US releases human rights report on Pakistan, admits drastic reduction in terrorism fatalities

US releases human rights report on Pakistan, admits drastic reduction in terrorism fatalities

*WASHINGTON: Pakistan has seen a visible decline in terrorism fatalities by almost 40 per cent last year, according to the US State Department report released here.*

The annual report on human rights points out that terrorism fatalities until October 2017 stood at 1,084, in comparison with 1,803 fatalities in 2016. The data, collected for the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), indicated a 39.878 per cent decrease, which would have improved further if data for the last two months of 2017 were also included.

“The military sustained significant campaigns against militant and terrorist groups. Nevertheless, violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organisations and other non-state actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country,” the report says. This was more obvious in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

While the report highlights poor state of inmates. “Conditions in some prisons and detention centers were harsh and life threatening. Problems such as overcrowding and inadequate medical care were widespread.”

“Prison conditions often were extremely poor. Overcrowding was common. The Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid-Pakistan (SHARP) estimated the total nationwide prison population fluctuated between 95,000 and 107,000 while claiming that the normal capacity of prisons was approximately 36,000. The Inspector General’s Office reported prison capacity of 52,784.”

The State Department report also highlights the issue of forced disappearances in Pakistan, noting that in 2017, “there were kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons from various backgrounds in nearly all areas of the country. Some police and security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location”.

The report mentions disappearance of MQM workers in Karachi and of nationalists in interior Sindh, Balochistan and KP. The report also alleges that dozens of political workers and activists were kidnapped, tortured and killed in all these places.

The report points out that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high courts’ do not extend to several areas that operated under separate judicial systems. For example, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir has its own elected president, prime minister, legislature, and court system. Gilgit-Baltistan also has a separate judicial system.

“Many *such platforms* remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from wealthy persons and influential religious or political figures.”

The report interestingly highlights that “Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, and journalists often criticized the civilian portions of the government.” The press addressed the persecution of minorities. By law the government may restrict information that might be prejudicial to the national interest. Threats, harassment, and violence against journalists who reported on sensitive issues occurred during the year, it adds.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) licensed 89 private domestic and 22 foreign television channels; many of the channels were critical of the government. There were 143 commercial FM radio stations, but their licenses prohibited news programming. Some channels evaded this restriction by discussing news in talk-show form.