More needs to be done

April 9, 2018

Pakistan witnessed fewer militant attacks in 2017 as compared to previous years despite political turmoil, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in its annual World Report released recently. The report said that although Pakistan witnessed fewer attacks by militants than in previous years, scores of people were killed in attacks primarily targeting law enforcement officials and religious minorities.
The report said that inclusion of the transgender population in the 2017 census and the first-ever proposed transgender laws were among some of the positive developments. Another positive development was the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act by the parliament; it was the country’s first ever federal law recognizing and regulating marriages of the members of the minority Hindu community by allowing Hindu marriages to be registered.
It said that women, religious minorities, and transgender people faced violent attacks, discrimination, and government persecution, with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable. The report said that Violence against women and girls-including rape, “honor” killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage-remained a serious problem. Pakistani activists estimate that there are about a 1,000 “honor” killings every year. Women from religious minority communities were particularly vulnerable. At least 1,000 girls belonging to Christian and Hindu communities are forced to marry Muslim men every year, the report said. Child marriage also remained a serious concern, with 21 percent of girls in Pakistan marrying before the age of 18. Over 5 million primary-school-age children are out of school, most of them girls. Human Rights Watch research found girls miss school for reasons including lack of schools, costs associated with studying, child bearing, and gender discrimination.
The report was also highly critical regarding the situation of freedom of expression in the country and cited examples where government muzzled dissenting voices. The report also highlighted pressure on journalists and the “disappearance” of bloggers. Although the report highlighted certain positive developments but overall the report was highly critical of the government and the situation of human rights in the country.
The visible reduction in militant attacks is largely due to successful military operations.

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