Blasphemy laws used to harass minorities: Report
Last Updated: Friday, April 08, 2011, 23:22
Washington: Noting that religious freedom violations, violence and discrimination against minorities continued in Pakistan, a US report on human rights on Friday said blasphemy laws in the country are being used to harass them.

"In Pakistan, religious freedom violations and discrimination against religious minorities continued. The blasphemy laws were used to harass religious minorities as well as vulnerable Muslims or Muslims with minority views," said the US State Department's 'Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010'.

The report provides detail on human rights conditions in over 190 countries for 2010.

In the first two months of 2011, two senior government officials who publicly challenged these laws were brutally killed, it said.

The State Department said during the year, there was a significant increase in the total number of reported torture and rape cases of individuals in custody, almost double as compared to 2009.

The Society for Human Rights and Prisoners' Aid reported 72 civilian deaths after encounters with police and 168 deaths in jails, an increase from the previous year.

"Militant and terrorist bombings in all four provinces and in Federally Administered Tribal Areas continued to result in deaths and injuries," the report said.

According to the report, terrorist and extremist attacks and operations to combat terrorism resulted in 7,400 deaths, of which nearly 1,800 were civilians, over 450 were security forces, and over 5,100 were terrorists or insurgents.

There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings in Karachi and Balochistan.

The 'Dawn' newspaper reported that 1,981 persons were killed in political violence in Karachi, of which 748 were targeted killings, the State Department report said.

According to Human Rights Watch, the targeted killing and disappearance of Baloch leaders, activists, and civilians increased in 2010.

Some people accused of blasphemy against Islam were sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment. One of them was Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who was sentenced to death in November, becoming the first woman to receive such a harsh sentence for blasphemy, the report said.

The State Department report said an increasingly difficult security situation in Afghanistan resulted in a number of serious human rights abuses.

"Civilians continued to suffer from intensified armed conflict as conflict-related deaths increased by 15 per cent during the year compared to 2009.Government and pro-government international forces were responsible for civilian deaths, specifically 16 per cent of total civilian deaths," it said.

The report said the elections themselves were marred by electoral fraud and widespread irregularities including establishment of a special tribunal to investigate election results and complaints, low voter turnout and insufficient conditions for participation by women.

"The government was plagued by official impunity and corruption and often failed to conduct effective investigations of human rights abuses committed by local security forces. Arbitrary arrest and detention remained a problem, and the judiciary lacked independence. Freedom of religion, including the right to change one's religion, was severely restricted," it said.

Women continued to face pervasive human rights abuses including violence, insurgent attacks on girls' education, limited access to justice, and other limitations on their rights, said the report on Afghanistan.


First Published: Friday, April 08, 2011, 23:22

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