Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in connection with conflicts throughout the country (see section 1.g.). Government entities investigate whether security force killings were justifiable and whether to pursue prosecutions via an order either from the inspector general of police or through the National Human Rights Commission.
On January 20, a local court sentenced Frontier Corps (FC) soldier Shadiullah to death for the August 2020 murder of university student Hayat Baloch in Turbat, Balochistan. Baloch activists protested that courts did not punish senior FC personnel for their role in the murder and said the senior leadership of the paramilitary forces fostered an institutionalized culture of violence against the Baloch people. On February 27, the body of missing Awami National Party leader Asad Khan Achakzai was found in Quetta, Balochistan.
On March 7, police killed university student Irfan Jatoi in Sukkur, Sindh, claiming he was a criminal. Jatoi’s family denied these allegations and accused law enforcement agencies of kidnapping him on February 10 because of his political beliefs. An autopsy determined that Jatoi’s body had sustained four to five bullet wounds to the chest from five feet away, suggesting he was executed while in custody. Inspector General of Sindh Police Mushtaq Mahar ordered an investigation following a public outcry over the killing.
A cross-border firing incident near the country’s Torkham border crossing to Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on August 27 resulted in several civilian casualties on the Afghan side of the border. According to reports, Pakistani military stationed at the border fired at several persons approaching the border fence from the Afghanistan side of the border as they were attempting to enter Pakistan.
Asad Khan went missing in September 2020 while travelling to Quetta from Chaman to attend a political party meeting. In February police arrested a Levies Force official who confessed to the killing.
Physical abuse of criminal suspects in custody allegedly caused the death of some individuals. Lengthy trial delays and failure to discipline and prosecute those responsible for killings contributed to a culture of impunity.
On August 10, a fact-finding mission of the Ministry of Human Rights recommended charges against police officers for mismanaging the July 30 murder case of Hindu laborer Dodo Bheel in Tharparkar, Sindh. Bheel, a worker hired by a mining company, died after “intense torture” over several days by the company’s guards for alleged theft. Bheel’s postmortem report showed 19 injuries inflicted on him with a blunt object.
There were numerous reports of attacks against police and security forces. Terrorist groups and cross-border militants killed more than 100 soldiers or Frontier Corps members and injured hundreds more. On February 18, five soldiers were killed and another injured when militants attacked a security post in the Sara Rogha area of South Waziristan District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On February 22, four female aid workers were shot and killed by unidentified assailants in North Waziristan District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
On April 4, a Swat District antiterrorism court judge, Aftab Afridi, was among four persons shot and killed in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On May 4, a roadside bomb killed two soldiers and injured two others in Bajaur District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
On June 14, four FC personnel were killed in an improvised explosive device attack at the Marget-Quetta Road in Balochistan. On June 25, militants killed five FC soldiers in Sibi, Balochistan. The banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. On August 8, two policemen were killed and 21 others injured in an explosion near a police van in Quetta, Balochistan.
In August and September there was a significant increase in attacks on police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claiming responsibility for most of the attacks, including several on police polio-protection details.
Militants and terrorist groups killed hundreds and injured hundreds more with bombs, suicide attacks, and other violence. Casualties increased compared with the previous two years (see section 1.g.). On April 21, five persons, including a police official, were killed and 12 others injured when a bomb exploded in the parking area of the Serena Hotel in Quetta, Balochistan. The TTP claimed responsibility for the blast.
Kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons took place across the country. Some officials from intelligence agencies, police, and other security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location. The governmental Missing Persons Commission reported that it had opened 8,100 missing-person cases during the year and had solved 5,853 of these cases as of July.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa human rights defender Idris Khattak was held incommunicado by law enforcement from November 2019 until June 2020. Authorities had charged him under the 1923 Official Secrets Act, a British-era law, that could result in a lengthy prison term or death sentence. Khattak, whose work monitored human rights violations in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), disappeared after his car was stopped by security agents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Human rights organizations reported some authorities disappeared or arrested Pashtun, Sindhi, and Baloch human rights activists, as well as Sindhi and Baloch nationalists without cause or warrant. Some children were also detained to pressure their parents. Activists claimed 500 Sindhis were missing, with more than 50 disappearing in 2021 alone. On August 26, the Sindh High Court ordered law enforcement agencies to recover all missing persons in Sindh by September 11. A lawyer representing the Sindh Rangers informed the court that of 1,200 missing persons, 900 had already been recovered in the province. Of these, Sindh police located 298 in the last six months.
On 26 June, Seengar Noonari, a political activist affiliated with the Awami Workers Party, was abducted from his home in Qambar-Shahdadkot, Sindh. His family members alleged that the Sindh Rangers kidnapped him in reprisal for his activism against expropriation of land owned by indigenous communities. On August 2 he returned home, 35 days after his abduction.
Although the constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, the penal code has no specific section against torture. The penal code prohibits criminal use of force and assault; however, there were reports that security forces, including the intelligence services, tortured and abused individuals in custody.
Human rights organizations claimed that torture was perpetrated by police, military, and intelligence agency members, that they operated with impunity, and that the government did not make serious efforts to curb the abuse.
On April 28, a police inquiry into the death of a young man at the Criminal Investigations Agency police center in Tando Allahyar, Sindh, revealed that police filed false charges against the deceased and falsely classified his cause of death as suicide while in custody. The report found a police constable responsible for harassment and extortion and recommended closing the special police center.
On June 26, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that 19 persons, including two teenagers, died in police custody due to torture since June 2020. HRCP expressed concern over the use of torture by civilian and military agencies and the absence of a legal framework to effectively prosecute police brutality.
Media and civil society organizations reported cases of individuals dying in police custody allegedly due to torture. On June 26, four police officers were charged for killing a man in custody at Tibba Sultanpur police station in Vihari District of Punjab. On July 18, Ejaz Alias Amjad was allegedly tortured to death in police custody in Wahando police station of Gujranwala, Punjab. A case was registered against six policemen, and an investigation committee was formed to investigate the death. On August 31, the body of a young prisoner, Ayaz Sial, was found in a police cell in Jarwar, Sindh. His family claimed Sial was tortured to death by the police, although police claimed the deceased suffered a cardiac arrest while in custody.
According to the United Nations’ Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance Conduct and Discipline Service online portal, there were no new misconduct allegations against Pakistani peacekeepers serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations during the reporting period. The last allegation was submitted in February 2020 concerning sexual exploitation and abuse by a Pakistani peacekeeper deployed to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, allegedly involving the rape of an adult. As of October, the Pakistani government was still investigating the allegation.
There were reports police personnel employed cruel and degrading treatment and punishment. HRCP reported police used excessive force on citizens during at least 20 protests from January to August in different parts of the country. The incidents resulted in the death of four protesters and injury to many others. Multiple sources reported police abuse was often underreported. Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces due to politicization, corruption, and a lack of effective mechanisms to investigate abuses. The government provided limited training to increase respect for human rights by security forces.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but authorities did not always observe these requirements. Corruption and impunity compounded this problem.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Actions (In Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance of 2019 gives the military authority to detain civilians indefinitely without charge in internment camps, occupy property, conduct operations, and convict detainees in the province solely using the testimony of a single soldier. Both before and after the ordinance’s passage, the military was immune from prosecution in civilian courts for its actions in the province. The ordinance also provides that the military is not required to release the names of detainees to their families, who are therefore unable to challenge their detentions in a civilian court. The provincial high court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional in 2018, but the Supreme Court suspended this ruling in 2019. The appeal remained with the Supreme Court at year’s end. Pending the outcome of this appeal, the military retains control of its detention centers, although there is an ongoing transition to civilian law enforcement in the former FATA.
In April the Supreme Court criticized the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for “randomly” arresting individuals and waiting over one year to file charges against them. On June 3, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohat District released Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen after keeping him in detention for almost eight hours. Pashteen had planned to attend a sit-in in Bannu District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to protest the killing of a local resident.
On September 4, during a hearing on money laundering charges against detained National Assembly leader of the opposition Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Sharif, the judge criticized the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for the unusually slow pace of its investigation.
On September 22, law enforcement officials took a senior journalist, Waris Raza, from his home in Karachi, Sindh. Raza’s family alleged that he was arrested for expressing his political views. He was released after several hours of detention. Ali Wazir, a Member of the National Assembly representing South Waziristan and a prominent activist of the PTM, remained in Sindh police custody in Karachi. He was arrested in Peshawar in December 2020 and extradited by Sindh police on charges of criminal conspiracy and defamation of state institutions and the army. Local activists cite his confinement as illegal and arbitrary, and as reprisal for his criticizing state institutions. On June 1, the Sindh High Court denied his request for bail.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but according to NGOs and legal experts, the judiciary often was subject to external influences, such as fear of reprisal from extremist elements in terrorism or blasphemy cases and public politicization of high-profile cases. Civil society organizations reported judges were reluctant to exonerate individuals accused of blasphemy, fearing vigilante violence. Media and the public generally considered the high courts and the Supreme Court more credible, but media discussed allegations of pressure from security agencies on judges of these courts.
Extensive case backlogs in the lower and superior courts undermined the right to effective remedy and to a fair and public hearing. Given the prevalence of pretrial detention, these delays often led defendants in criminal cases to be incarcerated for long periods as they waited for their trial to be heard. Antiquated procedural rules, unfilled judgeships, poor case management, and weak legal education caused delays in civil and criminal cases. According to the National Judicial Policy Making Committee, more than two million cases were pending in the court system, with COVID-19 related conditions slowing the case clearance process. A typical civil dispute case may take up to 10 years to settle, although the alternative dispute resolution process may reduce this time to a few months.
Many lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from wealthy persons and influential religious or political figures.
There were incidents of unknown persons threatening or killing witnesses, prosecutors, or investigating police officers in high-level cases.
The use of informal justice systems that lacked institutionalized legal protections continued, especially in rural areas, and often resulted in human rights abuses. Large landholders and other community leaders in Sindh and Punjab and tribal leaders in Pashtun and Baloch areas sometimes held local council meetings (panchayats or jirgas) outside the established legal system. Such councils settled feuds and imposed tribal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and sometimes the death penalty. These councils often sentenced women to violent punishment or death for so-called honor-related crimes. These councils that are meant to provide “speedier justice” than traditional courts in some instances also issued decisions that significantly harmed women and girls. For example, women, especially young girls, were affected by the practice of “swara,” in which girls are given in marriage by force to compensate for a crime committed by their male relatives. The Federal Shariat Court declared “swara” to be against the teachings of Islam in October. Jirga and panchayat decision making was often discriminatory towards women and girls, frequently issuing harsher sentences than for men.
In the former FATA, judgments by informal justice systems were a common practice. After the Supreme Court ruled that the way jirgas and panchayats operated was unconstitutional, the court restricted the use of these mechanisms to arbitration, mediation, negotiation, or reconciliation of consenting parties in a civil dispute. A jirga, still ongoing, was formed in April 2020 to resolve a high-profile land dispute between two tribes on the boundary of Mohmand and Bajaur after the disputants refused to recognize a government commission on the matter.
The law prohibits such actions, requiring court-issued warrants for property searches, but there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. Police sometimes ignored this requirement and on occasion reportedly stole items during searches. Authorities seldom punished police for illegal entry. Police at times detained family members to induce a suspect to surrender. In cases pursued under the Antiterrorism Act, law enforcement agencies have additional powers, including of search and seizure without a warrant.
Several domestic intelligence services monitored politicians, political activists, suspected terrorists, NGOs, employees of foreign entities, and media professionals. These services included the Inter-Services Intelligence, Police Special Branch, the Intelligence Bureau, and Military Intelligence. Credible reports found that authorities routinely used wiretaps, monitored cell phone calls, intercepted electronic correspondence, and opened mail without court approval. There were credible reports the government used technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals. The government also used technologies and practices, including internet and social media controls, blocking or filtering of websites and social media platforms, censorship, and tracking methods.
The military and paramilitary organizations conducted multiple counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to eradicate militant safe havens. The military’s Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched in 2017, continued throughout the year. Radd-ul-Fasaad is a nationwide counterterrorism campaign aimed at consolidating the gains of the 2014-17 Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which countered foreign and domestic terrorists in the former FATA. Law enforcement agencies also acted to weaken terrorist groups, arresting suspected terrorists and gang members who allegedly provided logistical support to militants. In raids throughout the country, police confiscated caches of weapons, suicide vests, and planning materials. Police expanded their presence into formerly ungoverned areas, particularly in Balochistan, where military operations had become normal, although such operations often were unreported in the press.
Poor security, intimidation by both security forces and militants, and limited access to Balochistan and the former FATA impeded the efforts of human rights organizations to provide relief to victims of military abuses and of journalists to report on any such abuses. In June, PTM’s national leader was detained on his way to address a Jani Khel tribe sit-in and jirga in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, following a series of targeted killings of three teenagers and a tribal elder. The Jani Khel tribal conflict continues following the government’s failure to satisfy a settlement agreement to investigate the killings, remove militants from the area, and compensate the families.
Militants carried out numerous attacks on political party offices and candidates. On May 21, armed men attacked a National Party politician in Turbat, Balochistan. The Balochistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the attack.
Political, sectarian, criminal, and ethnic violence in Karachi continued, although violence decreased and gang wars were less prevalent than before security operations in the city that started in 2013. On March 30, a religious scholar was shot and wounded in a suspected sectarian attack in Karachi. On June 27, police arrested a suspected Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militant for his alleged involvement in several attacks, including the 2013 assassination of Sajid Qureshi, a prominent leader of the political party Muttahida Qaumi Movement. On August 6, unidentified persons attacked a Shia place of worship in the jurisdiction of Bahawalnagar, Punjab. On August 19, three persons were killed, and 59 others injured in a grenade attack on a Shia procession in Bahawalnagar, Punjab.
Killings: There were reports government security forces engaged in extrajudicial killings during operations against suspected militants throughout the country.
There were numerous media reports of police and security forces killing terrorist suspects in “police encounters.” The trial against Rao Anwar, accused of the extrajudicial killing of Naqibullah Mehsud in a staged counterterror operation in 2018, continued at year’s end. In August, Sindh police reported they arrested or killed 61 terrorists, while they arrested or killed 9,628 suspects in 960 police encounters in Sindh between January and August.
Security forces in Balochistan continued to disappear pretrial terror suspects, along with human rights activists, politicians, and teachers. The Baloch Human Rights Council noted 37 individuals had disappeared and assailants killed 25 persons, including one woman, in the month of June. The NGO Voice for Missing Baloch Persons claimed police killed 27 persons in Balochistan as of August.
There were numerous reports of criminal suspects killed in exchanges with police and the military. On April 20, police in Gujranwala District, Punjab, killed Atif Lahoria in a violent encounter. Five other suspected criminals were killed in police encounters in the Gujranwala region from February through April. On May 31, four FC soldiers and five suspected militants were killed in an exchange of fire in Quetta, Balochistan.
Militants and terrorist groups, including the TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Islamic State Khorasan Province, targeted civilians, journalists, community leaders, security forces, law enforcement officers, foreigners, and schools, killing and injuring hundreds with bombs, suicide attacks, and other forms of violence. Throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the newly merged districts, there continued to be attacks by militant groups on security forces, tribal leaders, and civilians. Militant and terrorist groups often attacked religious minorities. On January 3, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for an attack on a coal mine in Macch, Balochistan, that killed 11 coal miners belonging to the Shia Hazara community.
On August 26, three personnel of the paramilitary force Balochistan Levies and a member of the FC were killed in two separate attacks in Ziarat and Panjgur, Balochistan. The Levies were attacked during a mission to rescue four laborers, who were kidnapped by militants while working on a dam construction site. The BLA claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack in Panjgur was claimed by the Baloch Raji Ajoi-e-Sangar. On August 14, a total of 12 members of an extended family, all women and children, were killed and several others injured in a grenade attack on a truck in Karachi. No group claimed responsibility for the incident, but police suspected an extremist group was behind the attack.
Militant groups targeted Chinese nationals in multiple attacks. On March 9, a Chinese national and a passerby were injured after armed men opened fire at a vehicle in Karachi. On July 14, at least 13 persons, including nine Chinese engineers and two FC soldiers, were killed in a bus explosion near Dasu hydropower plant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A Chinese engineer was injured when unidentified assailants opened fire on his car in the Shershah area of Karachi on July 28. On August 20, two children and a man were killed and three persons, including a Chinese national, were injured in a suicide attack on a vehicle in Gwadar, Balochistan. A low-intensity separatist insurgency continued in Balochistan. Security forces reportedly committed extrajudicial killings in the fight against militant groups.
Child Soldiers: The government provided support to the Taliban, a nonstate armed militant group that recruited and used child soldiers. The government operated a center in Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to rehabilitate, educate, and reintegrate former child soldiers.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: On February 22, militants shot dead four women aid workers near Mirali in North Waziristan. Police said the women were working for an NGO to give vocational training to local women. In August and September, the TTP claimed responsibility for several attacks on police protection teams securing polio workers. The TTP particularly targeted girls’ schools to demonstrate its opposition to girls’ education but also destroyed boys’ schools. Militants closed key access roads and tunnels and attacked communications and energy networks, disrupting commerce and the distribution of food and water; military operations in response also created additional hardships for the local civilian population. On June 20, four female teachers were injured after unidentified assailants opened fire on a school van in Mastung, Balochistan.