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Amnesty International Report 1994 - Pakistan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - Pakistan, 1 January 1994, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
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.
Several prisoners of conscience charged with blasphemy remained in prison while new blasphemy cases were registered against others on account of their peaceful political opinions or religious beliefs. Over 200 possible prisoners of conscience were among hundreds of people arbitrarily detained during army operations in Sindh Province. Several cases of unacknowledged detention in police custody were investigated by the courts. Hundreds of people were reportedly tortured in police or military custody. Sentences of flogging and amputation were passed. Over a dozen deaths were reported which the authorities alleged were "encounter" killings but which appeared to be deaths after torture or extrajudicial executions. Fifty-seven people were sentenced to death, some by special courts which failed to meet international standards. One execution was reported.

After months of political uncertainty, President Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif resigned in July. Moeen Qureshi was appointed to form an interim government. General elections for the national and provincial assemblies took place in October. The leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Benazir Bhutto, was sworn in as Prime Minister on 19 October. The PPP candidate, Farooq Leghari, was elected President in November.

In September the government announced plans to establish a National Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights violations, but no further developments were reported by the end of the year.

Army operations initiated in May 1992 to combat criminal and political violence in Sindh continued. The police and military enjoyed legal immunity for acts deemed to have been committed "in good faith".

An ordinance promulgated in September extended the death penalty to cover drug-trafficking.

Eight charges of misrule and corruption filed against Benazir Bhutto after her dismissal as Prime Minister in August 1990 were still pending. Her husband, Asif Zardari, was acquitted of the tenth charge in the 12 cases against him and was released on bail in February after 28 months in prison.

Blasphemy laws, which carry a mandatory death penalty, continued to be used to harass or detain people for their political or religious beliefs. Dr Akhtar Hamid Khan, a Muslim poet in his seventies and founder of the Orangi Project, a development program, was charged with blasphemy in two separate cases. He was reported to have been falsely accused by traditional Islamists whose businesses had been adversely affected by the self-help training program his project offered to the poor. Dr Khan remained at liberty but under threat of imprisonment as a prisoner of conscience.

Gul Masih, a Christian who had been sentenced to death in 1992 for blasphemy, remained in jail (see Amnesty International Report 1993). He was a prisoner of conscience. Three other Christians were arrested in May in Gujranwala, Punjab, accused by their Islamist neighbours of writing blasphemous statements on a mosque's walls. One of them, a 13-year-old boy, was released on bail in November.

Several members of the Ahmadi religious minority were prisoners of conscience. Abdul Qadeer, Mohammad Haziq Rafiq Tahir, Mohammad Ilyas Munir and Nisar Ahmad were arrested in 1984 and falsely accused of murder during the martial law period (1977 to 1985). Sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment after an unfair trial by a military court, they were still in prison at the end of 1993. Scheduled hearings of their appeals to the Lahore High Court were repeatedly postponed. At least 60 Ahmadis were charged for using verses from the Koran during their peaceful religious activities: one was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and two were charged with blasphemy.

At least four journalists who had reported an incident in which excessive force was allegedly used by police against student demonstrators in January were detained and reportedly beaten on the orders of a police deputy superintendent. They lodged complaints but the police officers involved were not brought to justice. Several other journalists were imprisoned in tribal areas after trials which contravened tribal court regulations and international fair trial standards. Sailab Mahsud, who was arrested in South Waziristan by the Tribal Agency there after he had compiled a report on a tribal leader charged with drugs offences who had escaped from detention, was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment in October; however, he was released in mid-November. Afzal Afzaal was released from a jail in a tribal area in October after two weeks of a three-year sentence when he reportedly paid a large sum of money to the local tribal area authorities and undertook not to report "false news stories".

G.M. Syed, a possible prisoner of conscience, continued to remain under house arrest on sedition charges (see Amnesty International Report 1993).

Over 200 possible prisoners of conscience were among hundreds of people arbitrarily arrested during army operations in Sindh. Most were supporters of the Mohajir Qaumi Mahaz (MQM), Mohajir National Movement. Dozens of them were reportedly detained solely because they were relatives of MQM activists being sought by the authorities. Many of those detained were tortured to extract information or to force them to change their political allegiance. Many were held in secret detention without charge or trial for up to six months. In March Radio Pakistan reported a government decision to withdraw charges against 835 detainees. By the end of the year it was not known if any of them had been released.

At least two cases of unacknowledged detention were reported, but the actual number was believed to be much higher. In January, four police officers were arrested after an inquiry confirmed that they had kept two men and five women in unacknowledged detention and tortured them at Gulshan-i-Iqbal police station in Karachi.

Torture in the custody of the police, the paramilitary and the armed forces continued to be widespread and systematic, frequently leading to deaths. Scores of victims included political prisoners, criminal suspects and ordinary citizens from whom the police wanted to extract bribes.

Police arrested dozens of women reportedly to rape them. Those resisting rape were reportedly charged with the Islamic offence of Zina (adultery) under which release on bail is not permitted. As the law does not provide effective safeguards against the arbitrary use of this charge by the police, scores of women, some of whom had been detained in previous years, remained in jail pending a judicial hearing of the Zina cases against them. Also detained were women who had gone to the police to report incidents of rape, but were then held in custody on grounds of confession to illegal sexual intercourse.

Few police officers accused of rape were brought to trial. However, three police officers at Tando Ghulam Haider in Hyderabad district, Sindh Province, were each sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and 10 lashes for arresting eight members of the Bheel tribe in October 1992 and raping the women. However, they were subsequently acquitted by the Supreme Appellate Court on technical grounds.

Bonded labourers were reportedly tortured with police complicity in hundreds of private camps run by rural landlords or factory owners. A camp was discovered in March when two women escaped after 16 years of incarceration, reporting torture and ill-treatment of the inmates and gang-rapes of several women.

Sentences of flogging were reportedly delivered in at least 12 cases: nine men were sentenced for sexual offences and three men for drugs offences. When hearing appeals filed in previous years, the Supreme Court increased two men's sentences from 10 to 30 lashes and the Federal Shari'a Court, hearing appeals within its Islamic jurisdiction, acquitted one man but upheld sentences of 10 and 50 lashes on two other men. Two men were reportedly flogged in September in the tribal areas. Each received five lashes after a tribal court convicted them of drug-smuggling. They had no right of appeal.

A man reportedly detained in bar fetters in Hyderabad Central Jail for eight years without trial was released in July by a High Court order. It was not known if the authorities took any action against those responsible for his illegal detention and ill-treatment.

In January a man and a woman who had reportedly stolen money from a hospital fund received sentences of amputation of a hand from a Special Court for Speedy Trial in Multan, Punjab. Their appeal before a higher court remained pending.

Over a dozen deaths were reported which the authorities alleged were "encounter" killings but which appeared to be deaths after torture or extrajudicial executions. Nazir Masih, a Christian, died in May in Faisalabad, Punjab, after police reportedly beat him for refusing to give them alcohol. In July a young handicapped man arrested with several other villagers in Mirpur Khas, Sindh, was reportedly tortured to death when he failed to pay a bribe the police demanded for his release.

No members of the security forces involved in the killings were brought to justice. In most cases, the police refused to register a 'First Information Report' - on the basis of which an official investigation is carried out - by the victim's family.

New information was received about a "disappearance" which had occurred in November 1991. Allah Rakhio, a customs inspector, had "disappeared" after being detained by the army. No government action was known to have been taken to establish his fate or whereabouts.

Following the apparent "disappearance" of a young man arrested as a criminal suspect, the Lahore High Court ruled in March that a police officer at Phalia police station, Lahore, should be brought to justice. A bailiff instructed by the court to search the police officer's private residence found the prisoner detained there. An official investigation was promised but was not carried out.

In May the government informed Amnesty International that following a court order, a case had been registered against the station house officer accused of the extrajudicial execution of Mohammed Yusuf Jakhrani after his arrest during a police and military operation in June 1992 in Kandhkot, Sindh (see Amnesty International Report 1993). However, no investigation was known to have taken place. In three other cases the government reportedly undertook to investigate police and military involvement in allegedly unlawful killings, but no investigation was known to have been carried out.

The courts imposed 57 death sentences during the year. Special Courts for the Suppression of Terrorist Activities sentenced 22 men to death for murder or kidnapping; Special Courts for Speedy Trial sentenced 18 people to death for murder or rape; and ordinary lower courts sentenced 14 people to death for murder, blasphemy or sexual offences. In February a lower court sentenced Nasrin Bibi to death by stoning for alleged bigamy. She remained in jail until July when the Federal Shari'a Court acquitted her.

Appeal courts acquitted eight prisoners sentenced to death by lower courts and commuted three other death sentences to life imprisonment. The Supreme Appellate Court commuted another two sentences to life imprisonment and imposed the death penalty on two men acquitted of a murder charge by a lower court. In February the Sindh High Court ordered the suspension of a planned execution of a man whose appeal was still pending. At the end of the year, several hundred prisoners remained under sentence of death.

No death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court were reported to have been commuted by the President. In September, one man was hanged in Quetta. Dozens more prisoners were reportedly awaiting execution in various prisons, including 15 women in Multan Jail, Punjab.

In January Amnesty International published a report, Pakistan: Arrest and torture of political activists, in which it expressed concern about the mass arrests of PPP activists in November and December 1992. In August the organization expressed concern about the detention of Salamat Masih and two other Christians on charges of blasphemy, and in June Amnesty International urged the government to investigate the "disappearance" of Allah Rakhio and clarify his whereabouts. In September Amnesty International welcomed the decision of the interim government to establish a National Human Rights Commission but recommended an extensive review of existing institutions for more effective human rights protection. It also called upon all the political parties running for election to make clear their commitment to the protection of human rights. In November Amnesty International urged the government to release Sailab Mahsud. An Amnesty International report published in December, Pakistan: Torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions, revealed a pattern of widespread and systematic torture, including rape, in custody. Amnesty International urged the new government to investigate past torture cases, and to enforce safeguards against the use of torture.

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