US State department report paints grim picture of human rights abuses in Pakistan

Citing numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, suppression of media freedom and highlighting ‘pervasive corruption’ in politics and the government, the US State Department report painted a grim picture of human rights abuses in Pakistan.

Pakistan 2021 Human Rights Report released on Wednesday listed gross human rights violations committed against various groups, including journalists and there was no respect for civil liberties, according to the report.

It noted that the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption but the government generally did not implement the law effectively and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices, reported The Express Tribune.

Corruption was pervasive in politics and government, and various politicians and public office-holders faced allegations of corruption, including bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement,” according to the State Department.

The State Department said that there was a lack of government accountability, and abuses, including corruption, often went unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity among perpetrators, whether official or unofficial. The authorities seldom punished government officials for reported human rights abuses or acts of corruption, it added.

The report noted that the government continued its corruption investigations and prosecutions of opposition political party leaders during the year, with high-profile actions brought against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari, and senior members of the opposition parties, including the JUI-F.

But, it added, the opposition parties alleged that the prosecutions selectively targeted their leadership, reported The Express Tribune.

The State Department added that reports of corruption in the judicial system persisted, including reports that court staff requested payments to facilitate administrative procedures.

Lower courts reportedly remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from higher-ranking judges as well as prominent, wealthy, religious, and political figures, according to the report.

The State Department added that significant human rights issues in Pakistan also included credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against individuals in another country, including killings, kidnappings, or violence; arbitrary interference with privacy and support to the Taliban.

There were also serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and disappearances of journalists, censorship, and criminal defamation laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking, reported The Express Tribune.

Journalists faced threats, harassment, and violence. The State Department has mentioned false cases and harassment faced by many journalists, in its report.

According to the report, both the military, through its media wing, and government oversight bodies, such as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, enforced censorship.

Journalists alleged PEMRA issued editorial directives to television stations, and media outlets claimed the government pressured stations to halt broadcasting of interviews with selected opposition political party leaders, reported The Express Tribune.

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