News about Pakistan of late has largely focused, appropriately so, on its complicity in housing Osama bin Laden and its cooperation, or lack thereof, in the war on terror. And as a colleague has pointed out, the Justice Department’s decision to go after Kashmir American Council (KAC), through which Pakistan’s intelligence service funneled four million dollars over decades to influence American politics, suggests we are entering a time of even rockier relations with Islamabad.
But that should not obscure Pakistan’s atrocious human right record. A recent CNN report demonstrates the depth of the problem:
At a morgue in Pakistan’s largest city, five linen pouches — each the size of a loaf of bread — line the shelf of a walk-in freezer.
Wrapped inside each small sack is the corpse of an infant.
The babies are victims of what one relief agency calls Pakistan’s worst unfolding tragedy: the killing and dumping of newborns.
“Sometimes they hang them, and sometimes they kill by the knife, and sometimes we find bodies which have been burned,” said Anwar Kazmi, a manager at Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest privately run social service and relief agency.
Records at Edhi Foundation show that more than 1,200 newborns were killed and dumped in Pakistan last year, an increase of about 200 from the previous year.
This is incomprehensible to most people. But these are not the stray acts of individually disturbed women. As CNN notes, “Families view many of these children as illegitimate in a culture that condemns those born outside of marriage. Statistics show that roughly nine out of 10 are baby girls, which families may consider too costly to keep in a country where women frequently are not allowed to work.”
For those who follow human rights, the report is both horrifying and unsurprising. In late May, Freedom House reported: “The brutal death of Pakistani journalist, Saleem Shahzad, is a shocking illustration of the deteriorating environment for journalists in Pakistan. Freedom House calls upon Pakistani authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into his death and to take decisive measures to ensure the protection of journalists.”
One need only to read the Obama administration’s own human rights report on Pakistan to appreciate how dreadful the state of freedom, democracy and human right is there:
The major human rights problems included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture. Although the government initiated an investigation into an Internet video showing men in military uniforms apparently committing extrajudicial killings, a failure to credibly investigate allegations, impose disciplinary or accountability measures, and consistently prosecute those responsible for abuses contributed to a culture of impunity. Poor prison conditions, instances of arbitrary detention, lengthy pretrial detentions, a weak criminal justice system, insufficient training for prosecutors and criminal investigators, a lack of judicial independence in the lower courts, and infringements on citizens’ privacy remained problems. Harassment of journalists, some censorship, and self-censorship were problems. There were some restrictions on freedom of assembly. Corruption was widespread within the government and lower levels of the police forces, and the government made few attempts to combat the problem. Rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, honor crimes, abuse, and discrimination against women remained serious problems. Religious freedom violations, as well as violence and discrimination against religious minorities continued. Child abuse and exploitative child labor were problems. Widespread human trafficking, including exploitation of bonded laborers by land owners; forced child labor; and commercial sexual exploitation of children remained problems, as did lack of respect for worker rights.
And that is just in the introduction.
This is yet another example of the confused thinking about human rights that is so endemic in this administration. We put human rights on the back burner, so that we can protect our “strategic” interests. But it turns out that the despotic regime isn’t much of a help on that front either. So we have damaged our own credibility on human rights and gotten zilch on all other fronts. Sound familiar? Why, it is the same pattern with China, Russia and, as we have vividly seen, throughout the Middle East.