In its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights, the US State Department has highlighted significant human rights issues in Pakistan, including unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government and forced disappearance of Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baloch human rights activists.
The report, released on Tuesday, said that there was a lack of government accountability, and abuses often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among perpetrators, whether official or unofficial.
“Terrorist violence and human rights abuses by non-state actors contributed to human rights problems, although to a lesser extent than in previous years, consistent with an overall decline in terrorist activity. Military, police, and law enforcement agencies continued to carry out significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups,” it added.
The report also noted that human rights organisations reported some authorities disappeared or arrested Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baloch human rights activists, as well as Sindhi and Baloch nationalists without cause or warrant. “Some children were also detained in an effort to put pressure on their parents. Activists claimed 500 Sindhis were missing, with more than 60 disappearing in 2020 alone,” the report said.
It further said that there were numerous media reports of police and security forces killing terrorist suspects in “police encounters”.
“Security forces in Balochistan continued to disappear pre-trial terror suspects, along with human rights activists, politicians, and teachers. The Baloch Human Rights Organisation noted 45 individuals had disappeared and that assailants had killed 15 persons in seven districts in July alone,” the report said.
On the issue of freedom of press and media, US State Department reported that threats and harassment of journalists, who reported on sensitive issues in Pakistan such as civil-military tensions or abuses by security forces, occurred with increasing frequency during 2020.
“Threats, harassment, and violence against journalists who reported on sensitive issues such as civil-military tensions or abuses by security forces occurred with increasing frequency during the year. Both the military, through the director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, and government oversight bodies, such as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), enforced censorship,” the report said.
Over internet freedom in Pakistan, the report said, “There were also reports the government attempted to control or block websites that advocated Baloch independence and that the government used surveillance software. There was poor transparency and accountability surrounding content monitoring, and observers believed the government often used vague criteria without due process.” (ANI)