Pak only half alive in 2007, says its rights body

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Lahore, Mar.30 : The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP) has said that the country was only half alive in 2007 due o the repeated violation of human rights, and described the ecember 27, 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto s one of the darkest chapters in the country's history.

Releasing its annual report for 2007 at the Lahore Press Club ere, HRCP Chairperson Asma Jehangir and Director I.A. Rehman aid the non- guarantee of people's rights had made 2007 one of he worst years in Pakistan's 61-year-long history.

Jehangir claimed that the previous caretaker government and the ilitary regime that preceded it considered itself unaccountable, feeling no need to conduct investigations" into various rights iolations, such as the carnage in Karachi in May last year and he sacking of judges not toeing the administration's line.

The report said that last year at least 927 people were killed in 1 suicide blasts, which were more than those decimated in the ar-torn Iraq. As many as 147 cases of torture and 65 of death in olice custody were reported. Nearly 39 people were killed in 29 andmine explosions across Pakistan.

Rehman added that 234 people were killed in police encounters in unjab alone. By July, families had paid ransom in 41 abduction ases in the Gujranwala police range. By September, there had een 55 abductions for ransom in Karachi.

Prisons housed 95,016 detainees as against an authorised capacity f 40,825. Across Pakistan, 67 per cent of the prisoners were waiting trial. As many as 134 convicts were executed and 309 warded death sentence. There were over 7,000 prisoners on the eath row. The number of missing persons in lists before the upreme Court swelled to over 400 before the Nov 3 judicial purge bruptly ended hearings. Ninety-nine out of 198 missing persons n the HRCP's list before the Supreme Court had been traced efore Nov 3.

Police routinely and systematically tear-gassed and beat up eaceful protestors apparently to suppress political opposition o the government. Eighty-eight of National Assembly's 342 embers resigned in protest against Musharraf's re-election bid n uniform. As many as 107 members did not say a single word on he floor of the assembly during the 4th parliamentary year.

The National Assembly passed 51 bills in five years compared to 34 ordinances promulgated by the president. The assembly ompleting its full five-year term was seen as self-serving xercise by Musharraf to get re-elected. It twice elected in its ne term a serving military general as president, according to he report.

Draft voters' lists in June 2007 contained only 52.1 million oters instead of the projected 82 million. The ratio of eligious minorities and women among omitted voters was very high nd the final list in October swelled to 80.4 million.

Political leaders, judges, activists and many others were ubjected to curbs on their movement throughout the year, and ore intensely after the declaration of emergency. Section 144 as widely used by the government as the legal cover for such estriction.

The deposed chief justice and his family were under house arrest or the most of the year even though the government did not fficially announce or admit it. Names appeared on and were taken ff the exit control list (ECL) without any reason given and ases were constantly challenged by many on the list which ontained hundred of names.

Sectarian violence claimed 580 lives and wounded another 1,120. he militants entrenched themselves in parts of the NWFP and the ribal areas, taking over several towns and implementing their ersion of Shariah. They also targeted girls' schools and CD hops and threatened religious minorities to convert to Islam or eave the area, the HRCP noted with regret.

The Shia community remained the main target of sectarian attacks. ive Ahmadis were murdered while 36 faced prosecution in faith-elated cases. Places of worship and graveyards remained a target f the land-grabbing mafia.

Unprecedented curbs were placed on electronic and print media ollowing the government's attack on the judiciary and imposition f emergency. At least seven journalists were killed and 73 njured, mostly by police. Security forces arrested 250 reporters or covering anti-government protests or for demonstrating gainst restrictions on the media.

Pakistan's standing in terms of Press freedom over the last 50 ears plummeted to 152 in rankings maintained by an international edia watchdog. Another US-based media supervisory organisation ncluded Pakistan among the 10 worst countries for the press reedom.

Political and religious gatherings, rallies and demonstrations ere usually banned across the country under the excuse that hese increased security risks. However, the law-enforcement gencies failed to apply this rule to government-favoured party nd groups' rallies. Women protesters were beaten up and anhandled by men assigned law-enforcement duties on many ccasions.

All those who were associated with protesting bodies were rutalised by the law-enforcement agencies throughout the year. he government acknowledged the arrests of over 5,000 in November lone.

Students in many educational institutions were warned of xpulsion if they showed interests in any protest. Various NGOs orking for women's rights, awareness and family planning were orced to shut down or relocate from the Northern Areas after omb blasts from militants.

The government tried to tighten its hold around NGOs by ormulating a Code of Conduct, but faced extreme criticism for ts closed and faulty modus operandi.

The number of violations against women remained high and there ere countless reports of brutal attacks on them. The HRCP ecorded 1,202 killings of which honour-killing crimes were 636. here were 755 cases of sexual harassment in which 377 victims, ncluding 166 minors, were raped, and 354 (including 92 minors) ere gang-raped. There were 736 kidnappings, 143 attacks by urning and many other abuses against women.

The assassination of Punjab Minister Zile Huma and PPP hairperson Benazir Bhutto marked 2007 as a deadly year for women oliticians. Female students and teachers received numerous hreats to their lives and were told to observe purdah (veil). he ensuing bomb scares and blasts at girls' educational nstitutions badly affected the attendance and enrolment.

Around 2,038 juvenile prisoners were awaiting trial all over the ountry because of the non-implementation of a law made in 2000 or their protection. Children, especially minor girls, continued o be the victims of widespread sexual and physical abuse. At east 258 cases of rape and gang-rape and 138 deaths by killing ere reported.

Child labour and trafficking remained rampant in 2007. Children n the earthquake and refugee camps were vulnerable to harsh eather conditions, disease, contaminated water and lack of xtensive medical attention, the report said.

Unemployment and financial restraints forced people to take esperate measures. There were 330 suicides and 189 attempted uicides due to these reasons. The number of bonded labourers welled to 17 million. Labour laws were largely ignored and orking conditions and salaries were in gross violation of basic orker rights.

Education became a commodity which only the moneyed people could fford, forcing the poor to send their children to substandard overnment schools, emerged as another deplorable issue.

The situation on the health front also remained worst. As many as ix cases of polio were reported despite the fact the disease had een 'eradicated' in the country. Despite the law to prevent rgan transplant, the incidence of renal transplant remained igh, the report concluded.

ANI

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