Fri, 22 Oct 2021

New York [US], January 13 (ANI): Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2021 said that Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan government intensified its crackdown on the media, political opponents and civil society in 2020, while failing to stem violence against women and minorities.

The report mentions that authorities harassed and at times, prosecuted human rights defenders and journalists for criticising government policies. The government has also deployed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country's anti-corruption watchdog, to detain political opponents and critics of the government, including the Dawn editor Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, who was held without bail for six months.

"Pakistan's continuing assault on political opponents and free expression put the country on an increasingly dangerous course... Threatening opposition leaders, activists, and journalists who criticise the government is a hallmark of authoritarian rule, not a democracy," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Furthermore, the report highlights worsening violence against Pakistan's Ahmadiyya community in 2020, with at least four Ahmadis killed for alleged incidents of blasphemy. It also noted that the government failed to amend or repeal blasphemy law provisions, which have led to arbitrary arrests and prosecutions and has provided a 'pretext for violence' against religious minorities.

Several leading women journalists had issued a statement in August, where they had condemned the "well-defined and coordinated campaign" of social media attacks, including death and rape threats, against women journalists and commentators whose views and reporting have been critical of the government.

In September, a Lahore police chief made a public statement suggesting that a woman, who had been gang-raped on a highway in Punjab, was herself at fault because she should not have been "travelling without her husband's permission" on a motorway late at night.

In addition, data from domestic violence helplines across Pakistan have indicated that cases of domestic violence increased by 200 per cent from January-March 2020, and further worsened during the Covid-19 lockdowns after March. Partial or complete Covid-19 lockdowns to prevent the spread of infection also had a disproportionate effect on women workers, especially home-based and domestic workers. (ANI)

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