An Analysis – The Organization for World Peace

During the week of July 5, Pakistan went through a horrific period as journalists, activists and media professionals were again arrested, tortured and shot dead. The first reported incident involved two “unidentified assailants” who killed two journalists. Then a well-known columnist was tortured. Finally, the presenter of an acclaimed political show on YouTube was arrested by the authorities. These incidents, reported by Voices of America (VOA), illustrate the dangers facing journalists and media workers in a country ranked 157th out of 180 in the most recent ranking. World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The spate of attacks on journalists and media workers was launched on July 1, after “gunmen” shot dead Ishtiaq Sodhara, a local journalist in Sindh province who was affiliated with a Sindhi weekly. The motive for Sodhara’s death has not been identified; however, his wife suspects that a local policeman is behind the attack.

A similar attack was then carried out on July 2, with the death of another local Daily Express journalist, Iftikhar Ahmed. Once again gunmen fired on the journalist in the northwest territory of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district, and local police suspect that “personal enmity” was behind the fatal attack.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said in a statement, according to the VOA, that “the Pakistani government must take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of journalists, as required by law, and act to reduce the assaults on journalists so that they can carry out their work without fear. Despite this, human rights defenders and organizations still ask the same question: why do oppressions against journalists and media workers, activists and local citizens continue to increase after Pakistan repeated that it would apply and implement laws to preserve the rights of these people? ?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is “a unique process that involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states, which will take place on January 30, 2023”. Amnesty International has researched and published a detailed report that investigates and “evaluates national human rights frameworks and assesses the implementation of recommendations made in Pakistan in its previous UPR, including on enforced disappearances, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom of opinion”. and expression. The report also raises concerns about sexual and gender-based violence and climate change.

During the UPR in 2017, Amnesty International recommended a total of 289 measures as solutions to the problems detailed above. However, of the 289 recommendations, Pakistan struggled to implement 168, suggesting that “very limited progress” has been made.

Although the Pakistani government supports the criminalization of perpetrators in enforced disappearance cases, it has still failed to do so. Thus, the authority contradicts its mission statement that the government “[pursue] action against perpetrators who have been implicated in enforced disappearances,” Amnesty International said.

Enforced disappearances have been practiced repeatedly to silence media workers, human rights defenders and activists. According to the report, “As of June 30, 2022, at least 2,219 cases – and likely many more – remain unresolved.” One of the main regions where enforced disappearances have been used is in Balochistan. In June, three students mysteriously “disappeared from the University of Karachi”.

Other stories include the cases of Nafees Naeem and Arsalan Khan, who disappeared in June but were later released without any further action. Another journalist also disappeared in December 2021, forcing then Prime Minister Imran Khan to promise the victim’s family a detailed report of what happened: he has yet to follow up this promise. In addition, Seengar Noonari, “a political activist” and “Secretary of Labor of the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP) was abducted from his home by 15 men in civilian clothes”, according to Amnesty International. Two months later, he returned to his family without any charges.

In such situations, family members are far from safe and are subject to worrying harassment while their loved ones are away. After the forced disappearance of her father, activist Sammi Baloch “His phone was hacked and his photos and messages deleted in a phishing attack,” Amnesty International reported. Meanwhile, the government gives families false hope that if they remain silent, their loved ones will return home. In 2019, secret security agencies told Idrees Khattak’s family that if they kept quiet, he would come back to them. After Khattak’s daughter launched a public campaign, the family learned that Khattak had been secretly tried for treason by a military court. He is currently being held in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi where he is due to serve 14 years in prison.

Moreover, no effort has been made to protect religious minorities in Pakistan, including “Christians” and “the persecuted Ahmadi community”, whose mosques continue to be demolished. According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), “On May 29, 2010, extremist Islamist militants attacked two Ahmadiyya mosques in the central city of Lahore in Pakistan with guns, grenades and suicide bombings, killing 94 people and wounding more than a hundred. .” In the Baitul Nur mosque, 27 people were killed. “67 others were killed at the Darul Zikr mosque in the suburb of Garhi Shahu,” HRW said. The Punjab Taliban eventually took responsibility for the deadly attacks. A year earlier, the “US State Department’s annual report on human rights reported the murder of 11 Ahmadis because of their faith”.

Finally, the country has clearly continued to fail to protect its journalists as since 2017, 10 journalists and media workers have been killed in Pakistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Of the 10, three were murdered. Amnesty’s investigations show that the Pakistani government has only worked to subject journalists to general media censorship.

So what can be done to ensure the protection of all who work or live under the laws of Pakistan? Amnesty International calls on the government to “immediately release all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance or bring them promptly before a judge in a civilian court to rule on the legality of their arrest or detention and whether to release them”; disclose the whereabouts of any victim of enforced disappearance to their family and loved ones; individually investigate each case of enforced disappearance and actively work to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes; ensure that acts of enforced disappearance are punishable; “Ensure that victims and families of disappeared persons receive full and effective reparations for the hardships they have endured, including compensation, restitution, rehabilitation and guarantees of non-repetition.

Aubrey L. Morgan