Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recently been the worst victim of human rights violations. Terrorism in all forms is very visible here. Whether it is terrorism by the Taliban and affiliates or violence against women, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not behind any other province of Pakistan. Killing of aid workers, polio workers, civil society activists and political figures has always been high in the province.
Killing of aid workers
According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), a total of 91 aid workers were killed in Pakistan in 2013. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remained the most dangerous for aid workers where 37 persons out of 91 (41 percent) were attacked. Among these 20 were killed and 17 injured. Polio workers and their escorts were the largest group at the receiving end. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in 2013 polio workers attacked in Peshawar and Swabi were 14 and 11 respectively. More than 100,000 children were denied vaccination in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkwa. This is because of the opposition from militants to the polio vaccination, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining tribal areas, and tens of thousands of parents refusing to get their children vaccinated. Attacks on and killing of vaccinators and policemen guarding immunization teams also hampered the process.
After the 18th Amendment in 2010, all four provinces failed to enact a law to ban employment of children below the age of 14. According to ILO, there are 12 million child workers in Pakistan. The provinces were bound to enact these laws under the ILO conventions ratified by Pakistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the draft Prohibition of the Employment of Children Bill 2012 remained in the queue for presentation.
Right to Education
Hundreds of schools have been razed to ground by the militants in Swat, Buner, Swabi, Charsadda and other parts of the province. This has deprived many children of the right to education. The heinous attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Dec 16, 2014 has widely spread fear among the parents all over the province; and consequently the parents are reluctant to send their children to the schools.
The current government has built security walls at some of the schools while majority of the schools, particularly in rural areas are still prone to similar attacks. The government has, however, provided the teachers with mobile sets having instant information about any suspicious terrorist activity at their schools.
In its annual report “The state of Pakistan’s children 2012″, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) reported that one fourth of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan aged five to nine were out of school. Out of these, seven million children (aged three to five) were yet to receive even primary schooling. Because of such bleak figures, Pakistan ranked the second with the most out-of-school children in the world with only Nigeria ahead of it.
According to the Annual Statistical Report released by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Elementary and Secondary Education Department, there were 28,472 government schools in KP of which 27,975 were functional while 397 were non-functional. Moreover, 20% of the functional public schools had no boundary walls, 30% did not have a water supply, 42% had no electricity and 16% lacked toilet facilities.
In 2014, the incumbent government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took an initiative to improve the quality and access of education in the province, and for that it made a mechanism under the name of Independent Monitoring Unit. This unit has been monitoring all the government run schools on monthly basis. About 51% children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were enrolled in schools
Internal displacement remained widespread in FATA where actions of militant extremists, mainly the Pakistani Taliban, and military operations against them led to exodus of local residents. New displacement took place in FATA, just as residents of some of the seven tribal districts returned home.
According to UN OCHA, as many as 77,448 FATA IDPs had returned to their native areas by September 2013. These included 61,578 from Kurram, 11,400 from South Waziristan, 3,354 from Bajaur and 1,116 from Mohmand. Another 1.02 million IDPs from FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were registered by the end of 2013.
The difficulties of the returning population were not covered adequately because of poor media coverage and threats to journalists in the region. In September 2013, media reports suggested that most IDPs from Bara area of Khyber Agency were reluctant to return because of damaged infrastructure, insecurity and confusion about restoration of the writ of the state. They said that besides destruction of their houses, bridges and roads were also in a dilapidated state.
Dead bodies in gunny bags have been found in Peshawar in the last couple of years. Large groups of militants have launched attacks against government installations in places such as Peshawar and Bannu.
As many as 37 cases of missing persons were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013. Twenty eight of these people had gone missing in Buner district of Malakand division, while seven had reportedly gone missing in Orakzai and Kurram agencies in FATA. Eight victims of enforced disappearance from KP were released in 2013. All of them belonged to Buner. One of the missing persons, who had gone missing from Dera Ismail Khan, was found to be detained in Lakki Marwat Internment Centre. Dead bodies of 11 missing persons were found in FATA and KP in 2013, seven in Jamrud area of Khyber Agency and two each in Nowshera and Dera Ismail Khan. Many disappearance cases have been reported from Swat as well.
Minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkwa remain the soft target of the militants. According to the HRCP, Sikh residents of various agencies of FATA have faced abduction, intimidation and attacks by extremist militants who have gained strength there over the last decade. While these groups seek to justify their actions in the name of Islam, in areas where they hold sway Sikhs have generally been targeted in kidnappings for ransom and various methods of extortion. There has been little official action in response to militants demanding and receiving jizya (protection money for non-Muslims in a Muslim state) from Sikhs in FATA. According to reports from the community during 2013, the Taliban in Khyber Agency of FATA gave written acknowledgement receipts for the jizya they received.
The minorities who fled FATA and are residing in Peshawar don’t have enough security from the government agencies. Around 500 Sikh families reside in Peshawar, mostly in Mohallah Jogan Shah. Many of the Sikhs in Peshawar have migrated from Tirah valley in Khyber Agency as well as Orakzai and Kurram tribal districts of FATA due to the ongoing militancy and lawlessness there. Twenty policemen were deployed at Mohallah Jogan Shah following Rakbir Singh’s abduction in January, as the community voiced concern over insecurity amid incidents of kidnapping and mugging. In early February, all 20 policemen were withdrawn, prompting protests by the Sikh residents.
On September 22, 2013 two suicide attackers targeted the All Saints Church in Peshawar, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The attackers struck just as the Sunday service had concluded and hundreds of worshippers were about to leave. The attackers shot and killed two policemen standing guard outside the church. There remain wide differences regarding the number of fatalities in the attack; the government and the media reported around 85 people had died and over 100 injured. But members of the community claimed twice as many people had been killed. The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main extremist militant group blamed for most terrorist acts in the country, denied involvement. Another militant group claimed responsibility, saying that the assault was revenge for killing of innocent people in US drone attacks and adding that they would continue killing ‘foreigners’ in Pakistan as long as drone strikes continued. The federal and provincial governments announced three days of mourning but did not do much to go after the perpetrators. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province announced Rs 500,000 compensation for the family of each deceased.
Violence against women
Domestic violence against women in Khyber Pakhtunkkwa usually goes unnoticed because of no monitoring and reporting. Any act regarding women to go public is regarded ‘shameful’ by the people; as they deem it against their ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’.
The government also turns its back towards such incidents. The famous video scandal in the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is an example of an incident where the then government tried to sweep it under the rug.
Measures to protect human rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
In 2009 the Peshawar High Court has established a Human Rights Directorate for the protection of human rights. According to media reports by the end of 2012 the directorate had received 12,000 complaints. The Peshawar High Court was able to manage 87% of all the complaints. Whether the directorate at the Peshawar High Court is still functional is a question that still needs to be answered. The courts in Pakistan went silent on human rights after the National Action Plan.
Laws on Human Rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa became the first province to enact the right to information measure as a law. In early 2014 the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed an Act called The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Promotion, Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights Act 2014. Under this Act establishment of a Human Rights Directorate was suggested.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elimination of Custom of Ghag Act, 2013; January 8; to eliminate the custom of Ghag – a practice whereby a man forcibly demands or claims the hand of a woman in marriage.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Civil Servants (Amendment) Act, 2013; January 8; to give employees the right to pension and gratuity on retirement.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Act, 2013; March 6; to ensure that owners of presses, newspapers and news agencies pay salaries to their employees as per the Wage Board Award.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2013; October 31; to establish and regulate local government institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act, 2013; November; to ensure transparency and access to information in the province.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Ordinance (RTIO), 2013; August 13; to set up an independent information commission and make obstruction in access to any record a penal offence punishable with imprisonment up to two years.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Promotion, Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights Ordinance, 2013; December 13; to enable the provincial directorate of human rights to investigate human rights violations and help the victims.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Deserving Widows and Special Persons Welfare Foundation Ordinance, 2013; December 17; for establishing a welfare foundation to assist widows and handicapped persons.
- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Promotion, Protection and Enforcement of Human Rights Act 2014.
[Mr. Zubair Torwali is Executive Director Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT) and
Member HRCP, Human Rights activist based in Swat]