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Respect for civil and political rights deteriorated significantly in the year following the bloodless military coup, on October 12, 1999, that deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf's administration began to address some longstanding justice issues-notably, through the adoption of Pakistan's first federal juvenile justice law and the establishment of a commission on the status of women-but it also greatly augmented executive powers and curtailed the independence of the judiciary. It moved to neutralize political parties through the application of broadly defined laws governing terrorism, sedition, and public order, and through the establishment of a powerful extra-constitutional "accountability" bureau. Opposition party members were subjected to prolonged detention without charge; some were tortured in custody. Sectarian violence and attacks on religious minorities continued and, despite renewed attention to the issue, the government failed to provide meaningful recourse for women victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Human Rights Developments

Early in the year, the military government moved to strip the judiciary of much of its power. On January 26, General Musharraf issued an order requiring all Supreme and High Court judges to take an oath binding them to uphold his proclamation of a national emergency and to adhere to the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). Many, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, refused to take the oath. A total of fifteen judges were removed. The PCO, which remained in effect at this writing, had been announced by Musharraf just days after the October coup. It suspended the constitution and legislative bodies and prohibited the Supreme and High Courts from making any decision against the chief executive.

On May 12, a reconstituted Supreme Court issued a verdict rejecting petitions challenging the coup's legality. The court set a deadline of three years for the holding of national and provincial elections, but reserved authority to review the continuation of the Proclamation of Emergency, leaving the door open to future extensions of military rule.

Top officials of the deposed government were detained on the day of the coup; two of them, former Information Minister Mushahid Hussain and former Petroleum Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan continued to be held without charge as of this writing. Nawaz Sharif himself was tried and convicted of hijacking and terrorism-for refusing to allow General Musharraf's plane to land in the hours leading up to the coup-

under the Anti-Terrorism Act, and sentenced to life imprisonment on April 6 following a trial marred by procedural abuses.

In December 1999 the military government amended the Anti-Terrorism Act to add hijacking and conspiracy to the list of offenses falling within the Anti-Terrorism Court's jurisdiction. These offenses were then applied retroactively to Nawaz Sharif. Another amendment allowed the government to replace the judge originally assigned to hear the case, a Sharif appointee. In January, the new judge stepped down, publicly complaining of the presence of intelligence agents in his courtroom. In March, only days before the final arguments were to be presented in the trial, Sharif's lawyer, Iqbal Raad, and two of his colleagues were assassinated in their office. Other members of the defense team charged that the government had failed to provide them protection despite repeated warnings that they were being threatened. A month after Sharif's conviction by the Anti-Terrorism Court, he was shifted to Attock Fort-an army-occupied sixteenth century fortress west of Islamabad-to face trial on charges of concealing assets and evading taxes in connection with his acquisition of a helicopter. He was convicted on July 22, and sentenced to fourteen years in prison, with a fine of Rs. 20 million (U.S. $380,000).

The new government's principal vehicle for detaining former officials and party leaders, however, was the National Accountability Ordinance, a law ostensibly created to bring corrupt officials to account. The ordinance confers sweeping powers of arrest, investigation, and prosecution in a single institution, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and permits detainees to be held for up to ninety days without being brought before a court. The law was later amended to facilitate conviction by shifting the burden of proof during trial from the prosecution to the defense.

There were persistent reports of ill treatment in NAB custody, particularly in the case of high profile detainees who were held early in the year in Attock Fort. Persons convicted under the ordinance were prohibited from holding public office for a period of twenty-one years. An amendment to the Political Parties Act in August also barred anyone with a court conviction from holding party office. The combined effect of these acts, as they were applied, was to eliminate the existing leadership of the major political parties. While administration officials said that parties would be allowed to participate in future elections to the Senate and national and provincial assemblies, local government elections, scheduled to be held in December, were to be conducted on a non-party basis.

The Musharraf government also suppressed political activity by conducting raids on party offices, preventing political rallies from being held, and lodging criminal cases against rally organizers under laws governing sedition and the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance. The sedition law, Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, criminalizes speech that "brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Central or Provincial Government established by law." Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance prohibits speech that "causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public" or any section thereof, or which "furthers or is likely to further any activity prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order."

Rana Sanaullah Khan, a member of the suspended Punjab provincial assembly from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML), was arrested in Faisalabad on November 28, 1999. The arrest came after he criticized the army at a meeting of former legislators and urged his colleagues to launch a protest movement against the military government. He was tortured while in custody, and criminal charges were registered against him under the sedition law and MPO .

On March 15, the government formally curtailed freedom of association and assembly with an order banning public rallies, demonstrations, and strikes. The order's enforcement against a procession from Lahore to Peshawar that Nawaz Sharif's wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, had planned to lead, resulted in the arrests of at least 165 PML leaders and activists. On September 21 the ban was also invoked against 250 members of the hardline Sunni Muslim group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, who had planned a march to celebrate a religious anniversary.

Other police and army operations targeted the two leading ethnically-based parties in Sindh, the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Paramilitary rangers and police in Sindh province launched a crackdown against activists and leaders of the JSQM and the MQM on February 19, 2000 after the two parties jointly called for a strike against the government's dismissal of 400Pakistan Steel Mills workers. Paramilitary troops and rangers responded with search and siege operations in the cities and a search for JSQM activists in rural areas of Sindh, resulting in the arrest of about forty activists.

The JSQM and MQM called for further protests to be held on February 22 against the police violence of February 19, but withdrew their call after setting a deadline for the government to accept two demands: the release of jailed MQM leader Farooq Sattar and the reinstatement of laid-off Pakistan Steel Mills employees. On the night of February 21, police and paramilitary rangers rounded up and detained fifty-four JSQM and MQM activists. They were released the following day.

Many local observers maintained that a major consequence of curbs on political parties and activism was that the relative influence of mainstream religious parties-whose authority General Musharraf largely refrained from challenging-would grow. Indeed, that influence was apparent from the government's abrupt withdrawal-in the face of planned protests by religious groups-of plans to restrict application of Pakistan's much criticized blasphemy laws and to repeal laws providing for separate elections for members of religious minorities. These laws are seen by many minority group advocates as having contributed to their communities' political marginalization. In the absence of legal reform, the blasphemy laws, which set forth stringent penalties, including capital punishment, for offenses against Islam, continued to be used against Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Following up on promises made during a government-sponsored national human rights convention in April, President Rafiq Tarar announced the promulgation of a juvenile justice ordinance in July that incorporated a number of recommendations made by local and international nongovernmental organizations and the official Pakistan Law Commission. The ordinance included a ban on the death penalty on persons for crimes committed while they were under the age of eighteen, provision of state-funded legal assistance for juveniles, the creation of juvenile courts with exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile cases, a prohibition on joint trials of adults and children, and a requirement that probation officers prepare reports on a child's circumstances prior to adjudication of his or her case.

On September 1, the government announced the establishment of the National Commission on the Status of Women, with a mandate to safeguard and promote women's interests but few powers to implement it. The first issue that the commission was directed to examine was violence against women. The government-empowered by the Supreme Court to amend the constitution and enforce new laws without parliament's approval-also reserved one third of the seats for women in local government elections that were scheduled to commence in December.

Thousands of women fell victim to domestic violence, so-called honor killings, and sexual assault, with virtually no access to the country's justice system. Women who attempted to register a police complaint of spousal or familial physical abuse were invariably turned away and sometimes pressured by the police to reconcile with their abusers. Women who reported rape or sexual assault by strangers fared marginally better, but they too faced harassment by officials at all levels and risked being prosecuted for illicit sex if they failed to "prove" rape under the 1979 Hudood Ordinances, which criminalize adultery and fornication.

According to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in March, a nongovernmental body, more than 1,000 women died in Pakistan in 1999 as victims of honor killings-the practice of punishing women said to have brought dishonor to their families. Most of the killings, the report added, were carried out by the victims' brothers or husbands. The same report concluded that at least 1,000 people had been killed in religious or ethnic violence each year since 1990. Sectarian violence between rival Sunni and Shi'a Muslim groups continued in 2000, reaching its peak during the holy month of Moharram. On April 12, gunmen attacked a Shi'a prayer meeting in Rawalpindi, killing nineteen.

Religious intolerance continued to generate new abuses. In December 1999, several hundred persons looted and burned property belonging to a local Ahmadi leader, Mohammad Nawaz, in Okara district, Punjab. Nawaz was accused of planning to build an Ahmadi house of worship. Police personnel did nothing to stop the crowd and instead registered a case of blasphemy against Nawaz and his two sons. In May 2000, a lower court in Sialkot district, Punjab, sentenced two Christian brothers to thirty-five years' imprisonment and Rs. 75,000 (US$1,500) fine. They were convicted of desecrating the Koran and blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed. Both cases were reportedly registered by an ice cream vendor who had fought with the brothers after insisting that his dishes were reserved for Muslim customers.

Though the government repeatedly stated that the Pakistani press enjoyed unconditional freedom, local human rights activists reported that self-censorship on political issues was increasingly common in the vernacular press, and there were indications that the English-language press was coming under official pressure as well. On September 27, an army monitoring team conducted an unannounced, four-hour inspection of the headquarters of Karachi's respected English-language daily Dawn. Although the ostensible purpose of the inspection was to check metering equipment for electricity billing fraud, the team demanded access to all floors of the publishing house, including the offices of the publishers, editors, and journalists. According to Dawn, the inspection was preceded by legal notices to the newspaper from the Information Ministry to restrict its coverage of a draft Freedom of Information Act, and by complaints from government officials about an article in Dawn stating that the administration was preparing new curbs on press freedom.

The UNHCR pledged to continued its yearly repatriation of 100,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan, which is currently home to over two million refugees. Though the repatriation was voluntary, the refugees returned to face ongoing civil war and severe violations of women's human rights.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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