Pakistan's leading human rights organization has documented an alarming rise in violence against minorities and women as part of a broadly dismal rights situation in the country.
In its annual report
released on April 24, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) documented the killing of 687 people in more than 200 sectarian attacks in 2013.
The report said the attacks rose by nearly 25 percent last year compared to 2012. Members of the tiny Shi'ite Hazara community in the southwestern province of Balochistan, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis have been the main victims of violence against minorities.
Hussain Naqi, an HRCP spokesman, told Radio Free Afghanistan that both inter-communal violence in the form of Muslim extremists targeting non-Muslim minorities, and violence between Muslim groups involving attacks by Sunni extremists against Shi'ite communities are on the rise.
In addition, Naqi said, "It is multi-faceted, but more violence has taken place against the Christian minority. Their churches have been bombed, their homes have been burnt and the extremists have found excuses to attack them."
Regarding treatment of members of the Hindu minority, "their girls are being picked and they are falsely implicated in love affairs, and then they are forced to convert [to Islam],” he said.
HRCP's report offered a bleak assessment of the plight of women in Pakistan.
The report says that at least 869 women lost their lives in honor killings in the country last year. More than 800 Pakistani women are documented as having committed suicide in 2013.
Farzana Bari, a women’s rights campaigner, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the lack of institutional safeguards leaves women vulnerable to abuse. "The government continues to fail in protecting women’s rights. The courts often fail to deliver justice to women, which helps promote a culture of impunity."
The report says that only 18 percent of Pakistani women have secondary or higher education, and 28 percent are formally counted in the workforce.
The report documents a decline in freedom of expression in Pakistan as a result of threats and violence against journalists. It said that 11 journalists were killed and many more injured in 2013, and that "impunity continued for perpetrators of attacks on journalists."
Although Pakistan boasts hundreds of electronic and print outlets, it is ranked 159th out of 179 countries surveyed in Reporters Without Border's World Freedom Index.
Addressing the plight of children, the HRCP report estimates that approximately 800,000 children die in Pakistan each year of polio, dengue fever, and malnutrition.
Only 1.6 million Pakistani workers, out of a labor force of 59 million, have access to social security, while unemployment continues to grow.
The report also says an estimated two million Pakistanis are trapped in various forms of modern-day slavery.
Farishta Jalalzai and Riaz Musakhel contributed reporting.