Human Rights Watch has documented numerous child rights violations in Pakistan in recent years. This submission relates to Articles 2, 6, 8, 19, 20, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, and 40 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

In the appendix, we have attached a chapter documenting attacks on schools, students, and teachers as well as the military use of schools in Pakistan. This was drafted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, a coalition which Human Rights Watch belongs to. This chapter can be found here

The Pakistani government failed to pass promised legislation constituting the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, an independent body that would protect and enforce child rights in the country[1] and potentially serve as an important mechanism to promote and ensure implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[2]

 

Attacks on schools

Article 38

Attacks on schools and military use of schools continue to occur in Pakistan and remain of concern. They place children at risk of injury or death and affect students’ ability to obtain an education, a fundamental right under international human rights law and domestic law.

A number of deliberate attacks on schools and universities have been documented across the country since Pakistan’s past review. According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, there were at least 838 attacks on schools in Pakistan between 2009 and 2012, leaving hundreds of schools damaged. At least 30 students were killed and more than 97 injured in the same time period. Furthermore, at least 138 school students and staff were reported to have been kidnapped.[3] The Global Coalition also noted there was reported military use of education institutions between 2005 and October 2012 in Pakistan.[4]

A particular area of concern is Balochistan province, where Human Rights Watch documented attacks and bombings by various nationalist, sectarian, and Islamist armed groups on schools and universities. These attacks killed and wounded students and severely affected access to education in Balochistan. Human Rights Watch also documented threats and harassment of teachers and other educators.[5]

Numerous examples of attacks on schools, universities, students, and teachers have been documented since Pakistan’s past review, particularly between 2012 and 2016. This pattern remains of concern. On October 9, 2012, the Pakistani Taliban splinter group, Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the neck and head for fighting for girls’ education. Human Rights Watch documented reports of 96 school attacks in Pakistan in 2012 alone. Most of these attacks occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).[6] Militant groups in Pakistan carried out at least 78 targeted attacks on schools, teachers, and students in 2013.[7] In December 2014, the TTP targeted a school in Peshawar and killed over 145 people, most of them children.[8] In 2015, 360 schools were destroyed in the FATA. Furthermore, at least 166 schools were destroyed in North Waziristan Agency, 139 in Khyber Agency, and 55 in South Waziristan Agency.[9] On January 20, 2016, Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province was attacked by armed militants and at least 20 people were killed.[10]

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask the government of Pakistan:

  • How many schools, universities, or education facilities have been damaged or destroyed as a result of attacks by non-state armed groups in each year of the reporting period, and since?
  • If state security forces have also damaged or destroyed educational facilities, including in circumstances that do not violate international humanitarian law, how many facilities were damaged or destroyed in each year of the reporting period and since?
  • What action has the government taken to prevent attacks by non-state armed groups on schools and universities and to mitigate their impact when they do occur?
  • What action has the government taken to deter military use of schools in response to the concerns expressed by the United Nations Security Council in Resolutions 2143 (2014) and 2225 (2015) by putting an end to such practices and taking special measures to protect children and by ensuring that attacks on schools in contravention of international humanitarian law are investigated and those responsible duly prosecuted?

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Investigate and appropriately prosecute individuals responsible for involvement in the range of violations of international law that constitute attacks on education, including as a matter of command responsibility.
  • Respond to attacks on schools by promptly repairing damaging and ensuring that students can safely return to class.
  • Take concrete measures to protect education from attack and deter the military use of schools, following UN Security Council Resolutions 2143 (2014) and 2225 (2015), including by joining the Safe Schools Declaration,[11] thereby endorsing and committing to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use in Armed Conflict.[12]

Use of child suicide bombers

Article 38

The use of child suicide bombers by the Taliban and other extremist armed groups continued in 2015.[13]

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
  • Take measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict or were recruited into armed forces or non-state armed groups.

Ethnic minorities

Articles 2, 28, 29

Ethnic Hazaras can no longer commute to Quetta to attend universities since those routes have been the location of a very large number of sectarian killings. Public transport operators no longer allow Hazara students to ride on buses since they believe this makes the entire bus vulnerable to attacks by armed groups.[14]

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Take action, along with universities in Quetta and the Balochistan government, to ensure access for Hazara to education.

Girls’ rights

Articles 2, 6, 19, 24, 28, 29, 31

Child, early, and forced marriage interferes with an adolescent girl’s ability to realize a wide range of rights enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, including freedom from discrimination,[15] protection from abuse and neglect,[16] and the rights to survival,[17] health,[18] education,[19] and rest and leisure.[20]

Child marriage remains of serious concern in Pakistan, with 21 percent of girls marrying before the age of 18.[21] It often leads to girls dropping out of school, serious health problems for mother and child as a result of early pregnancy, and increased risk of domestic violence. Furthermore, child marriage helps to hold families in poverty.[22]

The 1929 Child Marriage Restraint Act currently sets the age of marriage at 18 for males and 16 for females. International legal standards require that the age of marriage be the same for both men and women and that it be set at a minimum of 18. There have been moves to address child marriage at provincial level. In 2014, Sindh province passed a law setting the age of marriage at 18 for both men and women. In 2015, Punjab province increased the penalties for those found guilty of arranging or conducting child marriages. However, it did not raise the age of marriage to 18.[23]

In January 2016, a female member of Parliament submitted a proposal to raise the legal minimum age to 18 for females and introduce harsher punishments penalties for those who arrange child marriage. However, on January 14, she withdrew her proposal after it was rejected by a parliamentary committee following strong pressure from the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body established in 1962 to advise the parliament on Islamic law. The Council criticized the proposal as “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous.”[24]

In 2015, the government took inadequate action to protect girls from abuses including rape, murder through so-called “honor killings,” acid attacks, and domestic violence.[25]

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask the government of Pakistan:

  • Does the government plan to reform the law to make the age of marriage 18 for both women and men?
  • What plans does the government have to reduce and ultimately end child marriage?
  • What are the government’s plans to prevent and punish so-called “honor killings”?
  • How many cases of child marriage have been documented since January 1, 2012?
  • How many cases of “honor” killings, acid attacks, and domestic violence have been documented since January 1, 2012?

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for men and women.
  • Investigate all complaints of child marriage promptly, intervene to prevent child marriage wherever possible, and prosecute anyone who has facilitated or arranged a child marriage in violation of the law.
  • Create a comprehensive national strategy to combat child marriage, with input from women’s and children’s rights groups, health professionals, and other service providers; coordinate efforts among all relevant ministries.
  • Reform all laws, policies and practices that treat so-called “honor killings” more leniently than other murders.
  • Enact a comprehensive domestic violence law.

Sexual abuse

Articles 19, 34

Sexual abuse of children remains a grave concern. Rampant sexual abuse of children was exposed in August 2015, when police uncovered a child pornography racket by a criminal gang that had produced and sold more than 400 videos of girls and boys being sexually abused in Kasur, Punjab. These videos had been filmed over a period of 10 years, affecting 280 children.[26]

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Ensure that social welfare officers and social workers identify and protect children who suffer from sexual abuse.
  • Investigate and appropriately prosecute those responsible for sexual abuse of children.

Judicial execution and ill-treatment of child offenders

Articles 6, 37, 40

Pakistan lifted a six-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty for prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses on December 17, 2014.[27] By March 2015, this had been extended to all capital offenses.[28] Pakistani law mandates capital punishment for 28 offenses, including murder, rape, treason, and blasphemy.[29] Since this moratorium was lifted, several individuals who were below the age of 18 when the alleged crimes were committed have been executed and others remain at risk of execution.

Amnesty International documented the execution of at least five prisoners whose lawyers asserted they were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense of which they were convicted in the year to December 16, 2015.[30] These executions included the case of Faisal Mahmood, for whom the deputy prosecutor general petitioned the court to stop his execution as he was under 18 when he committed the offense of which he was convicted.[31] Shafqat Hussain, executed on August 4, 2015, is thought to have been 14 or 15 years old when sentenced in 2004 for kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old boy. His confession was given under alleged police torture. Aftab Bahadur was executed on June 10, 2015, despite having been 15 when he was convicted of his offense in 1992, and alleged that he was prosecuted because he could not pay the large bribe demanded by the police.[32] In June 2015, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) estimated that approximately 800 of the more than 8,000 people who remain on death row in Pakistan were reportedly under 18 at the time of offense.[33]

The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically prohibits capital punishment of anyone who was under 18 at the time of the offense. In July 2000, Pakistan issued an ordinance banning the death penalty for crimes by people under 18. However, the ordinance requires the existence of dedicated juvenile courts and other mechanisms not provided for by law in all parts of Pakistan, thus leaving juvenile offenders at risk of trial as adults in capital cases. Human Rights Watch recognizes that children should be held accountable for murder and other serious crimes. However, courts should take into account the ways that young people are different from adults, including that they are both less culpable and also uniquely capable of rehabilitation.

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask the government of Pakistan:

  • Since 2012, how many death sentences have courts imposed each year on offenders who were under 18 at the time of the crime.  Since then, how many executions have been carried out of offenders sentenced for crimes committed when under 18? For each year, please identify a) the number of executions, b) the identities of those sentenced and of those executed, and c) the crimes for which they were convicted, and d) their age at the time of their alleged crime.
  • As of January 1, 2016, how many child offenders (individuals charged with having committed crimes when they were under 18) have been sentenced to death and are serving time on death row? For each individual please provide their a) identity and b) the crimes for which they have been convicted.

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Re-impose a moratorium on executions, until the death penalty is abolished.
  • Fully enforce the existing ban on the death penalty for all child offenders regardless of the nature of their crimes, and immediately commute pending death sentences against child offenders.
  • Develop an impartial age-determination process that relies on more than one expert opinion.
  • Publish disaggregated data and information regarding all child offenders sentenced to death in a timely and transparent manner.

Hazardous child labor

Articles 24, 28, 29, 32

Children in Pakistan continue to engage in child labor and the worst forms of child labor, including bonded labor. Child labor affects children’s right to health, education, and their safety. Approximately 13 percent of working children, ages 10 to 14, engage in child labor in Pakistan.[34] The Global Slavery index estimates that over two million people, including children, are trapped in slavery in Pakistan, most due to debt bondage.[35] The increasing cost of living, particularly food and fuel prices, is a prominent factor that ensures children are forced to work rather than attend school.[36]

Pakistan has ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 on the minimum age and the worst forms of child labor respectively. However, implementation of these standards remains of concern. Article 11(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan also prohibits the employment of children below age 14 in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.

There have been some attempts to address child labor at provincial level. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Prohibition of Employment of Children Bill was passed in May 2015. This limited the employment of children age 12 and above to two hours of light work a day alongside a family member. The law prohibits the employment of children in any establishment and of adolescents in dangerous working environments.  In January 2016, Punjab province passed the Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Ordinance, which prohibits the employment of children below age 14 at brick kilns.[37]

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask the government of Pakistan:

  • How many children are engaged in child labor in Pakistan?
  • What measures are being taken to ensure the implementation of legislation on hazardous child labor?

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Enforce a ban on hazardous child labor.
  • Improve access to education by ensuring free access to primary education and make secondary education available and accessible to every child.
  • Expand measures to appropriately prosecute those who exploit children for labor and violate legal provisions on child labor.

Enforced disappearances

Articles 8, 19, 20, 30, 35, 37

Enforced disappearances occur regularly throughout Pakistan. In recent years, boys as well as men have been subjected to enforced disappearances in Balochistan, northwestern Pakistan, Punjab, and Sindh. Many enforced disappearances of boys and men, especially individuals associated with the Muttahida Quami Movement political party and ethnic Pashtuns accused of being associated with the Taliban, took place in the city of Karachi between 2012 and 2014. Several members of ethnic Sindhi nationalist groups have also allegedly been subjected to enforced disappearance in Sindh in the same period. In 2015, the armed forces carrying out counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban allegedly continued to subject men and boys to enforced disappearances in areas of northwest Pakistan.[38]

Despite clear rulings from the Supreme Court in 2013 demanding justice for victims of enforced disappearances, as well as recommendations from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2012,[39] the government has done little to meet its obligations under international law and the Pakistan Constitution to prevent enforced disappearances. 

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Carry out a thorough review and, as necessary, amend all security legislation, in particular the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, and the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations, 2011, to ensure its compatibility with international human rights law and standards.
  • Ensure that all children held in secret or arbitrary detention are immediately released, or charged for a cognizable crime by civilian courts following international fair trial standards, and are detained in official places of detention and in conditions that fully respect their human rights.
  • Ensure that prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations are carried out into all allegations of enforced disappearance; perpetrators, including those with command responsibility.
 

[1] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2016), Pakistan, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/pakistan.

[2] See Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 2: The Role of Independent Human Rights Institutions in the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/GC/2002/2 (November 15, 2015).

[3] Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, "Country Profiles: Pakistan,” http://www.protectingeducation.org/country-profile/pakistan (accessed February 22, 2016).

[4] Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, "Country Profiles: Pakistan,” http://www.protectingeducation.org/country-profile/pakistan (accessed February 22, 2016).

[5] “Pakistan: Balochistan Militants Killing Teachers: Attacks on Education Harm Students, Reduce Development Prospects,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 13, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/13/pakistan-balochistan-militants-killi....

[6] “Pakistan: Protect Students, Teachers, Schools From Attack: Malala Yousafzai is One of Many School-age Victims,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 19, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/10/19/pakistan-protect-students-teachers-s....

[7] “Ensure Consistency in Children and Armed Conflict Report: letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon,” June 04, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/04/ensure-consistency-children-and-arme....

[8] “Dispatches: Uniting Against the Pakistan School Massacre,” December 16, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/16/dispatches-uniting-against-pakistan-....

[9] The Express Tribune, “360 FATA schools were destroyed in 2015,” December 17, 2015, http://tribune.com.pk/story/1011433/law-and-order-360-fata-schools-were-destroyed-in-2015/ (accessed January 27, 2016).

[10] “Militants storm Pakistan university, kill at least 20,” Reuters, January 20, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-attacks-university-idUSKCN0UY0C4 (accessed January 27, 2016).

[12] Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict, http://protectingeducation.org/sites/default/files/documents/guidelines_....

[13] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2016), Pakistan, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/pakistan.

[14] “JICA’s human rights policies and practices,” June 23, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/24/jicas-human-rights-policies-and-prac....

[15] Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49, (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990., art. 2.

[16] CRC, art. 19.

[17] CRC, art. 6.

[18] CRC, art. 24.

[19] CRC, arts., 28, 29.

[20] CRC, art. 31.

[21] Girls Not Brides, “Child marriage around the world: Pakistan,” undated, http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/pakistan/ (accessed February 29, 2016).

[22] Dispatches: Protecting Pakistan’s Girls Isn’t ‘Blasphemy’, January 18, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/18/dispatches-protecting-pakistans-girl....

[23] Dispatches: Protecting Pakistan’s Girls Isn’t ‘Blasphemy’, January 18, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/18/dispatches-protecting-pakistans-girl....

[24] Dispatches: Protecting Pakistan’s Girls Isn’t ‘Blasphemy’, January 18, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/18/dispatches-protecting-pakistans-girl....

[25] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2016), Pakistan, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/pakistan.

[26] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2016), Pakistan, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/pakistan.

[27] “Pakistan: Reinstate Death Penalty Moratorium Executions No Remedy for Militant Atrocities,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 17, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/17/pakistan-reinstate-death-penalty-moratorium.

[28] Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Reimpose the Moratorium on the Death Penalty, December 16, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/12/16/open-letter-prime-minister-pakistan.

[29] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2016, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2016), Pakistan, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/pakistan. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as inherently cruel.

[30] Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Reimpose the Moratorium on the Death Penalty, December 16, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/12/16/open-letter-prime-minister-pakistan.

[31] Supreme Court versus Faisal Mahmood, Lal Khan Judgment in Criminal appeals no 20 & 21 of 2004 (Cr.As.20 &21/2004).

[32] Dispatches: Pakistan Hangs Alleged Child Offender, August 4, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/04/dispatches-pakistan-hangs-alleged-ch....

[33] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Pakistan: Mass executions, particularly of juvenile offenders, serve neither deterrence nor justice – Zeid,” June 11, 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16068&LangID=E (accessed January 26, 2016).

[34] United States Department of Labor, “Pakistan, 2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/pakistan.htm (accessed January 27, 2016).

[35] “Bonded labour in Pakistan: A Humanitarian Crisis,” Daily Times, February 27, 2015, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/20-Feb-2015/bonded-labour-in-pakistan-a-humanitarian-crisis (accessed January 27, 2016).

[36] ‘Millions Pushed into Child Labor in Pakistan’, Reuters, February 07, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-childlabour-idUSTRE8160LA20120207 (accessed January 27, 2016).

[37] Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Ordinance, January 14, 2016 http://www.punjablabour.gov.pk/file/The%20Punjab%20Gazette-The%20Punjab%20Prohibition%20of%20Child%20Labour%20at%20Brick%20KIlns%20Ordinance%202016.pdf, (accessed February 07, 2016).

[38] “Pakistan: Impunity Marks Global Day for Disappeared, Government Fails to Provide Facts, Justice, and Reparations to Victims,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 29, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/08/29/pakistan-impunity-marks-global-day-disappeared.

[39] See Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, General Comment on Children and Enforced Disappearance, UN Doc. A/HRC/WGEID/98/1 (February 14, 2013), http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/sites/default/files/documents/docs/A_HRC_WGEID_98_1_Eng.pdf (accessed February 15, 2016).