The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Pakistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


#equality #freedom #human_rights #islam #pakistan #politics #tolerance

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area 770 880km21
Population180.0m (2011)2
Life Expectancy66.37yrs (2017)3
GNI$5 031 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesPK, PAK, 5865
Internet Domain.pk6
CurrencyRupee (PKR)7

Pakistan is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Pakistan does worse than average in fighting corruption9, opposing gender inequality10, supporting press freedom11 and in LGBT equality12. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in commentary from Human Rights Watch13, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms14, its Global Peace Index rating15, eliminating modern slavery16 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights17. Women, religious minorities and LGBT folk face terrible persecution and violent attacks and government persecution "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"18. Security forces are unaccountable for their own human rights violations18. Decades of increasingly strict and conservative Islam has resulted in a situation of violent intolerance towards any other religion or belief19,20. Pakistan has no freedom of religion nor freedom of belief. The law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad, including literary and historical criticism21.

1. Politics and Freedom

#burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #mass_media #Pakistan #peace #politics #slavery

[We are] deeply concerned at repeated reports of abduction, killings and intimidation of human rights defenders, particularly those fighting for economic, social and cultural rights, allegedly committed in some cases by State agents, including members of military intelligence services.

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
In "World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

Corruption (2012-2016)9
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score9
2New Zealand90.6
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)15
Pos.Lower is better15
2New Zealand1.24
150Central African Rep.2.87
151N. Korea2.93
World Avg2.02
Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)13
Pos.Higher is better
117N. Korea-10
121Congo, DR-10
122Saudi Arabia-10
World Avg-1.9

Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)17
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
181St Lucia6
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)14
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
145Saudi Arabia144
151Congo, DR151
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)11
Pos.Lower is better11
161Sri Lanka5659
162Saudi Arabia5688
World Avg3249

The government muzzled dissenting voices in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media on the pretext of national security. Militants and interest groups also threatened freedom of expression. [...] Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship after numerous attacks by security forces and militant groups in retaliation for critical articles. Media outlets remained under pressure to avoid reporting on or criticizing human rights violations during counterterrorism operations. The Taliban and other armed groups threatened media outlets and attacked journalists and activists because of their work.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

Slavery (2018)16
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims16
161S. Sudan2.05
164Central African Rep.2.23
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory22. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends23. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life24. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves25.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery26. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity27. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.28. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi16, Eritrea16, Indonesia29) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery30.

2. Gender Equality

#gender #misogyny #Pakistan #politics #women

Gender Inequality (2015)10
Pos.Lower is better10
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote31
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
67Trinidad & Tobago1946
72S. Korea1948
World Avg1930

Pakistan is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women.

Women continue to face violent attacks "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"18.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 675 women and girls were murdered in the first nine months of 2011, mostly for having illicit relations. Some were raped or gang-raped before being killed. Of course this is illegal, but the state is too weak and too unwilling to enforce the law consistently. Very few of the culprits will be brought to justice.

The Economist (2012)32

Violence against women and girls–including rape, “honor” killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage–remained a serious problem. Pakistani activists estimate that there are about a 1,000 “honor” killings every year.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #Pakistan #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)12
Pos.Higher is better
169St Kitts & Nevis-25
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence33. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws34. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries33. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

LGBT folk continue to face violent attacks and government-led oppression "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"18. Homosexuality is illegal18. "The inclusion of the transgender population in the 2017 census and the first-ever proposed transgender law were positive developments"18.

4. Pakistan Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Pakistan

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
176Ivory Coast40.3
179Papua New Guinea39.9
181Congo, (Brazzaville)39.1
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#atheism #christianity #extremism #islam #pakistan #saudi_arabia #USA

Decades of increasingly strict and conservative Islam has resulted in a situation of violent intolerance of anything else19 with the worst possible scale of religious persecution20. Pakistan now has no freedom of religion or belief. The law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad, including literary and historical criticism21, with deadly consequences for those who do so or who are accused of blasphemy.

In 1998 Montgommery Watt wrote, not knowing how much worse things would get, that in Pakistan the law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad, including literary and historical criticism21.

The worrying and continued increase in religious violence in Pakistan is harming the entire county and destabilizing the government. The Economist36 in 2011 reports that "with the rise in religious observance society has become less tolerant" and bemourns that Pakistan "has become a very violent place. Over 30,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in terrorist-related violence in the past four years. Even in the comparative lull in suicide-bombings in late 2011, the newspapers carried a litany of horror stories: terrorist attacks; honour killings; ethnic violence in Karachi; assassinations" and states that large numbers of migrant workers who come through Saudi Arabia are responsible for spreading overly strict Islam19.

Human Rights Watch reports that although attacks did decrease in 2017, they still continued against religious minorities18.

When it comes to religious freedom and persecution, sociologists Grim & Finke place Pakistan into the worst category, along with just 13 other countries. In this category, severe restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of belief stem simultaneously from top-down pressure from government and institutionalized religion, and from bottom-up grassroots movements that often go even further than the government in harassing those who do not believe the right things (2011)20.

At least 19 people remained on death row in 2017 after being convicted under Pakistan´s draconian blasphemy law, and hundreds awaited trial. Most of those facing blasphemy are members of religious minorities–including Aasia Bibi, the first woman to face a potential death sentence for blasphemy–and are often victimized by these charges due to personal disputes.

In 2017, Pakistan witnessed an increase in blasphemy-related violence while the government continued to encourage discriminatory prosecutions and other forms of discrimination against vulnerable groups by failing to repeal discriminatory laws and using religious rhetoric inciting hatred against minority groups. In March, the interior minister described blasphemers as “enemies of humanity,”and stated he would take the issue to its “logical conclusion” in taking action against them.

In April, a mob dragged Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student at a university in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, from his dormitory and shot him dead over accusations that he made blasphemous remarks against Islamic injunctions. In May, a 10-year-old boy was killed when a mob tried to storm a police station in Balochistan to attack a man held on blasphemy charges.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) sent out a mass text message in May to millions of users informing them that uploading and sharing blasphemous content is a punishable offense, and asking them to report such content.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)18

The country stands in the growing shadow of a new dark ages, inspired by fundamentalist Islam. The mass media is singularly biased. In 2011 the country faced a series of crises, but the press "still agonised over the antics of Veena Malik, a Pakistani actress who had posed on the cover of an Indian men's magazine, apparently wearing nothing but a tattoo"19,37. This distorted perspective seems to go down increasingly well with the masses. In 2011, the Pakistani Taliban was said by 10% to be the greatest threat to Pakistan38 probably because of the destabilisation, negative effects on education, their barbaric beliefs, and their political interference. But how come only 10%, then, say that the Taliban are a threat? 60% said the USA is a bigger threat. It is a culture that is losing its way, misinformed about the world, and many of the most educated (i.e., doctors) take themselves abroad. Few return.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)39, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Pakistan states:

The constitution and other laws and policies restrict freedom of religion, and in practice national and local government enforces these restrictions.

Chapter XV of Pakistan's Penal Code contains several sections regarding blasphemy-type laws. Article 295-A outlaws "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs." Article 295-B outlaws the defiling of the Holy Qu'ran. Article 295-C bans the use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet. Article 298 bars uttering works with the deliberate intent to wound religious feelings. And article 298-B punishes any misuse of epithets, descriptions, or titles reserved for certain holy personages or places. Prosecutions for blasphemy are widely thought to be brought against those wishing to eliminate competitors or those against whom they have a feud or grudge. The mere accusation may result in accused's life being endangered in prison, and such is the power of the mullahs who often come to court to intimidate the judiciary in such cases, that obtaining a lawyer, and even a judge to try the case fairly is often impossible. An accusation, however false, can therefore become a sentence of death.

When applying for a passport, applicants must state their religion. "No Religion" is not accepted as an answer. If an applicant states their religious identity as "Muslim" then they are required to sign an additional declaration that they accept the Prophet Mohammad as the "final Prophet".

Cases of Discrimination

On November 8, 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian farm worker and mother of five was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death for allegedly making blasphemous remarks following a disagreement with a Muslim co-worker who refused to drink from a container of water she carried, believing it was tainted. Several prominent Pakistani politicians have been assassinated for supporting her freedom (more below).


On March 2, 2011, Shabaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs, was assassinated at his home in retaliation for his opposition to blasphemy laws. His assassins left leaflets threatening opponents of blasphemy laws with a similar fate. Despite the fact that members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban have taken responsibility for the murder, no one has yet been charged in Bhatti's death. Bhatti had been fighting for a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi, whose case is mentioned above.

On June 22, 2011, 29-year-old Abdul Sattar was sentenced to death and fined 50,000 rupees (US$1,000) for sending text messages and having phone conversations in which the Holy Qu'ran, the Prophet Muhammad, and other Islamic figures were allegedly blasphemed.

On Oct. 13, 2012, a retired schoolteacher named Ameer Ali Wahocho was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly making insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad and his family. Wahocho was originally sentenced to one month, which he appealed. While out on bail, his accuser also petitioned - for a stricter sentence. The accuser's petition was granted and Ameer Ali Wahocho's prison sentence was extended to three years.

[...] An IHEU member organization was formed in Pakistan in the 1990s, but its founder, Dr Younus Shaikh, was soon charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death (following an IHEU campaign, Dr Shaikh's conviction was overturned and he fled the country). Today, there is no registered organization in Pakistan able to become an IHEU member. Yet there is a thriving Facebook group for Pakistani atheists with far more participants than the defunct off-line group ever attracted.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)39

In 2001, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was arguing for leniency against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi (mentioned in the IHEU cases above), who was sentenced to death for blasphemy. Taseer was also campaigning to reform Pakistan's horrible blasphemy laws. As a result of this, Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Hussein Qadri.39. Demonstrations of support of the bodyguard broke out across Pakistan - "'the demonstrations expressed the feelings of many' according to Pakistanis themselves, the reforms were making people angry and 'God gave Qadri the courage to do something about it'"38. Such is the temper in a country that is being dragged backwards into a barbarous theocracy by religionists, amidst a wave of fear.

Current edition: 2019 Jan 01
Parent page: Pakistan (Islamic Republic of Pakistan)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#atheism #burundi #christianity #corruption #equality #eritrea #extremism #france #freedom #gender #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #islam #mass_media #misogyny #pakistan #peace #politics #saudi_arabia #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #USA #women

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See for some commentary on this source. A newspaper.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Grim & Finke. Dr Grim is senior researcher in religion and world affairs at the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C, USA. Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
(2011) The Price of Freedom Denied. Subtitled: "Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century". Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Cambridge University Press, UK. An e-book.

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on

Watt, Montgomery
(1989) Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity. Published by Routledge.


  1. World Bank data on accessed 2013 Nov 04.^
  2. UN (2011) .^
  3. UN (2017). Table 1.^
  4. UN (2017). Gross National Income, per person. Table 1.^
  5. International Standards Organisation (ISO) standard ISO3166-1, on, accessed 2013 May 01.^
  6. Top level domains (TLDs) are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) on^
  7. According to ISO4217.^
  8. According to ITU-T.^
  9. Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2017). Accessed 2017 Dec 30. The scores given are the TI average for the years 2012-2016.^^
  10. UN (2017). Table 5. Lower is better.^^
  11. Reporters Without Borders Report "2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed hopes after spring" at accessed 2013 Feb.^^
  12. Sources:^^
  13. Human Rights Watch (2018). Negative and positive comments have been added to create a score for each country covered in the report.^^
  14. Fraser Institute, the (2016). Covers data for 2014.^^
  15. ^^
  16. Walk Free Foundation (2018) .^^
  17. Max possible=24. Total amount of treaties ratified. Nominal Commitment to Human Rights report published by UCL School of Public Policy, London, UK, at accessed 2011 Apr 30.^^
  18. Human Rights Watch (2018). p409-416.^^^^^
  19. The Economist (2012 Feb 11). Article "In the shadow of the mosque: Religion is becoming less tolerant, and more central to Pakistan".^^
  20. Grim & Finke (2011). Chapter 5 "A Closer Look China, India, and Iran" digital location 3560.^^
  21. Watt (1989). p32.^^
  22. Thomson (1993). p28.^
  23. McCall (1979). p180.^
  24. Thomson (1993). p166.^
  25. Casely-Hayford (2012). p253.^
  26. Thomson (1993). p31.^
  27. Thomson (1993). p199.^
  28. Thomson (1993). p28-29.^
  29. Klein (2004) .^
  30. Walk Free Foundation (2018). p2.^
  31. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life: 2.9. Women Stand for Election & Vote" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
  32. The Economist (2012 Feb 11) Article "In the shadow of the mosque: Religion is becoming less tolerant, and more central to Pakistan".^
  33. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p278.^
  34. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p289. According to a 1992 ruling of the Human Rights Committee, which declared that 'it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy' when discussing Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See Human Rights Committee, Communication 488/1992, paragraph 8.2.^
  35. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
  36. The Economist .^
  37. In her defence she claimed the photo had been altered^
  38. The Economist (2011 Apr 02). Article "Pakistan" p60-62.^
  39. IHEU (2012) .^

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