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Friday, May 24, 2024

Pakistan Grapples with Economic Turmoil and Human Rights Concerns: HRW

The HRW report underscores the impact of austerity measures, climate vulnerability, and the need for international collaboration in the face of economic hardships.

Pakistan faced a severe economic crisis in 2023, marked by soaring poverty, inflation, and unemployment, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) insistence on austerity measures and subsidy removal without compensatory measures exacerbated hardships for low-income groups. The country’s vulnerability to climate change further heightened, experiencing warming rates considerably above the global average, leading to more frequent and intense extreme climate events.

Human Rights Concerns

The HRW report highlighted increasing repression by governments in Asia, negatively impacting human rights locally and internationally. In Pakistan, threats and attacks on the media created a climate of fear among journalists and civil society groups, leading to self-censorship. The government’s regulation of International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) impeded the functioning of international humanitarian and human rights groups.

Violence against women and girls, including “honour killings,” remained a serious issue, with an estimated 1,000 women murdered annually. The conviction rate for rape in Pakistan was less than three percent. Additionally, millions of school-age children, predominantly girls, were out of school due to various factors, including child marriage, harmful child labor, and gender discrimination.

Economic Challenges and International Relations

The economic crisis was further exacerbated by depreciating currency, skyrocketing inflation, and the removal of subsidies without adequate compensatory measures. The country faced food insecurity, affecting nearly 37 percent of the population. On an international level, the European Union proposed extending Pakistan’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status, providing trade preferences and access to the European market.

In July, the US Secretary of State and Pakistani Foreign Minister acknowledged positive momentum in bilateral relations. Pakistan and China continued to deepen economic ties, with ongoing work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

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Pakistan’s political landscape witnessed changes with the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif clamping down on the media, NGOs, and political opposition. The HRW report called for bold new approaches from rights-respecting governments and democratic institutions in the face of the threats posed by abusive governments in Asia to human rights domestically and internationally.