Islamabad, Pakistan In a new annual report, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized the Pakistani government for expanding repression of dissident citizens, journalists, and politicians.
The US-based Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report 2022 on Thursday, with the chapter on Pakistan focusing on freedom of expression, religion, women’s rights and alleged abuses by Pakistani police and security forces.
“The authorities have expanded their use of stringent sedition and counter-terrorism laws to stifle dissent, and of tightly organized civil society groups critical of government actions or policies,” the opening chapter on Pakistan states.
The authorities also cracked down on members and supporters of opposition political parties.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not respond to the report’s allegations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has been criticized by rights groups inside and outside the country since he came to power in the 2018 general elections, the results of which were challenged as fraudulent by some opposition parties.
Since coming to power, Pakistan’s Khan-led coalition government has dogged the opposition Insaf movement over a number of corruption cases, with the party saying it is carrying out an accountability campaign to bring the corruption of previous governments to justice.
At the same time, Pakistani journalists and news organizations have reported that they are under tighter control from the country’s powerful government and military, which has ruled Pakistan directly for nearly half of its 74-year history.
Journalists critical of the government have been kidnapped, assaulted, shot or charged with sedition and other alleged crimes under the Khan government.
Thursday’s Human Rights Watch report notes a “climate of fear” among journalists when covering alleged human rights abuses by the government.
“NGOs have reported intimidation, harassment and surveillance by government authorities,” the report said.
“The government used the policy of ‘regulating international NGOs in Pakistan’ to obstruct the registration and work of international humanitarian and human rights organizations.”
The HRW report also focused on issues related to freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan, where increasingly stringent blasphemy laws have been used against minorities and members of the Muslim majority alike.
Last year, at least three people were killed in connection with allegations of blasphemy, according to an Al Jazeera count, including a Sri Lankan factory manager in the eastern city of Sialkot who was beaten to death by a mob in December.
Since 1990, at least 80 people have been killed over allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan, according to Al Jazeera’s count.
Human Rights Watch has also documented allegations of widespread rights abuses against women and children in the South Asian country, which ranks 167 out of 170 countries on Georgetown University’s Global Women, Peace and Security Index.
“Violence against women and girls – including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage – is prevalent across Pakistan. Human rights advocates estimate that approximately 1,000 women are killed each year in so-called honor killings,” the Human Rights Report states. Watch.
The human rights organization also noted the continued attacks by the Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Baluch Liberation Army and other armed groups on civilians and security forces, while accusing the security forces of committing “numerous human rights violations, including detention without charges.” and extrajudicial killings.”