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Submission on Pakistan to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights Watch has extensively documented human rights violations relating to attacks on education, women and girls’ rights, the situation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, child labor, and the judicial execution and ill-treatment of child offenders. This submission proposes issues and questions that Committee members may wish to raise with the government.

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

Attacks on education (Articles 13, 14)

Attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities, as well as the military use of schools continue to occur in Pakistan. They place children at risk of injury or death and affect students’ ability to obtain an education. Attacks on education disproportionately affect girls, who are sometimes the focus of targeted attacks and are more likely to be kept out of school due to security concerns; this contributes to Pakistan’s significantly worse educational outcomes for girls.

A number of deliberate attacks on schools and universities have been documented across the country. Among the worst attacks on education in the world, in December 2014, the Pakistani Taliban splinter group, Tehreek-e-Taliban, targeted a school in Peshawar and killed over 145 people, 134 of them children.[1] On October 9, 2012, the Tehreek-e-Taliban shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the neck and head for promoting girls’ education.

Numerous examples of attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities have been documented since Pakistan’s past review, particularly between 2012 and 2016. 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).[2] Militant groups in Pakistan carried out at least 78 targeted attacks on schools, teachers, and students in 2013.[3] 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.[4] On January 20, 2016, Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province was attacked by armed militants and at least 20 people were killed.[5] The use of child suicide bombers by the Taliban and other extremist armed groups also continued in 2015.[6]

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.[7] The Global Coalition also noted there was reported military use of education institutions by the Pakistani military and militants between 2005 and October 2012 in Pakistan.[8]

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.[9]

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee 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 did 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 on children, especially girls, when they do occur?
  • What action has the government taken in response to the concerns expressed by the UN Security Council in Resolutions 2143 (2014) and 2225 (2015) to deter military use of schools and taking special measures to protect children and by ensuring that attacks on schools that allegedly violate international humanitarian law are investigated and those responsible duly prosecuted?

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to call upon 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 damage 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,[10] thereby endorsing and committing to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use in Armed Conflict.[11]
  • 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.

The situation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Pakistan (Articles 2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13)

The situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan continues to be of concern. There are 1.5 million residents in Pakistan who hold proof of residency cards, which recognize holders’ status as “Afghan citizen[s] temporarily residing in Pakistan.” In addition, there are an estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans residing in Pakistan.[12] Following the attack by the Tehreek-e-Taliban on a school in Peshawar in December 2014, Pakistani police have pursued an unofficial policy of punitive retribution towards Afghan refugees including raids on Afghan settlements, arbitrary detention, harassment, and demolition of Afghan homes. These police abuses have caused fearful Afghans to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailing access to education and employment.[13]

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee ask the government of Pakistan:

  • What measures are being taken to address the retributive actions being undertaken by the police towards Afghan refugees and asylum seekers?
  • What measures are the government taking to provide all refugees and asylum seekers, including Afghans, access to health services and medicines on at least the same basis as other non-citizens in the country?
  • What measures are the government taking to ensure that all foreign national children, including Afghans, regardless of their immigration status, have access to free primary education and access to secondary education on the same basis as Pakistani children?

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to call upon the government of Pakistan to:

  • Extend current proof of residency cards until at least December 31, 2017, and review the proof of residency system to establish procedures that would regularize the process and reduce the stress to cardholders of periodic short-term renewals.
  • Issue a specific written directive instructing all relevant government officials and state security forces to cease unlawful surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and violence against Afghans living in Pakistan.
  • Ensure that all law enforcement and other government officials treat Afghans living in Pakistan with dignity and respect for their human rights in compliance with Pakistan’s domestic and international legal obligations.
  • Direct the Federal Investigating Agency to fully and impartially investigate

incidents in which law enforcement and other government officials are implicated in unlawful surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and use of force against Afghan refugees and undocumented Afghans.

  • Ensure, consistent with the ICESCR (and article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan), that foreign national children, including Afghans, regardless of their immigration status, have access to free primary education and access to secondary education on the same basis as Pakistani children.
  • Provide all refugees and asylum seekers, including Afghans, access to health services and medication on at least the same basis as other non-citizens in the country. All children should have access to affordable health care regardless of their nationality or migration status.

Ethnic minorities (Articles 2(2), 13)

Ethnic Hazaras face great difficulties and risk to 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 Committee to call upon the government of Pakistan:

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

Women and girls’ rights (Articles 2, 3, 10, 13)

Child, early, and forced marriage interferes with an adolescent girl’s ability to realize a wide range of rights, including freedom from discrimination,[15] and the rights to equality in enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights,[16] health,[17] education,[18] and to take part in cultural life.[19]

Child marriage remains of serious concern in Pakistan, with 21 percent of girls marrying before the age of 18.[20] 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.[21]

The 1929 Child Marriage Restraint Act currently sets the age of marriage at 18 for males and 16 for females. International legal standards call for the age of marriage be the same for both men and women and that it be set at 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.[22]

In January 2016, a female member of Parliament submitted a proposal to raise the legal minimum age to 18 for females and introduce harsher penalties for those who arrange child marriage. However, on January 14, 2016, 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.”[23]

Sexual abuse of children remains a grave concern in Pakistan. 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.[24]

The government is taking inadequate action to protect women and girls from violence including murder through so-called “honor killings,” sexual violence, acid attacks, and domestic violence.[25] More than 1,000 women and girls are murdered in Pakistan each year through so-called “honor killings.” Pakistan’s law currently allows “honor killings” to go unpunished if the victim’s family “forgives” the crime.[26]  On July 17, 2016, Qandeel Baloch, a social media star in Pakistan, was murdered. Her brother, who confessed to her murder, said he had killed her because she had “brought dishonor” on her family. The government charged him with a crime against the state, a move that should block the crime being “forgiven.” On July 20, 2016, the daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif–a key member of her father’s ruling party–pledged that a long-delayed law intended to strengthen the justice system’s response to so-called “honor killings” would quickly move through the country’s National Assembly. The Council of Islamic Ideology has pledged to oppose any effort to remove the “forgiveness” provision from the law.[27]

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee 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?
  • How does the government plan to end child, early and forced marriage by 2030, as set out by UN Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3, to which Pakistan has committed?
  • How many cases of child marriage have been documented since January 1, 2012?
  • What are the government’s plans to reform the law and justice practices in regard to so-called “honor killings”?
  • How many cases of “honor killings,” sexual violence, acid attacks, and domestic violence have been documented since January 1, 2012?

Human Rights Watch urges the government of Pakistan to:

  • Make 18 years the minimum age of marriage for women and men.
  • 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 action plan to end 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 “honor killings” more leniently than other murders.
  • Ensure that the proposed law on “honor killings” is passed promptly in a form that brings Pakistan into compliance with international legal standards.
  • Enact a comprehensive domestic violence law.
  • Ensure that social welfare officers, social workers, and law enforcement officials identify and protect children who are victims of sexual abuse.
  • Investigate and prosecute those responsible for sexual abuse of children.

Hazardous child labor (Articles 6, 7, 10(3), 12)

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 children ages 10 to 14 in Pakistan are engaged in child labor.[28] The Global Slavery index estimates that over two million people, including children, are trapped in slavery in Pakistan, most due to debt bondage.[29] The increasing cost of living, particularly food and fuel prices, contributes to many children being forced to work rather than attend school.[30]

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 lacking. 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.[31]

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee ask the government of Pakistan:

  • How many children are engaged in child labor in Pakistan, and of these, how many are employed in the worst forms of child labor?
  • What measures are being taken to ensure the implementation of legislation and standards on hazardous child labor?

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask 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 prosecute those who violate prohibitions on exploiting child for labor.

Judicial execution and ill-treatment of child offenders (Article 10(3))

Pakistan lifted a six-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty for prisoners on December 17, 2014, authorizing execution of prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses.[32] By March 2015, this had been extended to all capital offenses.[33] Pakistani law permits capital punishment for 28 offenses, including murder, rape, treason, and blasphemy.[34] Since the moratorium was lifted, several individuals who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime for which they were convicted 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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37] 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.[38]

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 children at risk of trial as adults in capital cases.

In February 2015, Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment and amended the Army Act, 1951 and empowering military courts to try civilians and award the death penalty, in offenses related to terrorism. The amended law stipulates that in case of an inconsistency with any existing law, the Army Act would prevail. Children are not expressly exempted from the jurisdiction of military courts raising serious concerns regarding trial of children for crimes that are punishable by death.[39]

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 uniquely capable of rehabilitation. Furthermore, detention takes an enormous toll on children, particularly on their physical and mental health.

Human Rights Watch recommends the Committee ask the government of Pakistan:

  • Since 2012, how many death sentences have courts imposed on defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime? 
  • Since 2012, how many executions have been carried out of prisoners sentenced to the death penalty 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 the crime for which they were convicted.
  • 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.
  • To clarify its position on the possible trial of child offenders by the military courts.

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

  • Re-impose a moratorium on all executions, until the death penalty is abolished.
  • Fully enforce the existing ban on the death penalty for all prisoners who were children at the time of the crime regardless of the nature of their crimes, and immediately commute pending death sentences against prisoners who were children at the time of the crime.
  • Develop an impartial age-determination process that relies on more than one expert opinion.
  • Publish disaggregated data and information regarding all individuals sentenced to death for an offense committed before the age of 18 in a timely and transparent manner.
 

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

[2] “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-schools-attack.

[3] “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-armed-conflict-report.

[4] 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).

[5] “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).

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

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

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

[9] “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-killing-teachers.

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

[12] “Pakistan: Renewed Threats to Afghan Refugees: Extend Legal Residency Status Through 2017,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 1, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/01/pakistan-renewed-threats-afghan-refugees.

[13] “Pakistan: Extend Afghan Refugee Status Through 2017: Stop-Gap Measures Create Climate Fostering Police Abuse,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 16, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/16/pakistan-extend-afghan-refugee-status-through-2017.

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

[15] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force January 3, 1976., art. 2(2).

[16] ICESCR, art. 3.

[17] ICESCR, art. 12.

[18] ICESCR, art. 13.

[19] ICESCR, art. 15.

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

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

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

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

[25] Ibid.

[26] “Dispatches: A Fitting Memorial to Qandeel: Positive Signs for Movement on Pakistan’s Anti-Honor Killing Bill,” July 20, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/20/dispatches-fitting-memorial-qandeel.

[27] Ibid.

[28] 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).

[29] “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).

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

[31] 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).

[32] “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.

[33] 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.

[34] 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.

[35] 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.

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

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

[38] 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).

[39] Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, “HRCP, ICJ demand clarification on juveniles’ trial by military courts,” http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/hrcp-icj-demand-clarification-on-juveniles-trial-by-military-courts/ (accessed August 25, 2016).

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