HRCP terms 2007 ‘multi-crisis year’

HRCP terms 2007 ‘multi-crisis year’

* Terror-related deaths in Pakistan outnumbered those in Iraq
* HRCP notes 339 suicides

Staff Report

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday termed the year 2007 a ‘multi-crisis year’, which had seen not only the worst forms of human rights violations, but also violations in almost every department and institution, be it economy, media, politics or judiciary.

HRCP Director IA Rehman told reporters at the launch of the organisation’s annual report – ‘State of Human Rights in 2007’ – at the Lahore Press Club that many reports had been received from various parts of Balochistan in 2007, claiming that parents or children had been left with no option but to sell their kidneys in order to feed their families, due to the ongoing crisis of armed conflict there.

Addressing the press conference, HRCP Chairwoman Asma Jahangir, IA Rehman, Secretary General Iqbal Haider revealed that more than 1.5 million people had been internally displaced due to ongoing military operations and armed conflicts across the country. It was also revealed that around 4,443,000 people were likely to be displaced by new development projects launched in 2007.

Crime surge: On the law and order situation in the country in 2007, the speakers said that according to the HRCP report, at least 927 people were killed in 71 suicide blasts, outnumbering Iraq, where a fully fledged war was going on. It said that in February 2007, the Interior Ministry acknowledged a 20 percent surge in crime countrywide from 2006.

The report said that due to the deposition of the entire judiciary, the first incident of its kind in the country, the courts and lawyers went on strike, resulting in more than 400,000 cases in the superior courts being dropped or delayed, adding that bail could not be provided to people on time. The Supreme Court had completed the hearing of a 2003 petition against the election of 68 legislators on certificates from religious seminaries, but the implementation of the state of emergency on November 3, 2007 had pre-empted a judgement. Furthermore, the SC found several top officials in the Islamabad administration guilty of gross incompetence and of physically assaulting on the chief justice, however, their jail terms were set-aside after November 3.

On missing people, the report said that before the November 3 judicial purge, the number of ‘missing’ persons had surged to over 400. However, 99 out of the 198 missing people on the HRCP’s list had been traced before November 3, although many of them were detained again on various charges.

On the death penalty, Asma Jehangir said that the number of executions or awarded death penalties in Pakistan were among some of the highest in the world. In 2007, 134 convicts were executed and 309 were awarded the death sentence, while, more than 7,000 prisoners remained on death row.

Regarding inhumane conditions in prisons, the report found that Pakistani jails housed 95,016 detainees against the authorised capacity of 40,825.

Asma said that due to the abolishment of the Statutory Bail System, prisoners had to serve at least 4-5 years even for minor crimes, while 67 percent of detainees across the country were awaiting trial.

On press and media freedom, the report said that Pakistan’s standing plummeted to 152 in rankings maintained by an international media watchdog. In the year 2007, at least seven journalists were killed, seventy-three injured mostly by police, and 250 reporters arrested for covering anti-government protests or demonstrating against media restrictions. It also said that another US-based media supervisory organisation included Pakistan among the 10 worst countries for press freedom.

Iqbal Haider said that during the previous regime of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, the National Assembly had passed 134 ordinances, while even more were issued after the assembly was dissolved on November 3. He said that the new government should focus on legislation instead of issuing ordinances. He added that 88 of the National Assembly’s 342 members had resigned in protest against President Pervez Musharraf seeking re-election while still in uniform.

On women’s human right’s violations, the report said that the HRCP had recorded 1,202 killings, of which honour killings numbered 636. It also recorded 755 cases of sexual harassment – 377 victims were raped (166 minors) and 354 victims were gang-raped (92 minors), 736 kidnappings, 143 attacks by burning.

As far as children’s rights violations was concerned, the report said that at least 258 cases of rape and gang rape and 138 murders had been reported.

Even after the implementation of the Juvenile Justice System, 2,038 juveniles were in jail awaiting trial. The report added that child labour and trafficking remained rampant across the country, where an increasing number of street children were addicted to drugs with almost 83 percent of street children between the ages of 8 and 19 sniffing glue.

Financial constraints: The HRCP found unemployment and financial constraints led to 339 suicides and 189 attempted suicides.

It added that due to government’s negligence over deteriorating environmental conditions, more than 300,000 people had been displaced and more than 2.5 million others affected in 2007 following floods in Sindh and Balochistan.

Around 8,000 trees were uprooted for the construction of housing schemes and underpasses. In addition, as much as 99 percent of industrial effluent and 92 percent of urban wastewater was discharged into rivers and the sea.

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