Pakistan's human rights situation in 2016 remained of significant concern. Serious violations of women's and children's rights continued throughout the year. Terrorist incidents persisted despite a continued improvement in the security situation. The country's minority communities, including religious minorities – in particular Ahmadiyya, Christian and Shia communities – suffered widespread persecution. Pakistan maintained its use of the death penalty, albeit at a reduced rate: there were 87 executions in 2016 compared to over 325 in 2015. Modern slavery continued to be a major problem. The operating space for international and domestic NGOs remained restricted.

Throughout 2016, the Government of Pakistan continued to put in place the institutional and legal framework needed to address the many human rights challenges the country faces. Building on work started in 2014 and 2015, including the establishment of a human rights ministry and National Commission for Human Rights, in February it launched a comprehensive human rights action plan. National and provincial assemblies enacted legislation to protect women from honour crimes and violence, improve Hindu minority rights and outlaw forced conversions in Sindh province. However, the government made only limited progress in harnessing these positive developments to effect real improvements to the lives of Pakistan's citizens. Performance against the action plan was patchy and implementation of human rights legislation remained a major challenge.

The UK's human rights objectives for Pakistan for 2015–2018 focus on six themes: the death penalty; women's and children's rights; freedom of religion or belief and minority rights; respect for the rule of law and democracy; freedom of expression; and economic and social rights, including modern slavery. In all these areas, we raised our concerns and urged Pakistan to adhere to its international obligations. Ministers and officials pressed Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty. We repeatedly expressed concerns about violations of freedom of religion or belief and misuse of the blasphemy laws. Under the Government's Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, we supported projects to promote religious freedom and build human rights capacity in provincial administrations and civil society. Our support for criminal justice reform was extensive, provided through programmes to improve civilian capacity to investigate, prosecute and convict criminals, including terrorists, in line with international standards. The EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus promoted economic development and compliance with 27 international conventions (including seven human rights conventions). Pakistan remained a priority for UK development assistance with programmes designed to help its most vulnerable citizens exercise their social and economic rights, and embed democracy.

The review of Pakistan's human rights performance under the UN Universal Periodic Review process in November 2017 is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate real progress on its human rights commitments. A decision not to extend the use of military courts to try civilian terrorist cases, a major concern given their lack of transparency, would be a welcome sign. In 2017, the UK will continue to support the Government of Pakistan in building a more secure, prosperous and democratic country where the rights of all citizens are respected regardless of gender, ethnicity or belief.


This 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.