Pakistan’s Miserable Failure in Treating its Minorities, Nationalities

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A state is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable, and in that Pakistan fails miserably. A recent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) fact-finding report titled The Merger and its Discontents, expressed deep concern about the mismanagement of development resources for the Newly Merged Districts (NMDs), the resurgence of militancy in the region, the delayed repatriation of internally displaced persons (IDPs), curbs on fundamental freedoms, incidence of enforced disappearances and the continued use of internment centres.

The fact-finding mission was led by former HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani and it documented visits to Swat, Bannu, Khyber, Peshawar and an IDP camp in Baka Khel. The report “underscores the discontentment of NMDs’ residents over the slow implementation of the merger plan; residents also allege that the merger’s promise of equality, equal protection under the law and equitable development remain unfulfilled.”

The HRCP report noted that “the continued presence of armed forces that hinders the establishment of law and order under police jurisdiction and a return to normalcy, as well as evidence of continued enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in internment centres, were also noted. Such practices, along with threats to the work of journalists and activists, undermine civil liberties, perpetuating fear and distrust among communities. Military forces must cede space to the police where possible, empowering them with enough resources to tackle increase in militancy. The Supreme Court must also urgently fix for hearing the appeal against the Peshawar High Court order that declared the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance 2019 case null and void, in order to remove the ambiguity surrounding the legality of internment centres and cases of enforced disappearances.”

The report mentioned “certain positive steps for NMDs—including the establishment of district courts, local government elections, representation in the provincial assembly, and police capacity-building.” However, it drew “attention to limited access to courts and essential social services for residents that must be addressed.”

In conclusion the report recommended “increased access to utilities and social services for residents of IDP camps, and the release of all funds dedicated to development work in NMDs and the empowerment of local governments, with a thorough investigation of allegations of corruption and misuse in that regard.”

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