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Amnesty International Report 2003 - Pakistan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2003
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2003 - Pakistan , 28 May 2003, available at: [accessed 22 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.

Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Pervez Musharraf
Head of government: Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali (replaced Pervez Musharraf in November)
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

Human rights abuses committed in the context of the government's continued support for the US-led "war on terrorism" included the arbitrary detention of hundreds of people suspected of having links with "terrorist" organizations and their transfer to the custody of US officials. In addition, systemic human rights violations – including torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial killings – continued. Abuses committed against women, children and religious minorities, including Christians and Shi'a Muslims, continued to be ignored. At least 140 people were sentenced to death and eight were executed.


A presidential ordinance amended the Anti-Terrorism Law in January, providing for military officers to be part of judicial panels trying "terrorist" offences.

In April, a referendum extended the presidency of President Musharraf for a further five years. The elections were marked by allegations of irregularities and a low voter turn-out.

In August the Legal Framework Order restored Article 58(2b) of the Constitution, which allows the President to dissolve parliament and sets up a National Security Council composed of military and civilian officials to consult on national security.

In August the federal cabinet approved the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002. The National Commission on the Status of Women announced it would review discriminatory laws but had not produced recommendations by the end of the year.

The criteria which potential parliamentary candidates are required to fulfil were changed shortly before general elections in October, excluding many former politicians from standing for election. Seats for women were reserved at all levels of federal and provincial legislatures. However, women's participation in the elections was not effectively ensured. Many village elders forbade women from casting votes and threatened with fines men who "permitted" female relatives to vote. In some regions less than 10 per cent of eligible women cast their vote.

The elections led to a hung parliament. For the first time, Islamist parties formed an alliance and became the third largest block in the National Assembly. In November Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali replaced Pervez Musharraf as the new head of government.

Arbitrary detention and transfer of people to US custody

In January, four religious groups were banned and thousands of Islamists arrested and held under administrative detention. They were released within days or weeks.

More than 400 people were arbitrarily detained in the context of the US-led "war on terrorism". The detainees were handed over to US officials without adequate human rights safeguards, in breach of domestic legislation regarding extradition and the fundamental international principle of non-refoulement. They included Pakistanis, Afghans and people of Middle Eastern origin.

  • Moazzem Begg holds dual United Kingdom (UK) and Pakistani nationality. He had run a school in Afghanistan, but came to Islamabad with his family when military action started in October 2001. In February 2002, he was pushed into the boot of a car by unidentified men and taken away. In April, his father in the UK received a letter from his son through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) saying that he was in US custody in Afghanistan. According to available information he remained detained without charge or trial in harsh conditions at the end of the year.
Lack of protection for minority communities

The state continued to ignore abuses inflicted by private individuals or groups against members of minority communities. At least 40 members of the minority Shi'a community, mainly doctors and other professionals, and some 65 Westerners and Christians died in targeted killings. Preventive and protective measures were non-existent or inadequate, and action was taken to investigate such killings only following domestic and international pressure.
  • In October, two men entered the office of the Christian organization Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi. They bound and gagged all members of staff and shot them dead. No one had been arrested in connection with the attack by the end of the year.
Abuses of the blasphemy laws

Several men were sentenced to death for blasphemy. Others accused of blasphemy were killed, some in circumstances suggesting official complicity or acquiescence in the killings.
  • Anwar Kenneth, a Roman Catholic who had claimed to be a prophet, was sentenced to death in July. His mental health had not been taken into consideration during the trial.
  • In June, a prisoner in Kot Lakpat Jail, Yousuf Ali, was shot dead by a fellow convict. His appeal against his conviction for blasphemy and death sentence, imposed two years earlier, was pending at the time of his death. Punjab Governor Khalid Maqbool held prison staff responsible and ordered an inquiry but no further action was reported.
  • Zahid Mahmood Akhtar was stoned to death in July by a mob after a local Muslim cleric called for his death. He had claimed to be a prophet of Islam, and had been charged with blasphemy but freed on bail by a court in 1997 on account of mental illness. Police took no action for two weeks and then arrested several suspects.
Abuses against juveniles

The government failed to ensure that officials in the criminal justice system were made aware of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance of 2000. Children continued to be brought to court in handcuffs and to be tried before judges not empowered to hear their cases.

Children also continued to be sentenced to death, contrary to national and international law. President Musharraf had announced in December 2001 that all juveniles sentenced to death before July 2000, when the death penalty for juveniles was banned, would have their sentences commuted. However, implementation of this presidential decree remained uneven.
  • In August, two boys aged 14 and 15 who had been arrested on suspicion of theft were brought handcuffed before a magistrate. Although the magistrate did not have the authority to hear the case, he issued an order remanding them in custody and failed to take note of the fact that they were wearing handcuffs.
  • Sixteen-year-old Atif Zaman was sentenced to death in July for murder by an Anti-Terrorism Court. An appeal was lodged during which the Peshawar High Court referred the question to the Supreme Court as to whether Anti-Terrorism Courts were competent to try juveniles or to sentence them to death. By the end of the year the issue had not been decided and Atif Zaman remained imprisoned.
  • Muhammad Ameen had been sentenced to death in January 2000 for a murder committed in 1998 when he was 16 years old. His appeal was dismissed by the High Court in September 2001. In March 2002, the Supreme Court refused to admit his appeal. A petition filed in the Supreme Court was still pending at the end of the year and he remained held in a death cell in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.
Women's rights

Women and girls continued to be subjected to abuses in the home, the community and in the custody of the state. Impunity for such abuses persisted. Hundreds of women were killed in so-called "honour" killings. Some private initiatives were announced. For instance the head of the Leghari tribe said in March that "honour" crimes would no longer be permitted. However, the state did not take any action to ban the practice or to ensure that the perpetrators were held to account. The law of qisas and diyat relating to murder remained unchanged. This law allows criminal prosecution only if the family of the murder victim wishes to pursue it. In case of "honour" crimes this often does not occur, leading to persistent impunity. Police failed to respond adequately to abuses reported by women.
  • Razina was killed in July 1999 by her cousin who considered her free choice of a spouse to have "shamed" the family. Razina's father agreed to forgo prosecution and in April 2002 the perpetrator was acquitted by the Peshawar High Court.
  • In June, a tribal council in Meerwalla village, Punjab Province, reportedly "sentenced" 30-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi to be gang-raped as "punishment" for her younger brother's alleged affair with a woman from a tribe considered higher in the tribal hierarchy. After a public outcry, police took note of the incident and registered a complaint. The alleged rapists and council members were tried before an Anti-Terrorism Court. During the trial it was alleged that the victim's brother had been sodomized by tribesmen who then invented the story of his illicit relationship. In August, six men, including two council members, were sentenced to death; eight others were acquitted. Those sentenced to death appealed against their conviction, while the state appealed against the acquittal of the others. Both appeals were pending at the end of the year.
  • In November, a council of elders in Manjhand, Sindh Province, directed that a man who could not repay his debts should hand over his 10-year-old daughter for marriage instead. She was to live with relatives until puberty. However, she was reportedly abducted by her 40-year-old "husband" and raped. The rape was confirmed by a doctor who examined the child. A complaint was lodged with the police, but local elders denied the allegations.
Legislation which permits compensation to be paid to the family of murder victims in lieu of criminal prosecution led to abuses.
  • In June, days before the imminent execution of four men for murder, a council of elders brokered a compromise by which eight young girls and money were handed over to the family of the victims in exchange for dropping the charges. Following public protests the deal was overturned. The Punjab Law Minister's direction in July that the practice of handing over women in compensation should be outlawed was not acted upon. Similarly the Peshawar High Court's direction in 2000 that courts should not accept such arrangements was ignored.
The Islamist party alliance in November announced it would end co-education and make religious education compulsory for all. Women's rights groups expressed their apprehension about a setback to women's rights under the new government.

Torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions

Torture in police custody continued to be reported; at least 26 people reportedly died as a result.
  • Sixteen-year-old Kashmir Khan died in May in Bhanamari police station, North West Frontier Province. Police claimed that he was killed in an encounter with police who surprised him during a robbery. His father filed a complaint with police stating that the boy had been shot at and deliberately kept in a van until he died. An official inquiry was ordered but not carried out. The officer reportedly responsible for the killing was transferred to another post. The Director General of Police reportedly said, "we do not want to demoralize police by taking action against the police official".
The number of criminal suspects killed in so-called "encounters" with police increased alarmingly. In the first seven months of the year, 73 criminal suspects were killed in Punjab alone. In several cases, relatives claimed that the victims had been killed while in police custody. In some cases police claimed that criminal suspects had committed suicide when surrounded by police.

Following a wave of targeted killings of members of the Shi'a and Christian minority communities, suspected perpetrators appeared to be targeted by police. In September President Musharraf said of those allegedly responsible for the intercommunal violence "the positive thing is, that we have either rounded them up or killed them", suggesting that the killing of suspects was an acceptable solution.
  • In May, Riaz Basra, leader of the Sunni organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which was believed to be responsible for a number of targeted killings of members of the Shi'a minority, was reportedly shot dead by police in Vihari. Riaz Basra had dozens of criminal charges pending against him. The Pakistani media reported that he had been arrested six months earlier and been killed in custody. No investigation into the death had been initiated by the end of the year.
The death penalty

At least 140 people were sentenced to death, bringing the total number of people under sentence of death by the end of the year to over 5,500. At least eight people were executed.
  • In April, Zafran Bibi was sentenced to be stoned to death. She had alleged that she had been raped by her husband's brother. However, her father-in-law told police that she had been raped by another man 10 days earlier. When a medical examination established that she was several weeks pregnant although her husband had been away, police changed the charge from rape to adultery. The court acquitted the man alleged by her father-in-law to have been involved, but found Zafran Bibi guilty of zina (fornication) and sentenced her to death by stoning. In June, in what was considered a landmark judgment, the Federal Shariat Court acquitted Zafran Bibi saying that a rape victim should not be considered to have committed a sexual offence and should not be punished.

AI visited Pakistan in April.
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