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Amnesty International Report 2000 - Pakistan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2000 - Pakistan , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa118.html [accessed 5 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Head of state: Mohammad Rafiq Tarar
Head of government: General Parvez Musharraf (replaced Nawaz Sharif in October)
Capital: Islamabad
Population: 136.2 million
Official languages: English, Urdu
Death penalty: retentionist

Law enforcement personnel carried out arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial executions with impunity. At least 258 people were sentenced to death, most by special courts after unfair trials. Persistent bias against the rights of women on the part of the government, police and judiciary meant that abuses by private individuals, including the honour killings of hundreds of girls and women, were not investigated or punished. The rights of religious minorities, journalists and other human rights defenders continued to come under threat. The new government made some commitments to protect human rights and began to hold people accountable for corruption.

Background

High levels of corruption, disregard for the rule of law and a further weakening of civil institutions resulted in a series of crises, including a protracted confrontation between the government and the press, and the harassment of non-governmental organizations, including human rights and women's rights groups.

Relations with India improved during a visit by Indian Prime Minister A.*. Vajpayee to Lahore in February but experienced a setback when armed groups entered the Kargil area in India in June. At the end of July, they agreed to withdraw to Pakistan territory.

Corruption charges were selectively brought and pursued against members of the opposition. For example, in April, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Zardari were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Both appealed against the conviction. Benazir Bhutto remained outside the country; Asif Zardari continued to be detained on other charges.

In June political tension rose in Sindh when the governor who had ruled the province since October 1998 was replaced by an appointed adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Mass arrests and false charges were used to stifle protests in June when opposition forces throughout the country joined ranks with the aim of bringing down the government.

On 12 October Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unexpectedly dismissed the army chief. This subsequently led to a military coup in which General Parvez Musharraf dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif, suspended national and provincial assemblies, declared an emergency, suspended the Constitution, and assumed office as Chief Executive. A National Security Council comprising army officers and civilians was set up, assisted by a cabinet to which military personnel, technocrats and members of non-governmental organizations were appointed.

Human rights defenders

In May nearly 2,000 non-governmental organizations in Punjab were closed down. Human rights and women's rights organizations, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, were harassed throughout Pakistan. Journalists faced intimidation, threats and arbitrary arrests.

  • In January, the owner of the Jang group of newspapers was falsely charged and ordered to dismiss outspoken editors and to have articles vetted by the government.
  • Rehmat Shah Afridi, editor of The Frontier Post, was arrested in April and detained throughout the year on apparently trumped-up drug charges.
  • Najam Sethi of The Friday Times was one of several journalists who were harassed after giving interviews to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) team investigating corruption allegations against the government. He was arbitrarily arrested in May and held without charge or trial in incommunicado detention for over three weeks. He continued to be harassed after his release and was refused permission to travel to the United Kingdom to accept the AI Special Award for Journalism under Threat.

Political opponents

As opposition groups intensified their activities against corruption and pervasive lawlessness, increasing numbers of political activists were arrested and detained, often on manifestly unfounded charges. Many were released within a short time.

Special courts with shortened trial periods which denied defendants the right to present a full defence continued to be used to try political opponents and ordinary criminal suspects. In February the Supreme Court declared that special military tribunals set up in 1998 were unconstitutional, and transferred all cases before the military tribunals to special courts set up under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997. The ATA was amended in April and August to make it applicable to anyone suspected of causing commotion". Opposition politicians and human rights groups feared that legitimate dissent could be criminalized under this provision.

Extrajudicial executions and custodial violence

At least 260 people, both criminal suspects and political prisoners, were reportedly extrajudicially executed. Some observers put the number much higher and claimed that the killings were part of a policy decided at a senior level of government. Police often sought to conceal such killings by claiming they occurred during "encounters" or exchanges of fire with police.

  • In May officers from the police station in Mangawala, near Sheikhupura, Punjab province, shot dead five young men, claiming that they had acted in self-defence after the men opened fire on the officers during a robbery. A judicial inquiry found that the men had been in custody for a month, that they had been killed by police and that false post-mortem reports had been issued. No action was taken against the police officers.
  • Judicial inquiries found that several victims in Sindh belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had been extrajudicially executed but no action was known to have been taken against the perpetrators. The Sindh Assembly condemned such killings in July and the Senate functional committee on human rights demanded to be informed of inquiry results. However, the killings continued.

Torture in jail and police custody continued to be widespread, leading to at least 52 deaths.

  • Arman Danish was arrested on 12 January in Karachi. When his family failed to pay a bribe for his release, his mother was told he would be killed. He later told family members at the magistrates' court that he had been hung upside down and given electric shocks. On 28 January he died of kidney failure. The officer investigating his death was reprimanded for not pursuing it with vigour. No one was held to account.

Religious minorities

The state failed to provide religious minorities with adequate protection. Religiously motivated killings peaked in September when, in one week alone, some 35 people, mostly Shi'a men, women and children, were arbitrarily killed. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that the perpetrators had received training in Afghanistan and called on the Taleban to close down such training camps in Afghanistan. Shi'a leaders in Karachi were advised to hire private security guards; some police guards were provided for places of worship.

At least 54 Ahmadis were charged under the blasphemy laws; eight of them were charged under a section of the law which carries a mandatory death sentence. In many cases, judicial officers added criminal charges to complaints, after which the cases were tried in anti-terrorism courts which did not provide fair trials. The procedures of such courts, especially the rigid time frame, make a fair trial difficult if not impossible. There is also no bail available for people to be tried by such courts.

  • Ghulam Mustafa, who was arrested in December 1998 for preaching his faith and subsequently had additional charges added to the complaint against him, was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment in March. His case was concluded within a week by an anti-terrorism court.

At the end of the year 30 Ahmadis were prisoners of conscience held solely on account of their conscientiously held beliefs.

  • Nazeer Ahmad Baluch was 15 years old when he was arrested in September 1998 in village Chak 4 near Naukot, Mirpurkhas district, Sindh province. He and other Ahmadis had been pulling down a mosque owned by the Ahmadi community in order to rebuild it. Orthodox Muslims passing the mosque, however, alleged that it belonged to their community and that the Ahmadis were injuring their feelings as Muslims by desecrating the mosque and a Qur'an allegedly lying inside it. This incident led to further attacks on Ahmadi mosques in a nearby town and the arrest of 14 other Ahmadis on similar charges. Nazeer Ahmad Baluch was held throughout the year in Hyderabad Central Jail. An appeal against his trial by an anti-terrorism court was still pending before the Supreme Court of Pakistan at the end of the year.

Death penalty

At least 13 people were executed. At least 258 people were sentenced to death, almost all of them for murder. The vast majority were tried by anti-terrorism courts whose procedures, especially the requirement that trials must conclude within seven days, violate standards for fair trial. More than 3,000 people were on death row at the end of 1999.

Special military tribunals, set up in November 1998, sentenced at least nine people to death. In February the Supreme Court declared that the special military tribunals set up in 1998 were unconstitutional, set aside all death sentences passed by the tribunals and transferred all pending cases to anti-terrorism courts. It said that all sentences executed earlier were "past and closed transactions".

  • Rafiuddin Babli was executed on 3 January while petitions were pending in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the tribunals.

Ignoring the constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy, several people sentenced to death by military tribunals were retried and sentenced to death again.

  • Mohammad Saleem, aged around 14 at the time of the alleged offence in June 1998, had been sentenced to death in December 1998 following a trial lasting 12 days. He was acquitted on 7 January and then sentenced to death again on 11 June. The appeal against his conviction was pending at the end of the year.

Government indifference to abuses

Abuses against women, children and other disadvantaged sections of society continued to be widespread, but the government took no effective action to end them. Abuses included child labour, which was known to affect between three and 10 million children; bonded labour; domestic violence, affecting the majority of women and children; and the trafficking of women. Police and judicial officers continued to treat such abuses leniently, contributing to a cycle of impunity and continued abuse. In August the Senate failed to pass a resolution condemning violence against women.

Several hundred girls and women, as well as a large number of men, were killed for allegedly dishonouring their male relatives. Often a mere allegation was sufficient to lead to honour killings. Women's behaviour which was perceived as bringing dishonour included alleged or real sexual relations outside marriage, choosing a marriage partner against parental wishes, or seeking a divorce. Some women were also considered to have dishonoured their community because they had been raped. Defenders of women's rights were sometimes targeted for their work.

  • Jameela Mandokhel, a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl, was raped in March. Upon her return to her community in the Kurram Agency, a tribal council decided that she had defiled tribal honour and shot her dead. The government took no action.
  • In April Samia Sarwar, a 29-year-old woman who sought a divorce after years of domestic violence, was shot dead in the office of her lawyer in Lahore by a family employee. Her action was perceived as shaming the family. Subsequently, her lawyer was charged with her murder and publicly threatened with death for "misguiding" Samia Sarwar.

Developments since the October coup

On 15 October, following a declaration of emergency, the Chief Executive, General Parvez Musharraf, issued Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 1999 which upheld fundamental rights despite suspension of the Constitution. It also stated that courts were to continue functioning but placed the military takeover and actions of the new administration outside judicial review. On 17 October he issued a policy statement, which included a fight against corruption and protection for religious minorities. On 17 November the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance was promulgated under which a body was set up to investigate corruption among state officials who would then be tried by a special accountability court. In addition to imprisonment, those found guilty would be disqualified from holding public office for 21 years. In December the anti-corruption drive was declared not to apply to members of the judiciary and the army. By the end of 1999, around 60 people had been arrested accused of corruption.

Immediately after the October coup, several members of the dismissed government were arrested and held without charge or trial in military custody. In late November, criminal charges were registered against seven men, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accusing them of hijacking, hostage-taking and attempted murder in connection with the alleged attempt to prevent General Musharraf's plane from landing in Karachi on 12 October. They were to be tried by anti-terrorism courts but by the end of the year the court had not finalized the charge sheet necessary to commence the trial.

AI country reports and visits

Reports

  • Pakistan: Juveniles sentenced to death (AI Index: ASA 33/008/99)
  • Pakistan: Violence against women in the name of honour (AI Index: ASA 33/017/99)
  • Pakistan: Open letter to General Parvez Musharraf (AI Index: ASA 33/028/99)

Visits

AI delegates met members of civil society and of political parties to discuss areas of reform benefiting human rights protection after the change in government.

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