Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Head of state Asif Ali Zardari
Head of government Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (replaced Yousaf Raza Gillani)
The Pakistani Taliban's assassination attempt on a teenage human rights activist in October underscored the serious risks faced by human rights defenders and journalists in the country. Religious minorities suffered persecution and attacks, with targeted killings by armed groups and religious leaders inciting violence against them. The Armed Forces and armed groups continued to perpetrate abuses in the tribal areas and Balochistan province, including enforced disappearances, abductions, torture and unlawful killings. The courts successfully compelled the authorities to bring a handful of victims of enforced disappearance before them, but failed to bring perpetrators to justice in fair trials. In November, the military authorities carried out Pakistan's first execution since 2008. Attacks on health workers had a significant impact on access to medical services in remote and strife-torn regions of the country. Parliament passed laws, in February and March respectively, on the establishment of separate national commissions on the status of women and on human rights.
Pakistan faced several political crises as the military, courts and elected government clashed over a range of issues, including corruption investigations. On
19 June, the Supreme Court forced then Prime Minister Gilani to resign after finding him in contempt of court, underlining the increasing power of the judiciary. In a landmark decision on 23 September, the Supreme Court ruled that members of the transgender community are entitled to the same rights under the Pakistan Constitution as other citizens. Hundreds of prisoners were transferred between India and Pakistan as part of a wider agreement on consular relations signed in May, signalling improved relations between the two countries. An undisclosed number of civilians, including children, were killed or injured as a result of “targeted killings” carried out by unmanned US drones in the tribal areas (see USA entry). By the end of the year, relations had improved between Pakistan and the USA, its chief foreign ally.
Pakistan began its two-year membership of the UN Security Council in January. A number of UN human rights experts visited the country for the first time in 13 years: the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in May, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in June, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in September. Pakistan's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in October; states raised a range of human rights issues including reform of the blasphemy laws, progress towards abolishing the death penalty, and ending enforced disappearances. Pakistan was elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the third time on 12 November.
Violations by security forces
Security forces continued to act with impunity and were accused of widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial executions targeting political activists, journalists, and suspected members of armed groups. In the northwest tribal areas, the armed forces exploited new and old security laws to provide cover for these violations beyond the reach of the courts.
- After an alleged plot to murder human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir was exposed in June, the authorities provided extra security but appeared unable or unwilling to investigate claims that military authorities “at the highest levels” had authorized the plot.
Hundreds of unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody, were widely reported. They were most common in the northwest tribal areas, and Balochistan and Sindh provinces.