In a new report, Pakistan’s leading watchdog has said the country has failed to make progress on several issues over the past year, citing forced disappearances, women’s rights violations, and protection of religious minorities.
The report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), issued on April 16, said that people continue to disappear in the country, including journalists and bloggers who criticize the military or those who advocate better relations with neighboring India.
"Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks, and abductions and blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence," the report said.
Last year, several activists and journalists who challenged Pakistan's military were detained, including five bloggers who subsequently fled the country after their release. From exile, some of them said their captors were agents of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
"It is high time that we sign the international convention on enforced disappearances," HRCP spokesperson I.A. Rehman told reporters.
"We won't see any end of these disappearances until all those involved are prosecuted," he added.
According to HRCP, Pakistan's commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances received 868 cases in 2017 alone.
The report also noted that violence against women remains widespread, with 5,660 related crimes reported in the country's four provinces in the first 10 months of 2017.
It said conservative groups continue to resist laws aimed at curbing violence against women, giving greater rights to women and reducing gender segregation.
"Freedom of expression and freedom of association is under attack, except for those who carry the religious banner," Rehman said at the release of the report, which accused authorities of ignoring "intolerance and extremism."
The report said that religious minorities continue to be targeted by extremists, citing attacks on Shi’a, Christians falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam, and members of the Ahmedi sect.
The 296-page report was dedicated to one of the commission's founders, prominent rights advocate Asma Jahangir, whose death by cardiac arrest in February dealt a blow to the country’s embattled rights community.