Wed, 28 Jul 2021

Lahore [Pakistan], June 24 (ANI): An annual report on the state of human rights in Pakistan during 2020 underscores the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings of the healthcare sector, both in terms of preparedness and access to facilities.

A release by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday said that shortcomings were especially dangerous in Punjab's jails where overcrowding and substandard hygiene exacerbated an already fraught situation for vulnerable inmates.

Factory workers and daily-wage earners were among the hardest hit, with hundreds of thousands of lay-offs taking place during the lockdowns, the release said.

"Students were compelled to protest when online classes served to benefit only those living in areas with a stable digital infrastructure. However, actions to curtail such public assemblies were erratic, with political gatherings facing more restrictions than large religious congregations or protests by ordinary citizens," it added.

The HRCP said that the passage of the Punjab Textbook and Curriculum Amendment Bill and the Punjab Tahaffuz-i-Bunyad-i-Islam Bill 2020 led to public outrage as yet another move to tighten restrictions on freedoms of expression, thought and belief in the guise of protecting religion.

"No inroads were made in tackling the backlog of court cases--188,176 in the Lahore High Court by end-December 2020. HRCP also documented the imposition of the death penalty in 91 instances, involving 148 victims. In an encouraging development, no executions were, however, carried out," the rights group said.

According to the group, reports of cases of child abuse continued unabated, with Punjab accounting for over 57 percent of all reported cases. Religious minorities faced persistent marginalisation over the year, with accusations of blasphemy and forced conversions.

"Police data indicates that 487 blasphemy cases were registered in Punjab alone. On a positive note, the Punjab government took measures to prevent hate speech on social media, which helped ensure a peaceful Muharram--over 4,000 such websites were blocked and action taken against their operators for inciting sectarian violence," the HRCP said. (ANI)

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