Blasphemy laws used to harass minorities: Report

Violence and discrimination against minorities continued in Pakistan, a US report on human rights said.

Updated: Apr 08, 2011, 23:22 PM IST

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.