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Pakistan's 2012 Human Rights Record Bleak

A Pakistani Christian girl drinks milk as her brother sleeps, in a tent provided for Christian families whose homes were set on fire by a mob, in Badami Bagh, Lahore, Pakistan, March 13, 2013.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says ethnic, sectarian, terrorist and politically linked violence in 2012 killed or wounded more than 8,000 people. The independent commission and analysts place much of the blame on a lack of effective governance.

Pakistan's Human Rights Commission's report for 2012 paints a grim picture of terrorist attacks, increased targeted killings, sectarian attacks, disappearances, overcrowded prisons and child labor in the country.

Ibn Abdur Rehman, secretary-general of the commission, said that as a result, peoples' confidence and trust in many institutions has declined.

"The main trends in 2012 were that democracy came under strain; democratic institutions suffered a decline," said Rehman.

Commission member Asma Jahangir said rising religious intolerance was one of the gravest and most lethal issues in 2012, far beyond that of loudly condemned drone attacks.

"Because you see the number of people who have been killed in sectarian killings - 583 - and even if you look at the number of people killed in other terrorist attacks, [they] are far beyond people who have been killed under drone attacks, though we condemn drone attacks," said Jahangir.

Pervasive violence

More than 6,400 people were killed or injured last year in Pakistan in sectarian and terrorist violence. In comparison, there were between 240 and 400 casualties from the 48 drone attacks in tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

Jahangir said Pakistan over the years had failed to prevent the development of terrorism based on the exploitation of religion.

"It has an enabling environment in society, and the kind of religiosity that we see in society is now in fact the biggest hurdle in the progress, not only economic progress social progress, cultural progress of this country and we are all to be blamed for it," said Jahangir.

Analyst Imtiaz Gul, head of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies, said the failure of Pakistan's state institutions, particularly the police and courts, has fueled human-rights violations.

"When the government fails, when state institutions fail, I think increasingly then nationalist groups, criminal gangs, they try to take over, exercise their own authority for whatever cause they may be standing for. But it basically stems from the failure of the state to respond to public grievances, to political issues as well as social deprivations," said Gul.

The report also notes that some 10 million children in Pakistan are engaged in child labor, that Pakistan has the world's second highest number of children aged five to nine who are not attending school, and the second lowest education spending in South Asia.

Human Rights Commission member Asma Jahangir said, however, that despite its human rights failures, Pakistan had moved forward over the years.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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