took offense from Asia , a Christian offering drinking water to Muslim co-workers.
Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in November 2010 and sentenced her to death.
During this time, there were murders of two high-ranking government officials who had advocated for Asia Bibi.
However, on October 31, 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi of charges of blasphemy and ordered her release.
Massive protests have broke out in the Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan region in August 2023, owing to the arrest of a Shia cleric under Pakistan’s reinforced blasphemy laws.
In January 2022, Peshawar priest William Siraj was killed by extremists.
In May 2022, reports surfaced of two Sikhs and an Ahmadi man killed in separate incidents across Pakistan.
Apart from what Pakistan preaches, fact remains that Pakistan has been a bane in the backyard of India. It has tried to destabilize India with its doctrine of Gazwa I Hind, pandered fake narratives against India, aligned with nations anti India,given safe havens and trained terrorists to wage war in India. Given this, one would wonder if Pakistan holds any credibility or the right disposition when it comes to questioning India in regards to Kashmir or Human Rights.
With Pakistan Suffering from its economic, political and cross border infiltrations, the behaviour of its government seems odd in the manner its ministers and political officials take a jab at India. The imbecile attitude of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister at the SCO meeting,did nothing to debase the host but certainly reflected poorly on Pakistan.
Evidently, Pakistan was told off by Dr Jaishankar, Union Minister of External Affairs of India on how “victims of terrorism and perpetrators of terrorism should not sit together to discuss terrorism”, given Bhutto clearly tried to rake up the Kashmir issue.