The problem of human rights now in Pakistan

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The problem of human rights now in Pakistan

By Sana Hashmi


Malala is fighting for human rights in Pakistan, but she nearly died for that. Militant groups in Pakistan have killed almost 50,000 people. (Birdgei under a Creative Commons Licence)

One year ago the Taliban shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck. This was in a difficult time for the human rights of women and minority communities in Pakistan.

Malala was fighting for girls to have the right to education in the Swat Valley. She lived but many others in the country have died as extremist violence kills more and more.

In cities across the country, young girls generally have the right to education. But the situation is very different in the Swat Valley, which is controlled by the Taliban.

US drone strikes are part of the 'war on terror' and they are an important subject of discussion in Pakistan and abroad. A UN special report says that almost 2,200 people have been killed by the drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. About 400 of them were civilians. These numbers tell a different story from the US government. The US government says that drone strikes reduce risks to civilians.

But people do not discuss the large number of victims of violence in Pakistan related to terrorism. In the past 10 years, militant groups have killed almost 50,000 people. In 2012 there was the highest number of deaths related to terrorism in the history of Pakistan. Almost 6,000 people died. In 2013 there have been almost as many deaths.

In 2013 the Shia Hazara community was attacked by Taliban militants (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and other Sunni militant groups in the country. Hundreds have died in this community in recent years in what people are calling ‘Shia genocide’. Christian minorities have also been attacked. In September a bomb attack on a church in Peshawar killed at least 80.

As attacks against civilians continue, the Pakistani government is talking with the Taliban. The government has already agreed to release from prison important members of the militant organization. These talks will decide how the government will protect the rights of its weakest communities.

It’s not a new problem. In Pakistan’s history, human rights have been in danger as Pakistan’s military and civil bureaucracy have agreed to the demands of the religious Right. The Cold War saw the rise of religious conservatism and intolerance in Pakistan. At that time the America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, began to support Jamat-e-Islami and the country’s military establishment. The result was anti-communist and anti-secularist feeling in the country. This was in line with US foreign policy interests in the region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s talks with the Taliban mean more political gains for the militant group. And this is bad for human rights in the country.

This is a very important time for Pakistan and its history. And Malala’s fight for girls’ education shows a situation, where, as in Afghanistan, people are losing even their most basic universal human rights.

Sana Hashmi is a writer and lives in Toronto, Canada.

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