Thursday, March 09, 2006
The State of Musharraf's Khaki Republic
Our head Chowkidar’s benefactor’s had this to say about the state of the human condition in our lovely land.
Here are some pertinent excerpts from:
The US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Pakistan for 2005
(Released on March 8, 2006)
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Security forces extrajudicially killed individuals associated with criminal and political groups in staged encounters and during abuse in custody. Human rights monitors reported 189 instances of encounter killings.
Police said that many of these deaths occurred when suspects attempted to escape, resisted arrest, or committed suicide; however, family members and the press said that many of these deaths were staged.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances; however, police and security forces held prisoners incommunicado and refused to provide information on their whereabouts, particularly in terrorism and national security cases.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, security forces tortured and abused persons. Under provisions of the Anti-Terrorist Act, coerced confessions are admissible in special courts, although police did not used this provision to obtain convictions.
Security force personnel continued to torture persons in custody throughout the country. Human rights organizations reported that methods included beating; burning with cigarettes, whipping the soles of the feet, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, hanging upside down, and forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters. Security force personnel reportedly raped women and children during interrogations.
Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained subject to executive branch influence at all levels. Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent religious and political figures. The politicized nature of judicial promotions enhanced the government's control over the court system. Unfulfilled judgeships and inefficient court procedures resulted in severe backlogs at both trial and appellate levels. In nonpolitical cases, the high courts and Supreme Court were generally considered credible.
Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law requires court-issued search warrants for property but not persons, in most cases; however, police routinely ignored this requirement and at times stole items during searches. Police were seldom punished for illegal entry. In cases being pursued under the Anti-Terrorist Act, security forces were allowed to search and seize property related to the case without a warrant.
The government maintained several domestic intelligence services that monitored politicians, political activists, suspected terrorists, and suspected foreign intelligence agents. Despite a supreme court order, credible reports indicated that the authorities routinely used wiretaps and intercepted and opened mail without the requisite court approval.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and citizens generally were free to discuss public issues; however, journalists were intimidated and others practiced self-censorship.
There were numerous English and Urdu daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. All were independent. The Ministry of Information controls and manages the country's primary wire service, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), which is the official carrier of government and international news to the local media. The few small privately owned wire services practiced self-censorship.
The government arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists during the year. For example, on July 18, military police detained European documentary filmmakers Leon Flamholc, David Flamholc, and Tahir Shah in Peshawar on charges of filming military installations. On August 3, following questioning, Pakistani officials deported all three, who denied filming any military installations and claimed that the military treated them inhumanely during their confinement, denying them contact with their embassies and families. On July 24, police detained Rashid Channa, a senior reporter with the Star in Karachi, ostensibly on the orders of the Sindh chief minister and held him for more than 12 hours. Channa had written several stories critical of the chief minister and his cabinet.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government; however, this right was restricted in practice. President Musharraf has controlled the government since 1999 and dominated the PML federal coalition government.
Elections and Political Participation
Domestic and international observers found the 2002 national assembly elections, the most recent national elections, and the August local elections deeply flawed.
Government Corruption and Transparency
Corruption among executive and legislative branch officials remained a problem during the year, and public perception of corruption was widespread. The National Accountability Ordinance prohibits those convicted of corruption by the NAB from holding political office for 10 years (see section 1.d.). The NAB disproportionately targeted opposition politicians for prosecution and did not prosecute members of the military.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
President Musharraf criticized domestic women's rights organizations during the year. He discouraged their efforts to publicize rape and sexual abuse cases with the international community, claiming that such efforts damaged the country's international image.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; however, in practice there was significant discrimination based on these factors.
Although rape was widespread, prosecutions were rare. It is estimated that rape victims reported less than one-third of rape cases to the police. Police were at times implicated in the crime.
Honor killings continued to be a problem, with women as the principal victims. Local human rights organizations documented 1,211 cases during the year, and many more likely went unreported
The estimated 100 thousand Bohra Muslims practiced female genital mutilation (FGM).