Call for introducing RTI law in AJK

MUZAFFARABAD:  While most provinces and regions of Pakistan have enacted right to information laws, Azad Jammu and Kashmir is among the few regions which have yet to introduce such a law.

In this regard, the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) conducted the first-ever introductory session on the need and significance of the right to information (RTI) laws for government officials and media of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

While presiding over the session, Secretary Information Mansoor Qadir Dar appreciated the initiative to enhance the capacity of officials and journalists. 

He added that there was no standard operating procedure in AJK for a citizen to get information from government departments. However, he urged all to work together to devise a legislation on RTI in AJK.

AJK Law Department Section officer Muhammad Nawaz stated that their department has drafted a bill on RTI which has been pending before the Parliament for years but has not received any attention from lawmakers.

During the session, participants were briefed about their constitutional right to know what the government was doing while the importance of enacting an RTI law in AJK was crucial for ensuring the transparent working of government departments.

AJK DGPR Raja Azhar Iqbal proposed holding a series of sessions to get the RTI legislation off the ground.

“Like other regions of Pakistan, AJK should also enact RTI law to promote a culture of public participation in government affairs. The government of AJK should prioritise the legislation on RTI to protect citizen’s fundamental right to know,” stressed CPDI Executive Director Amer Ejaz.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2017.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1588154/1-call-introducing-rti-law-ajk/

Above the law

There are certain areas under the law which are beyond the information seekers

 
Above the law
Exemptions mentioned in the right to information acts of the provinces and the federal government are questionable for making important information inaccessible, experts say.

While KP, Punjab, Sindh and the federal government have enacted their specific right to information laws over the last few years, Balochistan has the same old Balochistan Freedom of Information Act (FOI), 2005.

The Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013, for example, says, “A public information officer may refuse an application for access to information where disclosure of the information shall or is likely to cause harm to — (a) national defence or security, public order or international relations of Pakistan, (b) a legitimate privacy interest, unless the person concerned has consented to disclosure of the information; (c) the protection of legally privileged information or of the rules relating to breach of confidence; (d) the legitimate commercial interests of a public body or a third party, including information subject to third party intellectual property rights; and (e) the life, health or safety of any person,” among a few others.

Zahra believes though that the exemptions in RTI laws in Punjab, KP, and Sindh are comparatively reasonable because the lists are narrowly drawn.

Do the exemptions serve the purpose of providing important information to ordinary citizens? “If the primary objective of a law is to promote access to government-held information to citizens then exemptions on categories of information accessible negate the concept and defeat the purpose of the exercise,” says Adnan Rehmat, senior media analyst.

The Balochistan Freedom of Information Act, 2005, for instance, is cited as being even worse when it comes to exemptions in the way of seeking information. In the same way, the federal government’s Right of Access to Information Act 2017 also bars access to the official record of armed forces, defence installations, details of individuals’ bank accounts, defence, and issues of national security, etc. Analysts believe the federal Right of Access to Information Act 2017 is as restrictive as the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 that it repeals.

“The FOI in Balochistan is not clear as to what is accessible and what is not. In the same way, the federal law on the right to information passed in October 2017 does not offer much as it has three lists,” says Moonis Kainat Zahra, Project Manager, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI).

Read also: Editorial

“Under the federal law on RTI, information for entries under the first list is accessible, information under the second category is not to be provided, while information for subjects under the third list is conditional upon certain things. This leaves people confused,” she explains.

Zahra believes though that the exemptions in RTI laws in Punjab, KP, and Sindh are comparatively reasonable because the lists are narrowly drawn. “The exemptions mentioned in laws of the three provinces appear to be rather clear on paper,” she mentions but is quick to add, “On the ground though, people still face a lot of difficulties, such as delays and refusals in KP and Punjab.”

Under the federal law on RTI, the minister in-charge of a concerned government department can declare any information classified. “The law authorises a minister to refuse any information, irrespective of it being classified or available. This is questionable. It should be for the commission to decide,” she believes.

Adnan Rehmat agrees, “The trick is to minimise exemptions based on defining an exemption. The best touchstone for outlining the parameters of any exemption is ‘public good’. Any information that is required by citizens to make informed decisions on issues that can help them enforce their fundamental rights cannot be exempt from access,” he says, adding, “Any person, office or function financed with taxpayer’s money should not be exempted.”

Chapter four of CPDI’s country briefing paper on right to information in Pakistan, titled, “Countering Secrecy Narrative through RTI,” says “The key pillars of secrecy narrative in the country like national security, threat to safety of public officials, privacy of elected representatives and public officials and damage to country’s relations with other countries need to be seen in relationship with public interest.”

Rehmat explains public interest even further, “The no-harm principle determines the nature of exemption. Even then, in the context of access to information, no exemption comes with absolutes. All exemptions, however limited, must come qualified — the right to know is premised on the assurance of utility.” He says the information that cannot be used “for the benefit of public is merely a restriction designed to obfuscate, not empower”.

Resource for journalists

Most journalists are unaware of the existence and potential of the law for good journalism

 
Resource for journalists

According to a survey conducted in 2016 by Data Stories and Journalism Pakistan, nearly 76 per cent of the respondents said that they had never used the right to information (RTI) laws to access data, while over 97 per cent believed that official data was not easily available in the country.

Khalid Khattak, senior reporter with The News, and founder of Data Stories, believes that the use of RTI still remains low, at least in the Punjab. “It’s a mix of reasons,” he says. “Not only are journalists unaware that laws exist which empower them to access public information, but key posts of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner at the Punjab Information Commission (PIC) have both been lying vacant for months.

These vacant posts have created a gap in the process of RTI, as it is the PIC which intervenes to help get information for journalists and other individuals in case of non-compliance of the public body from whom information has been sought. Still, Khattak says that prior to the posts becoming vacant, he had used the RTI numerous times successfully.

However, Khattak is a minority. Numerous journalists and reporters that I spoke to said that although they have heard of the RTI, they haven’t used it.

Across the border in India, the use of RTI by journalists is widespread. “The biggest proof of its success is that many RTI activists have been killed,” says Shivam Vij, a journalist based in Delhi.

In Islamabad, there is the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), and one of the things they do is conduct workshops across the country to create awareness on RTI and help journalists and others to submit requests for information.

Syed Raza Ali, who is the coordinator, says that “the ratio of information sharing has gone down in Punjab.” Apart from the posts lying vacant, Raza says that numerous public bodies have not installed public information officers, something mandated by law. The PIOs are supposed to provide information requested via the RTI. Raza says that after the local bodies elections, posts were revised and new notifications were to be issued, but that never happened.

Still, via the CPDI, between 300 and 400 information requests were made during 2017, and according to Raza, there has been minimal response.

Read also: Common concern

On the face of it, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seems to have a better RTI set up in place. The commission is fully manned, and public bodies have information officers in place. However, according to Iftikhar Firdous, from The Express Tribune, all is not well there either.

“Information that benefits the department (from whom it is being gained) is readily available,” he says. “But things that should be public knowledge yet go against the sarkari mindset are difficult to retrieve.” Firdous reveals that RTIs have been submitted on things as basic as asking how much money was donor funded into government departments, and there has been no reply in over a year.

Another problem in KP is the fact that although there are people in place, the law is lacking. Issues such as the mechanism to fine PIOs who deny information to individuals still remain unresolved. At the same time, the law does not bind the government to appoint new information commissioners when the incumbent commissioners complete their tenure.

And importantly, the fact that the RTI law does not extend to the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). “The request sent by the KP Home and Tribal Affairs department for extending the RTI law to PATA has been waiting for the President’s approval for more than two years,” Firdous reveals.

The other two provinces have completely different challenges when it comes to RTI. The Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act 2016 was approved in March 2017, following which the Sindh Information Commission was to be formed within 60 days, to oversee the implementation of the law. The commission has still not been formed.

“The response rate to RTI is zero,” says Ali. And the case is no better in Balochistan. Under the prevailing law in the province, the main appellate is the provincial ombudsman who has no authority to impose fines on non-compliance to RTI requests.

While the right to information is fundamental for journalists, it is equally important for other sections of society, including rights groups. Bytes for All is a digital rights and advocacy group based in Islamabad. Their experience with RTI is telling.

“67 requests, and zero replies,” says Shahzad Ahmed, the country director, of Bytes for All. “We did have one reply, but it doesn’t count, because the information provided had nothing to do with what we had asked for.” To make matters worse, in the aftermath of one of their requests, the group received a threatening email, asking them the reasons for wanting the information requests.

Across the border in India, the use of RTI by journalists is widespread. “The biggest proof of its success is that many RTI activists have been killed,” says Shivam Vij, a journalist based in Delhi. “However, the deaths have not slowed down its use at all.”

Vij says that while the bureaucracy is very opposed to RTI and does its best to not give information, the law is strong, so it works somewhat. He adds that whenever there has been an attempt to undermine RTI, activists have rallied against the move. “RTI happened through social movements,” he says.

Here in Pakistan, however, the awareness that RTI laws even exist remains its number one problem.

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/resource-journalists

Case study

“No information even after four months” Riaz Khan, a mediaperson based in Peshawar, submitted an …

 
Case study

“No information even after four months”

Riaz Khan, a mediaperson based in Peshawar, submitted an application four months ago, asking for the salaries, incentives for officials and funding for various projects of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Company Limited (KPOGCL). He is yet to get the information.

“I submitted the application in August. After waiting for two months, I filed an application to the Information Commissioner,” says Riaz Khan. “The officials of the KPOGCL appeared before the Commissioner and argued that the required information was exempted from RTI. The Commissioner, however, told the officials that the required information was not exempted and directed to provide it immediately.”

“I am yet to get the information. The Commissioner has issued notice to the department. Let’s see how they respond to it,” he adds.

Khan submitted another application to the Finance Department of the KP government on November 11 to know about the projects under the Annual Development Programme and Chief Minister’s Special Initiative in Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Swabi and Dera Ismail Khan since 2013. “The application was returned to me after a few days because I had not attached with it a copy of my CNIC. I resubmitted the application with the required documents on November 20 and now am waiting for it. The department is required to provide the information within 15 days under the RTI Act,” he says.

Javed2

“Information provided within ten days”

The Center for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), a Peshawar-based organisation, submitted 123 applications under the RTI to different provincial government departments and 17 districts all over the province. The information the organisation required was mostly related to the office of the deputy commissioners, district police officers, district health officers and district education officers.

“We have submitted 123 requests under the RTI to 17 district administrations and five departments of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government during the last few months,” informs Masood Malik, Programme Manager CGPA.

“Out of all the submitted 123 applications, we were provided information on 26 applications by the concerned departments within ten working days.  These applications were mainly on budget, allocation of funds and information for the welfare of the public,” Malik adds.

Read also: Above the law

The CGPA received the required information within 20 working days on 31 occasions. Similarly, on 12 occasions the information was provided after 20 days.

“We have submitted 54 complaints with the RTI Commissioner during the last many months in cases where we were not given the required information by the concerned departments,” informs Malik.

Under the RTI Act, a fine may be imposed on a department if it fails to provide the information in prescribed time.

“We have trained the local communities in Mardan and other districts on the RTI so they can get information about the projects being carried out in their areas. The local community recently submitted an application to know about the funds being allocated for 30 tubewells in the Mardan district,” says Anwar Khan, executive director of the CGPA.

Javed Aziz

“Law is implemented”

The Executive District Officer (EDO) Education Vehari was penalised for denying information requested by an applicant, says Syed Raza Ali Shah, Senior Programme Officer at CPDI. “A teacher, Arif Noor of Government Islamia High School, Vehari had requested for seniority list of teachers and a copy of inquiry report against him under the RTI law but the EDO did not respond.

“Noor attended a training session conducted by CPDI in 2014 and was guided by the organisation on how to use RTI laws for his benefit. He was concerned about his promotion and losing out to other aspirants so he requested for the seniority list,” Shah informs. The EDO initiated an inquiry against him and did not provide the seniority list. Instead, he initiated an inquiry against Noor perhaps to punish him for questioning him, he adds.

Noor approached CPDI for help. “We helped him pursue his case and take the complaint to the Punjab Information Commission formed under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.” The court issued repeated orders but the EDO remained defiant and did not provide the required the information.

“So, the commission issued orders to deduct two months’ salary of the EDO and ordered the concerned department to take action against him. The EDO had to face an inquiry and was transferred from the district as well. The applicant received the required information.”

But unfortunately, he says, “the commission is dormant because all three information commissioners have retired after completion of their three-year tenure and new ones are yet to be appointed.”

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/case-study

Common concern

People are gradually coming to know about the laws and having their first experiences with the process of acquiring information

 
Common concern

The citizens’ right to information has been secured in the Constitution of Pakistan which empowers them to make governments accountable. Under the Right to Information (RTI) laws citizens can ask the government about any information that they consider important and in the public interest.

Are the citizens aware of and adequately benefitting from these laws? Who can benefit from RTI laws and how many are actually using these?

On losing a contract, Jehanzeb Khan (not his real name), a government contractor in Lahore, was advised by the staff of the concerned department to seek information about the particulars of the successful bidder, his experience and track record, under the Punjab RTI law. The purpose was to challenge the award of the contract if it was against the rules. After some contemplation, though, Khan decided against it.

What stopped him from doing this was that he did not want to face the wrath of the influential officers because he did not want to be sidelined for future contracts or get his outstanding payments delayed. However, the good thing was that he came to know about the existence of these laws.

There are examples where the RTI requests facilitated by CPDI have led to the disclosure that 284 health units in Punjab were without doctors and 2,000 schools without head teachers. The request about schools was filed by Khalid Khattak, a journalist from Lahore, and also taken up by the CPDI.

Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, former information commissioner, Punjab, says government departments are a good source for spreading awareness about RTI laws among the masses “though the pace is quite slow”. Ali informs that the Punjab Information Commission (PIC), during its three-year tenure, had trained 1,000 government officers on RTI laws and issued instructions on more than 4,000 complaints it received.

The requests accommodated by the departments and answered accordingly are in addition to these. “When there is so much activity within the government sector the word will get out to the masses,” says Ali.

He says, during the last three years a large number of teachers from educational institutions like UET, PU and GCU sought information about the appointment and promotion procedures and details of degrees, experience, education, etc, of successful candidates. Then there were civil servants who sought details of inquiry reports against them or their colleagues. A large number of complaints were regarding service matters as relevant information may help applicants pursue their cases.

Read also: Case study

Sarmad Ali, a Lahore-based lawyer, is a regular filer of RTI requests. He believes a lot of burden on high courts can be reduced if lawyers start invoking RTI laws to get access to FIRs and supplementary statements in criminal cases as these are subject cases of many writ petitions. “Though police is reluctant to share these, a PIC decision declaring them public documents is already there.”

Similarly, he says, “documents procured through RTI requests can help lawyers strengthen their cases in civil and trial courts but they do not use these frequently.”

A recent request made by Sarmad Ali to the Principal Information Officers (PIOs) of 25 public sector universities in Punjab was about the criteria they had adopted to hire visiting faculty. All of them replied they were following the criteria set by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) but he found out that many visiting faculty members were engaged in sheer violation of rules. He has also filed a request with the Hazara University, KP, “seeking details about their sports budget and whether they had used it properly or not.”

About the general use of RTI laws, Syed Raza Ali Shah, Senior Programme Officer, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), thinks its use is increasing gradually. He says, “the response to RTI in Balochistan, Sindh and the federal government is far from satisfactory. It is better in KP and Punjab. This is because only these two provinces have had information commissions that helped people get information.”

Under the new laws, the federal and Sindh governments are supposed to form information commissions but they have not done that. “We have filed requests with different governments but we haven’t ever received a response from Balochistan. It’s time they get rid of their archaic RTI law,” says Shah.

A boy in KP, Shah says, applied for a job and appeared in the written test but later found that the job had been advertised again. He filed an RTI request to get the results of the test and the answer sheet he had used. The concerned department refused to accommodate him but on the orders of the KP Information Commission, his demand was fulfilled and it was revealed that he had stood first in the exams. He approached the Peshawar High Court (PHC) with the documents and ultimately got that job.”

There are examples where the RTI requests facilitated by CPDI have led to the disclosure that 284 health units in Punjab were without doctors and 2,000 schools without head teachers. The request about schools was filed by Khalid Khattak, a journalist from Lahore, and also taken up by the CPDI.

The CPDI is holding dialogue with the governments of Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. “The agenda is how to come up with citizens-friendly RTI laws. Street theatres, awareness talks, seminars, community outreach programmes are also being used to create awareness about RTI laws in different parts of the country,” Shah says.

Azmat Hanif Orakzai, Chief Information Commissioner, KP is quite upbeat about the use of RTI law in the province. He says as per their database, around 10,000 citizens have filed requests since 2014, of which 7000 have been answered by the concerned departments. Of the remaining 3,000 brought to the commission, 2,500 have been disposed of by the commission while 500 are being heard.

Orakzai says a major benefit is that government departments have become cautious whereas the citizens are feeling empowered. “There have been a lot of requests about departmental budgets, expenditures, grant of permits/contracts, appointments and so on. The KP government is promoting transparency. The introduction of a law protecting whistleblowers is a proof of this.”

18 women face heinous crimes daily in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Like Qandeel Baluch of Multan and the 16-year-old girl of Dera Ismail Khan, about 18 women of Pakistan face heinous crimes every day in four provinces of the country as they are murdered, raped, or killed in the name of honour, fresh official data collected by The News revealed. While experts believe a large number of crimes against women remain unreported in the country due to cultural and other reasons, even the reported cases show an alarming trend. So far this year alone, at least 274 women have been killed in the name of honour, 206 gang-raped, 2840 raped, and 681 have been murdered across the country, the data of registered cases. In total, more than 5660 crimes were reported against women in Pakistan’s four provinces during the first 10 months of the year. Such is the gravity of the situation that even when this story was being complied, the news channels reported a fresh gang rape of a physically challenged 16-year-old girl in Faisalabad at the hands of unknown multiple culprits.

As expected, Punjab, the most populous province of the country is worst in terms of number of crimes. More than 3400 women faced heinous crimes in the province during first six months of the year. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported lowest number of crimes against women with 202 cases between January 1st to June 30, 2017. Sindh witnessed 1704 crimes in first 10 months of the year while Balochistan reported 354 cases during the same period.

Experts believe reporting of crime is better in Punjab and Sindh which may explain the higher number of recorded crimes in these provinces while in KP and Balochistan, tribal culture and Jirga system discourages women from reporting crimes.

 

However if we compare the numbers with population of respective provinces under 2017 census, Sindh is worst in terms of violence against women per person with 61 crimes per million people. Punjab witnessed 31 crimes against women per million people while KP witnesses 6.6 crimes per million and Balochistan saw 28.6 crimes per million people.

Pakistani media discussed in detail the murder of Qandeel Baluch, a social media celebrity from southern Punjab who was killed in the name of honor allegedly by his brother and a 16-year-old girl of DI Khan who was paraded naked for his brothers’ alleged “crime”. However a majority of other cases involving violence against women largely remained absent from the discourse on mainstream media during the year.

Punjab:

The data obtained through provincial right to information (RTI) law shows that despite pro-women legislation and increase in women quota in provincial parliament, violent crimes against women are on the rise across Punjab with over 3400 incidents of murder, honor killing, gang rape and acid burning during first six months of 2017. Over all in the province, 87 women were killed in the name of honor in first six months of 2017 alone. As many as 2608 women have been raped, 159 were gang- raped and 337 were murdered so far this year. The province has a population of 110 million according to fresh census conducted this year.

 

Talking to The News a top government official said the provincial government is fully committed to protect women rights and even Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself makes sure that action is taken against culprits involved in heinous crimes.

“Earlier this year the Chief Minister himself visited a 16-year-old victim of the ‘revenge rape’ in Multan which was carried out on the order of a panchayat (informal village council). He suspended the entire police station and also some senior officials for negligence and all the 13 culprits were arrested which shows the resolve of the government against such crime,” says Fauzia Waqar, Chairperson Punjab Commission on the Status of women, a government body aimed at improving women rights in the province.

When asked about highest number of crimes in the country in Punjab she said the province represents 55% population of the country and it has better reporting system. However she admitted that southern Punjab lags behind other parts of the province in terms of women rights owing to lack of education, tribal culture and police mind-set.

“Violence against women is worst in these southern districts despite government efforts to prioritise these areas in development funds,” Ms Waqar said. In Muzaffargarh 25 women were murdered, three killed in the name of honour, 7 gang-raped and 124 raped during first six months of 2017. The district top the chart when it comes to crimes against women with 356 cases for this period surpassing Lahore, the Capital and the most populous district of Punjab which witnessed 219 such crimes during the same period. In Rahim Yar Khan, 297 crimes were committed against women while in Vehari 285 such cases were reported according to police data obtained by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). Over all in Punjab, the data shows 337 women have been murdered, 87 killed in the name of honor, 1365 raped and 84 gang-raped between January to June 2017.

“Yes the data shows increase in number of crimes against women in the province but there could be various factors contributing to this phenomenon. Firstly, the population of the province is increasing so the ratio of crime may remain the same but the number will increase. Secondly after the introduction of 18 new laws for the protection of women, more women are encouraged to report violence against them which shows hike in numbers,” Fauzia Waqar said.

She said in southern Punjab police sometime does not report the cases. “We also have feudal mindset in some parts of the province which contributes to crime against women. Overall a lot of work is still needed to be done to ensure protection of women rights in the province,” she said.

The data for the year 2016 shows 7313 crimes against women in the province with Rahim Yar Khan being the most violent district with 636 crimes, followed by Vehari with 615 and Muzaffargarh with 550 crime incidents. The Capital Lahore remained number four with 547 crimes against women.

In 2015, 6505 crimes were reported against women in Punjab whereas Rahim Yar Khan against remained the most violent district with 794 crimes followed by Vehari with 747 incidents and Multan with 659 crimes. Lahore remained number four with 508 incidents and Muzaffargarh remained number five with 326 such crimes.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:

Although the number of reported crimes against women is lowest in KP, the experts believe the tribal culture and Jirga system discourages many women from reporting crimes against them. The police data obtained from KP shows 202 crimes against women in first six months of this year but surprisingly there is not a single reported incident of sexual or physical harassment in the province. As many as 97 women were murdered in the province during this period while 24 were killed in the name of honor. There were 72 rape cases and six incidents of domestic violence in the province. In comparison, last year’s data show the province witnessed 211 murders, 44 honor killing, 163 rapes and one gang-rape incident along with cases of 24 domestic violence and one acid burning. The province witnessed 112 incidents of physical harassment last year.

Despite repeated attempts the Chairperson of Provincial Commission on Status of Women Neelam Toro did not respond to The News for her version.

 

However prominent women rights activist in KP, Rukhshanda Naz who is also a member of UN women Civil Society Advisory Group in Pakistan said crimes against women are relatively low in the province due to some cultural reasons. But she admitted low reporting in tribal areas.

“Firstly in tribal areas every household has gun so criminals would think twice before targeting a women in those areas. Secondly, even if the crime against women occurs people will not report it to police and instead go for resolution through a Jirga,” Toro said.

She said the cases of sexual harassment are not reported in the province as there is no mechanism to report such crimes in business or government organisations. When it comes to honor killing, the crime is hidden as the relative would term it suicide, she added.

“Sometime people do not report rape or harassment as they do not trust the justice system. They do not want to get embarrassed in the society especially when they are skeptical about chances of getting justice”, Toro who also runs a civil society organisation “Legal Aid and Awareness Services” said.

 

Toro said domestic violence is accepted in some parts of KP as symbol of a man’s “power” and “honour”.

She said in the notorious case of parading a 16-year-old girl in Dera Ismail Khan, an influential politician was allegedly involved which made it extremely difficult for the victim to get justice. She stressed the need for proper collection of data on crime against women in the province.

Sindh:

The province witnessed 2934 crimes against women in just 10 months of this year. As many as 57 women were killed in the name of honour during this period while 215 were murdered in Sindh. More than 156 women in Karachi and other parts of Sindh were raped while 47 have been gang-raped so far this year in the province. The province also witnessed 135 kidnapping of women, 1099 abduction and three forced marriages. So far this year, not a single person was convicted for these crimes although 1316 people have been arrested out of total 3553 accused.

Last year, the rural Sindh witnessed 100 incidents of honor killing, 165 rapes and 13 gang rapes, 5 acid attacks and six forced marriages while total crimes against women remained 2817. For all these crimes committed in 2016 just 7 convictions have been made.

While contacted for version, Justice (R) Mrs. Majida Razvi, Chairperson of official Sindh Human Rights Commission said the provincial government is showing political will to fight crime against women but it is facing challenges in implementation.

“Sindh has come up with highest number of women protection laws during last few years but it would take some time to change the mindset in the society,” Justice Razvi said. She said influential people in Sindh do not allow proper prosecution involving crimes against women.

“There is also lack of awareness in police and law enforcement agencies about women rights but the commission is trying to train police in this regard,” she said adding that Jirga system is also a big impediment in improving women rights in the province.

Balochistan:

Although the province witnesses 354 crimes against women during the first 10 months of this year, the per capita crime average is not very encouraging in this province if we compare it to other federating units of Pakistan. The province which has a population of 12.3 million according to 2017 census, witnesses 28.6 crimes against women per million people. According to police data the province witnessed 24 incidents of honour killing, 32 incidents of murders, four of rape and zero incident of gang-rape. The province witnessed 84 incidents of domestic violence. Last year, the province witnessed 371 crimes against women including 43 murders, 31 honour killings, five rapes and one gang-rape. Two incidents of acid throwing and 105 incidents of domestic violence were also reported in 2016.

The human rights expert like Rukhshanda Naz believes the data in Balochistan is highly under-reported owing to tribal culture and volatile law and order situation in the province.