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Amnesty International Report 1995 - Pakistan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1995
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - Pakistan, 1 January 1995, available at: [accessed 20 November 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 dozen prisoners of conscience charged with blasphemy were detained for weeks. Dozens of possible prisoners of conscience were among hundreds of political prisoners arrested by the army in Sindh and by police in other parts of the country. Torture continued to be widespread, reportedly resulting in at least 62 deaths. Dozens of sentences of flogging were carried out. Bar fetters continued to be used in jails. At least 35 extrajudicial executions were reported, some of them in staged "encounters" with the police. Thirty-two people were sentenced to death and one execution was reported.

Violent conflict between different ethnic and religious groups and political parties persisted throughout the year. At least 700 people were deliberately and arbitrarily killed by such groups in Karachi alone. In November the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ended the army operation which had begun in mid-1992 in Sindh to combat criminal and political violence.

In February the Supreme Court cancelled special regulations governing the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas in North-West Frontier Province. Subsequently, a popular movement in Malakand in the province demanded the introduction of Islamic law. When the government conceded the demand but then failed to introduce it, activists in Malakand took dozens of people hostage to enforce their demands. Paramilitary troops were deployed in force in November to stop the uprising.

The governmental Human Rights Cell, established in December 1993 to monitor and investigate human rights violations and to recommend action against perpetrators, began its work.

The March 1994 deadline set by the Supreme Court for the completion of the separation of the judiciary from the executive was not met. Appeals by the governments of Sindh and Punjab provinces for an extension of the deadline were rejected. In June the Law Minister asked the provincial governments to complete the process within nine months.

A constitutional amendment which had in 1991 empowered the government to establish Special Courts for Speedy Trial for a period of three years (see Amnesty International Report 1992) lapsed in July and the related act was formally repealed by presidential ordinance in November. The Qisas and Diyat Ordinance which permits forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, including judicial amputation, was periodically re-promulgated with minor changes.

The government announced procedural changes intended to curb the abuse of the law against blasphemy which carries a mandatory death penalty. However, no concrete legislative measures were taken.

More than a dozen Christians and Ahmadis were in detention at the end of 1994 charged with blasphemy solely for exercising their religious beliefs peacefully. They were prisoners of conscience. During the year over 100 Ahmadis were charged with various religious offences and detained for weeks. Over 130 Ahmadis faced charges of blasphemy under Section 295c of the Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty for "defiling" the name of the prophet Mohammad. One of them, Dr Muhammad Akhtar Majoka, was arrested on 22 February for allegedly inviting others to watch a television program featuring the exiled head of the Ahmadiyya community. Police later added charges under Section 295c although there appeared to be no evidence to support the charges. He was released on bail on 12 March. His trial began in September.

Five Ahmadi journalists, all prisoners of conscience, were detained on 7 February for a month for publishing articles in which they allegedly "posed as Muslims" and "thereby injured the religious feelings of Muslims". They were subsequently charged with blasphemy under Section 295c. Their trial had not begun by the end of 1994.

Hundreds of people, mostly members of the Mohajir Qaumi Mahaz (MQM), Mohajir Qaumi Movement, were arrested during the army operation in Sindh. Dozens of them may have been prisoners of conscience. When MQM activists could not be found, their friends or relatives were arrested.

Several members of Sindhi political parties continued to be detained. Among them was prisoner of conscience G. M. Syed, the 92-year-old Sindhi nationalist leader, who remained under house arrest on charges of sedition throughout the year (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 and 1994).

On several occasions when opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), announced plans for mass demonstrations, the government imposed a ban on public assembly and arrested hundreds of participants defying the ban. Most were released within days, often without charge, but dozens were detained for weeks under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. Some may have been prisoners of conscience.

Four Ahmadis, who had been arrested in 1984, falsely accused of murder and sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment by a military court (see Amnesty International Report 1994), were released in March following their acquittal by the Lahore High Court which found that their conviction had been unlawful.

In November Gul Masih, a Christian prisoner of conscience arrested in December 1991 and sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 1992 solely on the evidence of the complainant, was acquitted on appeal (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 and 1994).

Torture, including rape in police, military and judicial custody, continued to be widespread and resulted in at least 62 deaths. For example, Murad was arrested near Turbat, Balochistan province, on 24 July by the paramilitary Mekran Scouts and the Anti-Narcotics Task Force, apparently in place of a suspected drug-trafficker. The following day, the Mekran Scouts delivered his body to the Turbat hospital. A district administrator told the investigating Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-governmental organization, that Murad had been tortured to death by the Mekran Scouts. A judicial inquiry was set up but the law enforcement agencies refused to cooperate. Murad's nephew lodged a complaint against the alleged perpetrators but then had two criminal complaints registered against himself, apparently to prevent him pursuing the complaint.

The police rarely investigated charges brought against law enforcement personnel, although some police officers were prosecuted for illegal detentions or torture. However, very few convictions were reported and the punishments were not always properly executed. In 1993 the Supreme Court had confirmed the conviction of a Deputy Superintendent of Police for torturing a prisoner and increased his sentence from a fine to six months' imprisonment. However, the policeman was not arrested until June 1994 after the case was raised in the Punjab assembly. A judicial team which paid a surprise visit to the District Jail, Faisalabad, Punjab province, in July found that the policeman was allowed to go home every night and still occupied government quarters.

In September the Sindh High Court noted with concern that a judicial inquiry held to establish whether police from Kharadar police station were responsible for a death in custody appeared to have been deliberately misleading. The inquiry had established that Nazir Ahmed had probably died as a result of torture but had failed to invoke relevant sections of the Penal Code. The High Court ordered the trial court to amend the charges accordingly.

Dozens of sentences of flogging continued to be imposed and carried out in jails. In September, two men were sentenced to 10 lashes each by a tribal jirga (council of elders) in the Khyber Agency for alcohol consumption which is punishable under tribal Islamic law. The punishment was carried out in public.

A sentence of judicial amputation of right hands and left feet of three men convicted of robbery in 1992, confirmed by the Supreme Court in December 1993, was not carried out during the year.

Prisoners and detainees awaiting trial continued to be kept for weeks in their cells in bar fetters and cross-bar fetters. This was despite the 1993 ruling by the Sindh High Court that the use of bar fetters was inconsistent with Article 14 of the Constitution and with the injunctions of Islam. International standards as well as Pakistani law only permit the use of instruments of restraint in strictly limited circumstances and for limited periods. The prohibition of the use of fetters was stayed in April pending the Supreme Court's ruling on an appeal against the High Court's decision, which was lodged by the Sindh government.

Several people, including political activists, were extrajudicially executed. On 3 May, five young MQM activists were reportedly arrested by police, the paramilitary Rangers and army personnel, blindfolded and taken to a police clerk's house where they were shot dead. Official sources said that five "dangerous criminals" had been killed in an "encounter" with law enforcement personnel, but human rights groups investigating the incident stated that all the evidence supported the local residents' view that they had been deliberately killed.

Dozens of people were alleged to have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed by militant groups because of their ethnic or religious identity; the government failed to investigate the incidents or prosecute the perpetrators. On 5 April Manzoor Masih, a Christian charged with blasphemy, was shot dead by religious militants in Lahore. Police arrested the three assailants identified by eye-witnesses, but in an unusually lenient decision they were released on bail and had not been tried by the end of 1994. On 21 April a Muslim doctor, Sajjad Farooq, was stoned to death by a group of people in Gujranwala who believed he was a Christian who had burned the Koran. They set his body on fire while he was probably still alive and dragged him through the streets. A complaint was lodged against five people but no arrests appeared to have been made. At least six Ahmadis, including prominent members of the community, were killed by religious extremists during the year. Police failed to arrest any suspects.

Several people who had reportedly "disappeared" remained untraced, although other "disappearances" were resolved. The whereabouts of police officer Mohammad Afaque, who was abducted by police and handed to the Qasim Rangers in Hyderabad in February 1993, remained unknown. Two villagers from Miranigoti near Hyderabad, Ramazan Otho and Mohammad Otho, who had reportedly "disappeared" in late 1992, were released in April. Four other men arrested at the same time for allegedly crossing the border illegally remained missing. Police authorities denied holding them.

At least 32 people were sentenced to death, mostly for murder. In October Rehan was hanged in Peshawar Central Jail, following his conviction in 1991 for murder. He had to wait for over 30 minutes with the noose around his neck while his family and the heirs of the victim sought a compromise. Under Islamic law a death sentence may be commuted if the heirs of the murder victim forgive the offender and accept monetary compensation.

In February the government banned public hangings which had been temporarily stayed in 1992 pending a Supreme Court decision as to their compatibility with human dignity. In July parliament passed a law extending the death penalty to drug-trafficking.

In January Amnesty International urged the government to reconsider its decision to refuse entry to Afghan refugees as this contravenes the internationally accepted principle of non-refoulement, which forbids the return of refugees into areas where their lives and safety would be at risk.

During the year Amnesty International called on the government to release all prisoners of conscience and drop charges against Ahmadis accused of blasphemy. Amnesty International expressed concern that the police had failed to investigate attacks on and to protect members of the Ahmadiyya and Christian communities. The organization also expressed concern about mass arrests of MQM members and their relatives in Sindh province. It called again for the release of G. M. Syed.

In July Amnesty International issued a report, Pakistan: Use and abuse of the blasphemy laws, which highlighted cases of individuals who were falsely charged with blasphemy, ill-treated in custody, denied a fair trial and in two instances sentenced to death. In September Amnesty International urged the government to establish the whereabouts of Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Secretary General of the Jammu and Kashmir People's National Party, who had reportedly "disappeared" in the custody of the military intelligence in August. He was released from an army detention centre one month later.

Amnesty International asked the government to clarify a response it received from the Human Rights Cell in October about the probable extrajudicial execution of Niaz Hussain Pathan in September 1992. The government said that a judicial inquiry had found that Niaz Hussain Pathan had been "killed in a genuine encounter" but that police officers in Kotdiji, Sindh province, had been charged with murder.

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