The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated existing inequalities in Pakistan as Balochistan remained especially vulnerable to excesses of power, according to a report.
In the report titled State of Human Rights in 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an NGO in Pakistan, noted that the pandemic has inflicted a huge blow to educational institutions in Pakistan with students compelled to attend online classes to the detriment of thousands in Balochistan, the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan who had little or no access to reliable internet connections.
According to the HRCP report, Balochistan remained especially vulnerable to excesses of power, from the extrajudicial killing of Hayat Baloch, an unarmed student, by a Frontier Corps soldier, to the shooting of four-year-old Bramsh and allegations that the men responsible had been sent by the alleged local leader of a 'death squad', Dawn reported.
The report pointed out that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) continued its operations as an instrument that violated fundamental human rights, including the right to fair trial and due process, among other things.
Prisons in Pakistan remain sorely overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of 124 per cent. This is marginally lower than in 2019, but the ever-present risk of infection in the country's prisons shows that the state has failed in its duty of care.
That report, released on the World Press Freedom Day (May 3), said that for the third consecutive year, the HRCP had underscored escalating curbs on freedom of expression.
"From the abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan to the arrest of Jang Group chief Mir Shakilur Rahman, it is clear that media groups continue to be pushed into toeing the line," it stated.
Accusations of blasphemy forced conversions and marginalisation of religious minorities and sects continued through the year, it added.
"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.
( With inputs from ANI )
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