Pakistan: Internet outages aim to target one political party – HRCP


LAHORE: On concluding its 75th council meeting, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called on political parties to develop a human rights charter in the face of receding democracy, pre-poll electoral manipulation, and severe challenges to human rights.

Escalating levels of censorship on the media and seemingly deliberate internet outages to curtail digital assemblies appear to target a particular political party and its voter base.

The notices issued by the FIA to scores of social media users for an allegedly “malicious campaign” against the superior judiciary (after it upheld the ECP’s decision to deprive the PTI of its electoral symbol) underscore an increasing assault on the people’s right to freedom of expression.

Rumours of restricted or no access to the internet during the elections will infringe not only on the people’s right to information, but also their right to a peaceful assembly.

Several resolutions passed recently by the Senate calling for delays in the elections and supporting the use of military courts, as well as the recent move to give an army-backed company over 52,000 acres of land in Sindh for “corporate farming” are worrying indications of the overreach of military establishment.

The fact that an estimated 10 million women lack national identity cards and cannot therefore vote in the upcoming elections implies that the state perceives citizenship as a responsibility of the individual, not a right it is obligated to uphold.

The HRCP also believes strongly that there should be reserved seats for transgender political representatives.

The HRCP is dismayed by the state’s continuing and wilful neglect of the Baloch people, which has resulted in a dangerous disconnect between the two—evident from the treatment accorded to the women-led march to Islamabad to protest against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Indeed, the perpetrators of alleged extrajudicial killings in Turbat and Sakrand (Sindh) have yet to be held to account.

Similarly, the state’s deliberate indifference to the concerns being raised by the protesters in Gilgit-Baltistan is a cause for concern.

The HRCP is also deeply concerned to learn that participants at GM Syed’s birth anniversary rallies, including women, have FIRs registered again them on charges of treason.

The recent revelation that over 26 million children in Pakistan are out of school implies a crisis in education that the state can no longer afford to ignore.

The HRCP is also seriously concerned over continued reports of forced conversions of young women from religious minorities as well as deteriorating law and order in Sindh’s katcha areas.

There are worrying reports that at least seven miners have been killed in mining accidents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the last month alone.

The HRCP considers the continued use of internment centres and private jails a human rights