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Pak Govt 'routinely violates basic rights, persecutes minorities under cover of law':HRW

January 25, 2011 - New York

The Pakistan Government's response to terrorist attacks in the country has 'routinely violated basic rights', Human Rights Watch has said .

Thousands of Taliban suspects have been held in "unlawful military detention without charge," many of them in two military facilities in Swat, one in the Khyber agency of the tribal areas, and at least one more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, said HRW in its 649-paged World Report 2011.

"Taliban atrocities aren't happening in a vacuum, but instead often with covert support from elements in the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies," said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"The Pakistan government needs to use all lawful means to hold those responsible to account," he added.

While the United States remains Pakistan's most significant ally and was the largest donor to its flood relief effort, HRW documented several instances in 2010 in which US aid to Pakistan appeared to contravene the Leahy Law, which requires the US State Department to certify that no military unit receiving US aid is involved in gross human rights abuses, and to investigate thoroughly and properly if such abuses are found.

"The Leahy sanctions have not ended continuing reports of summary executions by Pakistani security forces," Hasan said, adding, "Killings by the army need to end, and the US should stop sending mixed signals that allow the army to continue with business as usual."

The organisation also noted that 'persecution and discrimination under the cover of law' against religious minorities and other vulnerable groups 'remained serious problems.'

It is noteworthy that Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard on January 4 for supporting the release of Pakistani-Christian woman Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

Parliamentarian Sherry Rehman, who proposed amendments to the blasphemy law, has also been receiving public death threats in the 'face of government inaction.'

"Instead of capitulating to extremists who intimidate, threaten, and kill those with opposing views, the government should protect those at risk, such as Rehman, and hold those inciting violence accountable," Hasan said.

Taking note of the Lahore High Court's "voluntarily" acceptance for hearing a frivolous petition seeking Rehman's disqualification from parliamentary office on the grounds that she had committed "apostasy" by trying to offer amendments to the blasphemy law, Hasan said: "It is the right of any member of parliament to propose legislation."

"For the Lahore High Court to entertain such malicious litigation amounts to legal persecution," he added.


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