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Amnesty International Report 2002 - Pakistan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2002
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2002 - Pakistan , 28 May 2002, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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.

Covering events from January-December 2001

Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Head of state: Pervez Musharraf (replaced Mohammad Rafiq Tarar in June)
Head of government: Pervez Musharraf
Capital: Islamabad
Population: 145 million
Official languages: English and Urdu
Death penalty: retentionist
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Children's Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict

The military government completed phased elections to local bodies in August and continued the crack-down on corruption. The ban on public political activities enacted in 2000 remained in force and restricted the activities of political parties; hundreds of people were detained for contravening the ban. Political violence increased after the Pakistan government decided to support military action in Afghanistan by the USA and its allies. Islamist groups responded to this decision with violent demonstrations. Women and members of religious minorities continued to face high levels of violence throughout the year. The death penalty continued to be imposed and at least 13 people were executed.


In June, General Pervez Musharraf, the Chief Executive since 1999, replaced Mohammad Rafiq Tarar as President. A meeting in Agra, India, in July between the Indian Prime Minister and President Musharraf failed to produce a joint statement because of President Musharraf's insistence that Kashmir was a central issue in bilateral relations.

The separation of the judiciary from the executive was completed in August when the office of district commissioner/district magistrate was eliminated. Its judicial functions were transferred to judicial magistrates working under the supervision of district judges. However, under an ordinance issued in August, some functions were transferred to the police, and confessions made before police officers were made admissible in court.

'Anti-terrorism' legislation

In August, the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 1997 was amended to empower the government to ban organizations "involved in terrorism" and to ban media distribution of materials "conducive to terrorism". It also provided for trials behind closed doors and required religious organizations to disclose their funding.

In September, a state of emergency was declared giving the government sweeping powers to maintain law and order.

Political arrests and detention

The ban on public political rallies continued to be enforced. Hundreds of political activists were arrested for breaking the ban; most were released within hours or days. Some Islamist leaders were held in preventive detention under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO) which allows for up to three months' detention without trial.

  • In April, several hundred people, including women and children, were arbitrarily detained for a short period of time for peacefully demonstrating in Lahore and Karachi against water shortages.
  • In October, dozens of Islamist protesters, including many Afghan refugees, were arrested during violent protests against Pakistan's support for US military action in Afghanistan. Several Islamist leaders including Fazlur Rahman of Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam and Qazi Hussain of the Jamaat-e-Islami, were placed under house arrest under the MPO.
Freedom of expression

Several journalists were detained solely for their work.
  • In June, four journalists at the daily newspaper Mohasib of Abbotabad in Punjab province were arrested on charges of blasphemy. The charges related to the publication of an article discussing whether pious Muslim men must wear beards. They were released on bail in mid-July.
Anti-corruption trials

In April, following protests by national and international human rights organizations, the Supreme Court of Pakistan struck down several provisions of the 1999 National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance. Among the changes were the shortening of the permitted period of detention by NAB from 90 to 15 days and the easing of bail restrictions. By August, 356 corruption cases had been filed, of which 148 had led to convictions.

In April, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction for corruption in 1999 of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari and ordered a retrial, ruling that the judge had been biased. In May, a court ordered Benazir Bhutto's arrest to stand trial and one month later sentenced her to three years' imprisonment for failing to appear before it.

Torture and deaths in custody

In April, police officials acknowledged that torture, particularly of members of disadvantaged groups, continued to be practised. In May, Law Minister Shahida Jamil criticized the previous governments' failure to invest in police training, stating that police frequently had no other investigative techniques but the use of force to extract confessions. Several attempts were made to outlaw torture. In October, the Sindh Inspector General of Police issued standing orders not to use torture and stated that he would hold senior police officers criminally responsible for torture and deaths in custody in their jurisdiction.

Prolonged solitary confinement was sometimes unlawfully used to punish detainees or extort money. Several detainees in Faisalabad Central Prison were reportedly held in continuous solitary confinement for several months longer than the three-month maximum permitted in Pakistan law; one had reportedly been held in solitary confinement for three years.

Deaths in custody

In the first three months of the year, nine detainees died in Faisalabad Central Prison when health care was denied despite instructions by the prison doctor.

At least 40 people died in police custody or in prison as a result of torture during 2001. In the first nine months of the year, 12 deaths in custody were recorded in Lahore alone. According to police officials, about a dozen police officers were suspended and charged with criminal offences in connection with the deaths. At the end of the year, no details were available about charges or arrests.
  • In October, Mian Arshad, a businessman detained at the beginning of October, died in the custody of the NAB in Lahore. He had been interrogated in connection with an allegation of corruption against a leader of the Pakistan People's Party. NAB officials stated that Mian Arshad had died of heart failure. However, the autopsy report listed four injuries to his body, along with bruises and swellings. Police delayed registering a complaint filed by relatives. An investigation was ordered but its findings were not known at the end of the year.
Freedom of religion

Several cases of blasphemy were reported, both against members of religious minorities and Muslims.
  • A Christian teacher, Pervez Masih, was charged with blasphemy in April. He said that police officers beat him with rifle butts and kicked him until he almost lost consciousness. His trial began in May.
  • In August, Yunus Sheikh, a doctor and lecturer, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in Rawalpindi. His appeal was pending at the end of the year.
The government failed to provide adequate protection to religious minorities against attacks by Islamist groups. In particular Shi'a professionals were openly and with impunity targeted by Sunni militants in Karachi. Few of those responsible for sectarian killings were prosecuted as witnesses and the families of victims feared revenge attacks, and judges were afraid to convict.
  • In October, the government ordered a judicial inquiry and payment of compensation after 17 Christians were shot dead in a church in Bahawalpur by unidentified Islamists.

The state failed to take adequate measures to protect women from abuse. Several hundred girls and women were killed for allegedly shaming their families. Their supposedly immoral behaviour included marrying men of their own choice or seeking a divorce. The non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that 62 women had been killed in such "honour" crimes in the first quarter of 2001 in Sindh Province alone. Although widely reported, abuses were routinely ignored by the state.
  • In April, 21-year-old Fakhra Younus had acid thrown in her face by her husband, a well-known former parliamentarian. Her face, shoulders and chest were extensively burned, her lips were fused together and one eye was damaged. Although her family managed to register a complaint, her husband was not arrested. The authorities reportedly refused to issue her with travel documents when she sought reconstructive surgery abroad. She eventually left the country in July.
The authorities also continued to ignore practices resembling slavery.
  • In June, a jirga (tribal council) in Thatta district, Sindh Province, handed over two girls to "settle" a tribal feud arising from a murder. The 11-year-old daughter of the accused was forced to marry the 46-year-old father of the murder victim and the six-year-old daughter of the other accused was married to the eight-year-old brother of the victim. Although the arrangement was reported in the local media the authorities took no action to rescue the children.

Over 4,000 juvenile detainees were held during the year. Many were detained for minor offences such as vagrancy and theft. They were often detained awaiting trial for longer than the maximum possible sentence for the alleged offence. Despite the requirement of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, legal aid was not provided to all juveniles. As most prisons did not have separate cells for juveniles, many young detainees were held with adult suspects or convicts. Special courts to try juveniles were not set up, but regular courts were empowered to act as special courts.


In May, the authorities closed the border with Afghanistan to refugees. Afghans seeking refuge who managed to enter Pakistan faced refoulement, arbitrary arrest, intimidation and deportation, particularly in the North West Frontier Province.
  • In June, an Afghan refugee, Sallahuddin Samadi, was picked up by police in Islamabad. When the police discovered that neither he nor his relatives could pay the bribe they demanded, Sallahuddin Samadi was thrown from the moving car. He died 12 days later of his injuries. Two police officers were reportedly arrested and charged with criminal offences and an investigation was announced into the incident. It was not known if anyone had been brought to trial by the end of the year.
At the end of the year, the border remained closed to all those without valid visas. As a result, thousands of Afghans seeking refuge from the US-led military strikes in Afghanistan which began in October were forced to try to enter Pakistan at isolated points on the porous border.

During a meeting with AI's Secretary General in Islamabad in December, General Musharraf gave assurances that no Afghan refugee would be forcibly returned to Afghanistan.

Death penalty

At least 50 people were sentenced to death during 2001, some after apparently unfair trials. At least 13 people were executed.
  • In July, an Afghan tribesman was executed after a tribal council in North Waziristan, a designated tribal area, found him guilty of murder. The father of the victim shot the Afghan dead in front of thousands of tribesmen.
  • In November, Sher Ali was hanged in Timergarah for a murder committed in 1993 when he was 13 years old. The Supreme Court had earlier rejected an appeal which argued that in 1993 the death penalty could not be imposed in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas where he had lived.
During a meeting with AI's Secretary General in Islamabad in December, General Musharraf announced the commutation of death sentences of juveniles imposed before the death penalty for children was abolished in July 2000.

AI country reports/visits

  • Pakistan: Insufficient protection of religious minorities (AI Index: ASA 33/008/2001)
  • Pakistan: Freedom of assembly should not be curtailed again on 1 May (AI Index: ASA 33/009/2001)

AI delegates visited Pakistan in April and December.
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