Pakistan’s leading watchdog slammed the nation’s deteriorating human rights record in a report released on Monday, highlighting extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances across the country.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report noted that deaths linked to terrorism continued to decline in 2017 but warned of an uptick in violence against so-called soft targets. “A study shows more Pakistanis died in incidents described as ‘encounters’ than in gun violence or in suicide attacks,” HRCP said, pointing to research showing 495 people died in what law enforcement called shootouts.
The issue of encounter killings has made headlines for months in Pakistan following the death in January of Naqeebullah Mehsud—a young social media star and ethnic Pashtun—by police in Karachi, who claimed he was a militant.
Hundreds of people are believed to die each year at the hands of security forces under pressure to crack down on kidnapping, murder and gang violence in the chaotic port city. Thousands of ethnic Pashtuns have rallied across the country since Mehsud’s death, calling for an end to such killings and for investigations into enforced disappearances or cases of alleged abductions by Pakistan’s security agencies.
Activists claim a variety of groups are targeted in such abductions, including journalists critical of the military and communities living near conflict zones believed to nurture links with militants. “It is high time that we sign the international convention on enforced disappearances,” HRCP spokesperson I.A. Rehman told reporters. “We won’t see any end of these disappearances until all those involved are prosecuted.”
According to the group, Pakistan’s commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances received 868 cases in 2017 alone.
Pakistan also continues to fare poorly in protecting religious minorities while violence against women remains troubling, with 5,660 related crimes reported in the country’s four provinces in the first 10 months of 2017. However, the report did include notable achievements on the rights front, including the inclusion of a transgender category in Pakistan’s latest census and the right to identify as transgender in the country’s passports.