LAHORE: As in preceding years, Pakistan witnessed substantial human rights violations in 2020, from forced conversions of religious minorities and crimes against women to enforced disappearances and curbs on freedom of expression, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said in its annual report.
In the report titled, 'State of Human Rights in 2020', HRCP added that "as the experience of 2020 shows, these injustices, if left simmering, only intensify during severe crises such as a pandemic. While this makes mitigation efforts all the more difficult, it does not mean that it makes them impossible."
On the issue of enforced disappearances, the report said, "Since the inception of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has topped the list in terms of numbers of missing persons. At end-December 2020, the total number of cases registered in the province stood at 2,942."
Over the freedom of expression in Pakistan, the report said, "At least 10 journalists were murdered and several others threatened, kidnapped, tortured, and arrested while discharging their professional responsibilities, according to the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors."
Curbs on the media continued through the year, with many journalists complaining that they were compelled to self-censor for fear of being persecuted by either non-state or state actors, the rights commission said.
It added that accusations of blasphemy forced conversions and marginalisation of religious minorities and sects continued through the year. "HRCP documented at least 31 forced conversions in 2020, six of which involved minors. Police data shows that at least 586 persons were booked on charges of blasphemy in 2020, with the overwhelming majority from Punjab," the report said on the freedom of religion or belief in Pakistan.
On the issue of women's rights, the rights commission said, "HRCP registered a rise in complaints of domestic and online violence, indicating the increased vulnerability of women during the pandemic. Based on reports in the press, HRCP recorded 430 cases of honour killing in 2020, involving 148 male and 363 female victims."
At least 2,960 cases of child abuse were documented across the country, according to one estimate, although the number is likely higher."The ages of children abused were particularly disturbing--infants as young as a year old were not spared--and the crimes particularly heinous, ranging from abduction and rape to gang rape and murder," the report added.