- From bleak to bleaker, year after year
The annual State of the Human Rights report issued by the HRCP is a yearly review of the rights’ situation under different categories. The generally well-researched report has been published for nearly three decades now and is the major source of information about the state of the vulnerable sections of society, rule of law, fundamental freedoms, democratic development and economic rights
The report presents a grim picture of the weakest segments of society that include children, women, minorities and the working class. As the report puts it, the year 2019 will be remembered for systematic curbs on political dissent, the chokehold on press freedom, and the grievous neglect of economic and social rights.
Crimes against children multiplied with at least 2,846 cases of abuse, although the true number was likely higher. Child labour was particularly a target of economic and sexual exploitation. Women continued to face discrimination in employment, financial inclusion, political representation and access to connectivity and education. Honour crimes were rampant. Thana culture flourished. Extortion and custodial torture that once characterised Punjab police spread to the other provinces also. Justice remained delayed and by the year end, there were about 1.8 million cases pending in the courts.
Last year will be remembered for systematic curbs on political dissent, the chokehold on press freedom and grievous neglect of economic and social rights. It became even more difficult to criticise the state policy. Coupled with the erosion of social media spaces and a deliberate financial squeeze on mainstream media, it led to Pakistan’s position slipping on the World Press Freedom Index.
Violations of rights was by no means a new phenomenon as it had existed under previous governments also. The Prime Minister, who had contested elections on the platform of social justice, got fixated on revenge against his political rivals and the section of media that criticized his policies. The PTI had no time and little inclination for safeguarding the interests of the weak and marginalised sections of society. The year 2019 was a bleak period. With the national economy under stress due to the coronavirus pandemic and the PTI still fixated on punishing rivals and critics, 2020 is likely to be bleaker for the weaker segments of society.