The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Pakistan

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#atheism #extremism #gender_equality #hinduism #islam #pakistan #pakistan_women #prejudice #religion_in_pakistan #women

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index164th best
Life Expectancy66.10yrs (2017)2

Pakistan is amongst the very worst places in the world at ensuring any human rights and freedoms, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Pakistan does worse than average for opposing gender inequality3 (amongst the worst in Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties4, supporting press freedom5 and in LGBT equality6. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)7 (amongst the worst in Asia), commentary in Human Rights Watch reports8 (amongst the lowest in Asia), supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms9, its nominal commitment to Human Rights10 and in freethought11 (amongst the highest in Asia). Women, religious minorities and LGBT folk face terrible persecution, frequent violent attacks and government persecution "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"12. Security forces are unaccountable for their own human rights violations12. Decades of increasingly strict and conservative Islam has resulted in a situation of violent intolerance towards any other religion or belief13,14. Pakistan has no freedom of religion nor freedom of belief. The law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad or those connected to him, including literary and historical criticism15,16.

1. Pakistan's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)17
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank17
1Hong Kong24.3
43Myanmar (Burma)128.5
46Saudi Arabia134.5
50N. Korea146.5
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)17
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank17
192Cook Islands144.5
193N. Korea146.5
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark18. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu18.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe18, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia18.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Pakistan stated:

Grave human rights violations continued, including enforced disappearances, torture, crackdowns on peaceful protests, attacks against journalists and violence against religious minorities and other marginalized groups. A backlash against legal gains in transgender rights led to growing violence against transgender people. The senate passed an act which would criminalize torture by state officials for the first time. Political upheaval led to major uncertainty. An economic crisis severely hampered people's economic rights. Climate change exacerbated heatwaves followed by devastating floods, which killed many and undermined a range of rights.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)19

[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)12

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better8
117=N. Korea-10
117=Congo, DR-10
117=Saudi Arabia-10
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
Pakistan comes worst in the world regarding commentary in Human Rights Watch reports.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better10
2=Costa Rica23
181St Lucia6
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
Regarding its nominal commitment to Human Rights, Pakistan comes 13rd-worst in the world.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better4
Avg Yrs/Treaty4
144S. Africa12.51
149Antigua & Barbuda12.76
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Pakistan comes 147th in the world with regard to speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better9
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
144=Saudi Arabia144
151Congo, DR151
Asia Avg94.6
World Avg79.7
Pakistan ranks 14th-worst in the world in terms of supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)20

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better5
161Sri Lanka5659
162Saudi Arabia5688
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
When it comes to supporting press freedom, Pakistan is positioned 21st-worst in the world.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index21

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

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.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)12

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims22
161S. Sudan2.05
164Central African Rep.2.23
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
(amongst the worst in Asia)Pakistan is positioned 9th-worst in the world in terms of eliminating modern slavery.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory23. 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' friends24. 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 life25. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves26.

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 slavery27. 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 dignity28. 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.29. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi30, Eritrea30, Indonesia31) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery32.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

Pakistan is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women. Islamic beliefs are the cause of this.

Although some women hold prominent positions, and Benazir Bhutto has twice been prime minister, relatively few are allowed to work by their religious conservative menfolk. [...] Amnesty International criticized Pakistan in 2000 for its failure to give women's rights sufficient protection.

"Islam: A Brief History" by Paul Lunde (2003)33


4.3. Violence Against Women 34

#pakistan #religion_and_women

Women continue to face violent attacks "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"12. The problems start even before birth, with demographic data indicating that there is a widespread problem of infanticide against femalekind, leading to Pakistan having one of the world's lowest ratios of females to males33.

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)13

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)12

3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
(one of the highest in Asia)Pakistan is 130th in the world in terms of opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. 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 patriarchalism 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.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases
Lower is better
2New Zealand34.436
Asia Avg94.24
World Avg83.93
Pakistan is 3rd-worst in the world in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators).

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
66=Trinidad & Tobago1946
72S. Korea1948
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Pakistan ranks 68th in the world regarding the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT folk continue to face violent attacks and government-led oppression "with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators accountable"12. Homosexuality is illegal12. "The inclusion of the transgender population in the 2017 census and the first-ever proposed transgender law were positive developments"12.

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
169=St Kitts & Nevis-25
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
Regarding LGBT equality, Pakistan ranks 172nd in the world.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence37. 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 laws38. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries37. 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.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
194=Saudi Arabia5.0
194=N. Korea5.0
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
In terms of freethought, Pakistan comes last in the world.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights39. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish40. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era41 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted42. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief43. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands11,44 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia11,45.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed46. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief40, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion47 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"48 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

Decades of increasingly strict and conservative Sunni Islam has resulted in a situation of violent intolerance of anything else13 with the worst possible scale of religious persecution14. Pakistan has no freedom of religion or belief14,49, and sees consistent violence and disproportionate judicial process against religious minorities, especially Shia Muslims50, Hindus51, Christians50,51, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community50,51 and atheists are victimized even more than Christians. It is impossible to apply for a passport or citizenship without choosing a religion - no religion is not a legal answer49. Pakistan's infamously unjust blasphemy laws are used as the primary weapon of intolerance15,49,12 and to prevent any criticism of Muhammad or those connected to him, including academic and historical analysis15,16, with deadly consequences for those doing so.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)49, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their 2012 entry for Pakistan stated:

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

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". [...]

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)49

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)14.

4.4. Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws are Infamously Strict and Unjust52

#blasphemy #christianity #islam_blasphemy #pakistan #religion_in_pakistan

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are infamously strict and unjust15,49,12 and tied to the country's overall culture of intolerance and prejudice. There are hundreds of people queued for the death penalty, awaiting trial12. In 2017, the interior minister described blasphemers as "enemies of humanity" and implied the "logical conclusion" is their murder. Mob violence against those accused of blasphemy causes a steady stream of horrific murders and assaults, with the government doing little to prevent it - the security services themselves are sometimes complicit.

The laws are often employed against minority groups, even where there clearly was no intent, and against non-Muslims within non-Muslim communities in Pakistan51. Knowing that the consequences can be life-destroying even when the claims are false, accusations are often made against competitors during feuds or to resolve grudges49,51.

Dozens of politicians, lawyers and campaigners have been assassinated and others are subjected to mob violence for opining that the blasphemy laws should be relaxed. The Punjab state governor was assassinated in 2001 by his bodyguard for asking for leniency for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death49. Demonstrations broke out in favour of the bodyguard. Such is the temper in a country that is being dragged backwards into a barbarous theocracy by religionists, amidst a wave of fear. The concept of blasphemy is their primary weapon.

For more, see: