Human Rights Watch
(HRW) has said that Pakistan faced one of the
worst economic crises
in its history in 2023, with poverty,
and unemployment soaring, jeopardising millions of people’s rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living, Dawn newspaper reported.
In its 740-page ‘World Report 2024’, made available on Friday, the HRW reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries, and observed that the insistence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on austerity and the removal of subsidies without adequate compensatory measures resulted in additional hardship for low-income groups in Pakistan.
Pakistan remained exceedingly vulnerable to climate change and faced rates of warming considerably above the global average, making extreme climate events more frequent and intense, according to the report.
The HRW said that Asia, unlike Europe, Africa and the Americas, lacks a meaningful human rights charter or regional institution to safeguard human rights standards.
The report says government threats and attacks on the media created a climate of fear among journalists and civil society groups, with many resorting to self-censorship. Authorities pressured or threatened media outlets not to criticise state institutions or the judiciary, as per Dawn.
NGOs reported intimidation, harassment, and surveillance of various groups by the government authorities. The government used its regulation of NGOs in Pakistan to impede the registration and functioning of international humanitarian and human rights groups.
According to the report, violence against women and girls, including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence, denial of education, sexual harassment at work, and child and forced marriage, is a serious problem throughout Pakistan. Human rights defenders estimate that roughly 1,000 women are murdered in so-called “honour killings” every year.
In Pakistan’s Punjab, 10,365 cases of violence against women were reported to the police in the first four months of 2023, according to a local NGO. The actual number of incidents is likely to be much higher given barriers to reporting, harmful social norms, and ineffective and harmful responses by the police. Pakistan’s conviction rate for rape is less than three per cent.
Over six million primary school-age children and 13 million secondary school-age children in Pakistan were out of school, most of them girls. The HRW found that girls miss school for reasons including lack of schools, costs associated with studying, child marriage, harmful child labour, and gender discrimination.