Islamabad, Pakistan – In a new annual report, the international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the Pakistani government for expanding its crackdown on dissent among citizens, journalists and opposition politicians.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch released its World Report 2022 on Thursday, with a chapter on Pakistan focused on freedom of speech and religion, women’s rights and alleged abuses by Pakistani police and security forces.
“Authorities expand the use of harsh sedition and anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissent and strictly regulate civil society groups that criticize government actions or policies,” reads the opening of the Pakistan chapter.
“The authorities also cracked down on members and supporters of opposition parties.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to the reported allegations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has come under fire from human rights groups at home and abroad since it came to power in the 2018 election, with some opposition parties arguing its results were fraudulent.
Since taking power, Khan’s coalition government led by the Pakistan Justice Movement Coalition has hunted down the opposition in multiple corruption cases, and the party said it was launching an accountability campaign to bring past government corruption to justice.
at the same time, pakistan journalist And news agencies reported that the government and the country’s powerful military, which has directly ruled Pakistan for about half of its 74-year history, are under tighter control.
Under the Khan government, journalists critical of the government have been kidnapped, attacked, shot or charged with sedition and other alleged crimes.
Thursday’s Human Rights Watch report noted a “climate of fear” among journalists when reporting on allegations of human rights abuses by the government.
“Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have reported intimidation, harassment and surveillance by government authorities,” the report said.
“The government has used the ‘Pakistan International NGO Regulation’ policy to hinder the registration and operation of international humanitarian and human rights organisations.”
The Human Rights Watch report also focuses on issues related to freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan, where strict blasphemy law It is increasingly used against members of minority and majority Muslim faiths.
At least three people were murdered on blasphemy charges last year, including a Sri Lankan factory manager in the eastern city of Sialkot, according to an Al Jazeera tally. beaten to death A mob in December.
At least 80 people have been murdered on blasphemy charges in Pakistan since 1990, according to Al Jazeera.
Human Rights Watch also documented widespread allegations of violations of women’s and children’s rights in the South Asian country, which ranked 167 out of 170 countries on Georgetown University’s Global Index of Women, Peace and Security.
“Violence against women and girls – including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage – is widespread across Pakistan. Human rights defenders estimate that around 1,000 women die each year as a result of so-called honour killings ,” Human Rights Watch reported.
The rights group also noted that the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Balochistan Liberation Army and other armed groups continued to attack civilians and security forces, while accusing the security forces of “repeated human rights abuses, including detention without charge and extrajudicial executions.”