Lahore: Warning of a “serious” threat to democracy in Pakistan, a prominent human rights group in the country today said that there appears to be a “clear plan” to project the role of the powerful military leadership in state affairs beyond its mandate. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed alarm over growing threats to democracy and fundamental rights in the country.
“A greater say and prominence for military and the security apparatus in all spheres, many of which are clearly beyond its mandate —- with civilian ownership and input lacking or quickly receding—represents serious peril to democracy and representative governance in Pakistan,” HRCP said in a statement after a meeting of its Executive Council.
“There also appears to be a clear plan to project the role of the military leadership in state affairs to the exclusion of civilian role,” it said. The rights group said that instead of ceding space over counter-terrorism or any other pretext, the political leadership must urgently take ownership of issues and focus on the quality of governance, transparency and responding to the needs of the people they represent.
Alleging lack of transparency in military operations, it said, “The need to take on militants of all hues across the country has long been argued and has found greater acceptance even among those in denial after the army public school attack in Peshawar last year. Certain aspects of the military operations, however, merit a closer look.”
The group claimed that the operations under way in the north-western parts of the country lack transparency, and difficulties for the media and civil society in accessing information makes things even more problematic. On minorities, it said, “Religious minorities in Pakistan remain the most vulnerable of the citizens. Concerns of religious minority communities regarding faith-based violence, discrimination and unequal protection of the law are still not addressed.”
The rights group said the “use of the blasphemy law to settle scores or punish citizens and the intimidation of lawyers and judges have made independent judicial determination of such cases impossible”.