Human Rights in Pakistan

Human Rights in Pakistan

Introduction to Human Rights in Pakistan


In Pakistan, the concept of human rights is deeply intertwined with both the nation’s constitutional framework and its Islamic heritage. As a country with a rich cultural and religious diversity, Pakistan’s approach to human rights is informed by a blend of constitutional mandates, Islamic principles, and international human rights commitments. This complex tapestry shapes the legal and social landscape of human rights within the country, offering a unique perspective on their protection and promotion.

Human rights in Pakistan are not just legal mandates but also integral aspects of the social fabric. The Constitution of Pakistan, alongside Islamic teachings (i.e. Muhammadan Law), provides a foundational basis for these rights, underscoring their importance in every sphere of life. The country’s commitment to international human rights norms, as evidenced by its ratification of various international treaties, further reinforces the legal and moral obligations to uphold these fundamental rights.

Constitutional Provisions and Human Rights


The Constitution of Pakistan serves as the cornerstone for the protection and enforcement of human rights. It enshrines a range of fundamental rights that lay the groundwork for a just and equitable society.


  1. Article 9 (Security of Person): Guarantees individual security, protecting against arbitrary arrest and detention.
  2. Article 10 (Safeguards as to Arrest and Detention): Ensures due process and legal safeguards in case of arrest and detention.
  3. Article 10A (Right to Fair Trial): Affirms the right to a fair trial and due process for every citizen.
  4. Article 11 (Slavery, Forced Labor, and Child Labor): Prohibits slavery, forced labor, and child labor, ensuring personal freedom and dignity.
  5. Article 12 (Protection against Retrospective Punishment): Protects against punishment under retrospective laws or actions.
  6. Article 14 (Inviolability of Dignity of Man): Upholds the dignity of every individual, prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment.
  7. Article 15 (Freedom of Movement): Ensures freedom of movement within the country for all citizens.
  8. Article 16 (Freedom of Assembly): Guarantees the right to protest and assemble peacefully without arms.
  9. Article 17 (Freedom of Association): Protects the right to form associations and unions.
  10. Article 18 (Freedom of Trade, Business, and Profession): Allows citizens to engage in any lawful trade, business, or profession.
  11. Article 19 (Freedom of Speech): Secures freedom of speech and expression, subject to reasonable restrictions for specific reasons.
  12. Article 19A (Right to Information): Grants the right to access information in matters of public importance.
  13. Article 20 (Freedom to Profess Religion and to Manage Religious Institutions): Ensures freedom to profess religion and manage religious institutions.
  14. Article 21 (Safeguard against Taxation for Purposes of any Particular Religion): Protects against taxation for supporting any particular religion.
  15. Article 22 (Safeguards as to Educational Institutions in Respect of Religion, etc.): Protects against discrimination in educational institutions on religious grounds.
  16. Article 23 (Provision as to Property): Confers the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property in any part of Pakistan.
  17. Article 24 (Protection of Property Rights): Safeguards property rights and prohibits arbitrary deprivation of property.
  18. Article 25 (Equality of Citizens): Ensures equality before the law and prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex.
  19. Article 25A (Right to Education): Mandates the state to provide free and compulsory education to children aged five to sixteen years.
  20. Article 26 (Non-discrimination in Respect of Access to Public Places): Prohibits discrimination in access to public places on various grounds.
  21. Article 27 (Safeguard against Discrimination in Services): Protects against discrimination in services and employment on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, or place of birth.
  22. Article 28 (Preservation of Language, Script, and Culture): Allows any section of citizens with a distinct language, script, or culture to preserve and promote it.


These articles collectively form the backbone of human rights in the Constitution of Pakistan, covering a broad spectrum of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights. The Constitution not only enumerates these rights but also provides mechanisms for their enforcement, such as the High Courts’ power to enforce fundamental rights through writs. It acts as a legal framework within which all other laws and policies are formulated and interpreted, ensuring that they align with the fundamental principles of human rights.


Islamic Perspective on Human Rights


In Pakistan, where Islam is the state religion, the principles of human rights are deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and jurisprudence. This perspective is integral to understanding the country’s approach to human rights.


The Quran, Islam’s holy book, emphasizes the inherent dignity and equality of all individuals. It underscores principles such as justice (‘Adl), benevolence (Ihsan), and compassion (Rahma), which are foundational to human rights.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”(Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13)


Integration of Islamic Teachings in Legal Framework


Islamic teachings have been integrated into Pakistan’s legal system, influencing laws and practices, especially in personal and family matters. The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance (1961) is an example, reflecting Islamic principles in the context of family law.

The establishment of the Federal Shariat Court, which reviews laws to ensure they conform with Islamic injunctions, further exemplifies the integration of Islamic principles in legal processes.


Upholding Civil Rights in Pakistan


Pakistan’s legal framework, deeply rooted in both constitutional and Islamic principles, seeks to uphold various civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, though challenges in enforcement and practice persist.

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression
    • Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, but it is subject to several restrictions, including those pertaining to the glory of Islam, the integrity, security, or defense of Pakistan, or public order and morality.
    • The digital realm, particularly social media, has become a contemporary battleground for this freedom, with laws like the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (2016) impacting online expression and defining some as Cybercrimes in Pakistan.
  • Freedom of Religion and Belief
    • Article 20 provides for freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions, reflecting Pakistan’s commitment to religious freedom despite ongoing challenges faced by religious minorities.
    • Issues like blasphemy laws, which are occasionally reported as being misused, pose significant challenges to this freedom.
  • Freedom of Assembly and Association
    • The right to assemble peacefully and without arms and the right to form associations or unions are enshrined in Articles 16 and 17 respectively.
    • These rights are crucial for civil society, political parties, and labor unions, though they are sometimes restricted under various pretenses, including national security.
  • The Complexities of Civil Liberties
    • While the legal framework provides for these fundamental freedoms, their actual practice is often marred by various societal, political, and administrative challenges.
    • The balance between maintaining public order and protecting civil liberties remains a complex and ongoing issue in Pakistan.


Economic Freedom and Property Rights in Pakistan


In Pakistan, economic rights and the freedom to engage in business activities are fundamental aspects of human rights, encompassing the right to work, earn a livelihood, and own property. The Constitution of Pakistan implicitly supports economic rights through various provisions. Article 18 guarantees the right to enter any lawful profession or occupation and to conduct any lawful trade or business.

The Protection of Economic Reforms Act (1992) and other business-related laws provide a legal framework for business activities, ensuring the protection of entrepreneurs and investors. Property rights, including land ownership, are safeguarded under Pakistani law. The Land Acquisition Act and other related legislation regulate property rights and transactions, aiming to protect owners and streamline land acquisition processes.


Labor Laws and Worker Rights


Pakistan’s labor laws, such as the Industrial Relations Act and the Factories Act, aim to protect workers’ rights, including fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize. Enforcement of these laws, particularly in the informal sector, remains a significant challenge, affecting the economic rights of a large segment of the workforce.

The realization of economic rights is closely tied to the country’s overall economic development. Issues such as poverty, unemployment, and economic inequality pose challenges to the full enjoyment of these rights. Efforts to improve economic rights are integral to broader development goals, aiming to enhance living standards and ensure equitable economic growth.


Labor Rights and Worker Protection – Ensuring Workers’ Rights in Pakistan


Pakistan’s commitment to labor rights and worker protection is reflected in its legal framework, though challenges in enforcement and coverage remain, particularly for vulnerable worker groups. The Industrial Relations Act and the Factories Act set standards for labor relations, workers’ safety, and working conditions.

These laws aim to regulate employment terms, protect labor rights, and ensure safe and healthy work environments. The Employment of Children Act and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act focus on prohibiting child labor and bonded labor, reflecting Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating these practices.


Rights to Unionize and Collective Bargaining


Pakistani law recognizes the right of workers to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining. The Trade Unions Act provides a legal basis for union formation and activities. Despite legal provisions, workers in many industries face challenges in exercising these rights due to resistance from employers and administrative hurdles.

A significant portion of Pakistan’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, where labor laws are often inadequately enforced. This leads to issues such as job insecurity, lack of social security, and exploitation. Addressing the rights of informal workers and extending legal protections to this sector is crucial for ensuring comprehensive labor rights coverage.

Pakistan has ratified several International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, committing to uphold international labor standards. This includes conventions on forced labor, discrimination, and child labor. Aligning national laws with these international standards and ensuring their effective implementation remains a key challenge.


Advancing Women’s Rights in Pakistan


Women’s rights and gender equality are critical components of human rights in Pakistan, encompassing a wide range of issues from legal equality to protection against gender-based violence. The Constitution of Pakistan, particularly Article 25, guarantees gender equality and prohibits discrimination based on sex.

Laws such as the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act and the Women in Distress and Detention Fund Act aim to strengthen legal protections for women and address issues like domestic violence, harassment, and economic exploitation.


Women’s Participation in Public and Political Life


Efforts to increase women’s participation in public and political life have seen progress, with legal provisions for women’s representation in legislative bodies. The Representation of the People Act and electoral laws ensure reserved seats for women in national and provincial assemblies, promoting political empowerment.

Various governmental and non-governmental initiatives focus on women’s rights advocacy, legal aid, awareness campaigns, and economic empowerment programs. The National Commission on the Status of Women plays a pivotal role in promoting women’s rights, advising the government on policy matters, and monitoring the implementation of women’s rights initiatives.


Protecting the Rights of the Younger Generation


The rights of children and youth are a priority in Pakistan’s human rights agenda, with various laws and initiatives focusing on their protection, development, and well-being. The Juvenile Justice System Act sets the framework for dealing with juvenile offenders, emphasizing rehabilitation over punishment and ensuring the protection of their rights during legal proceedings.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act aims to prevent child marriages, a practice that infringes on children’s rights to education, health, and protection from abuse. Laws like the Employment of Children Act and provincial regulations work towards eliminating child labor, especially in hazardous occupations, and ensuring children’s rights to education and a healthy upbringing.


Education and Healthcare Rights


Article 25A of the Constitution guarantees the right to free and compulsory education for children aged five to sixteen, reflecting the state’s commitment to ensuring access to education. Efforts to improve healthcare services for children, including immunization programs and nutrition initiatives, are crucial for fulfilling their right to health.

The Child Protection and Welfare Act, enacted in various provinces, provides a legal basis for protecting children from abuse, neglect, and exploitation which includes matters relating to Child Custody. Child Protection Units and various NGOs work on the ground to safeguard children’s rights, provide support in child abuse cases, and raise awareness about child rights.


Safeguarding Minority Rights in Pakistan


The protection of rights for religious and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups is an essential component of Pakistan’s human rights landscape, though it faces various challenges. The Constitution of Pakistan, particularly Articles 20, 21, 22, and 26, provides for the freedom of religion and the right to profess, practice, and propagate any religion, as well as the protection of minorities’ cultural and educational rights.

Laws like the National Commission for Minorities Act aim to promote the rights and welfare of minority communities. Indigenous and marginalized communities, such as the Kalash, Hazaras, and others, have unique cultural and social rights that require protection and promotion. Efforts to recognize and safeguard the cultural heritage, languages, and traditional practices of these communities are essential for their inclusion and equality.

Various government initiatives and civil society organizations work towards promoting tolerance, interfaith harmony, and the rights of minorities. The role of the National Commission for Minorities and other advocacy groups is crucial in addressing issues faced by minority groups and proposing policy reforms.


The Right to a Healthy Environment in Pakistan


Environmental rights, encompassing the right to a clean and healthy environment, are increasingly recognized as critical human rights in Pakistan. While the Constitution of Pakistan does not explicitly mention the right to a healthy environment, various laws and court rulings have reinforced this right. The Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (1997) serves as the primary legal framework for environmental protection, regulating pollution control and conservation.

The higher judiciary in Pakistan, particularly the Supreme Court and High Courts, have played a significant role in environmental protection through public interest litigation and judicial activism. Landmark court rulings have addressed issues such as air and water pollution, deforestation, and waste management, often invoking the principle of the right to life to include the right to a healthy environment.

Government Initiatives and Public Awareness


Pakistan faces significant environmental challenges, including air and water pollution, deforestation, and the impacts of climate change. Rapid urbanization, industrialization, and inadequate regulatory mechanisms contribute to environmental degradation, affecting the health and well-being of the population.

Government initiatives, such as the Billion Tree Tsunami and Clean Green Pakistan, aim to address environmental issues and promote sustainable practices. Increasing public awareness and civil society engagement in environmental issues is crucial for advocating for stronger environmental policies and enforcement.


Right to Education and Healthcare


The rights to education and healthcare are fundamental for the development and well-being of individuals in Pakistan, and they are supported by both constitutional guarantees and specific laws. Article 25A of the Constitution mandates the state to provide free and compulsory education to children aged five to sixteen. This constitutional amendment represents a commitment to universal education.

The enforcement of this right faces challenges, including disparities in access and quality, gender gaps, and resource limitations. Efforts to improve educational infrastructure, teacher training, and curriculum are ongoing. While the Constitution of Pakistan does not explicitly guarantee the right to healthcare, various policies and programs aim to provide healthcare services to the population.


Defamation Laws and Personal Dignity


The Defamation Ordinance provides legal recourse against defamation, enabling individuals to protect their reputation and dignity against false statements that can cause harm or humiliation. In the digital context, the application of defamation laws intersects with social media and online platforms, highlighting the need for nuanced approaches to address online defamation while preserving free speech.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) addresses various forms of cybercrime, including unauthorized access to data, cyberstalking, and online harassment. It plays a crucial role in protecting individuals’ dignity and privacy in the digital space. The evolving nature of digital communication necessitates continuous updates and reforms in legislation and enforcement practices to effectively protect these rights in the digital age.


Mobility Rights in Pakistan


Freedom of movement and travel is a fundamental human right in Pakistan, with its legal basis rooted in the country’s constitution and various international commitments. Article 15 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the freedom of movement, allowing citizens to move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part of the country.

This right is essential for the pursuit of economic opportunities, education, and access to healthcare, contributing to individuals’ overall quality of life.  The right to hold a passport and to travel abroad is an extension of this freedo


Balancing National Security and Human Rights


In Pakistan, the pursuit of national security, particularly in the context of counter-terrorism, has significant implications for human rights, necessitating a careful balance between security measures and the protection of individual freedoms. Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, including military operations and law enforcement activities, are crucial for national security. However, these measures sometimes raise concerns regarding their impact on civil liberties and human rights.

Issues such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detentions have been highlighted by human rights organizations, emphasizing the need for accountability and adherence to legal standards. Laws like the Anti-Terrorism Act provide the legal framework for combating terrorism but have faced criticism for their broad definitions and potential for misuse, impacting rights like freedom of expression and due process.


International Obligations and Human Rights Compliance


As a signatory to various international human rights treaties, Pakistan should ensure that counter-terrorism measures are compliant with international human rights standards. The balancing act between effectively countering terrorism and safeguarding human rights remains a complex and ongoing challenge for the country. Effective judicial oversight, transparency, and accountability are key to ensuring that security measures do not unduly infringe upon human rights.


Addressing Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan


Enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions remain critical human rights issues in Pakistan, with significant implications for the rule of law and individual liberties. Pakistan has faced allegations of enforced disappearances, particularly in conflict-prone areas like Balochistan and in the context of counter-terrorism operations. These incidents involve individuals being taken into custody without official acknowledgment, often leading to uncertainty and distress for families.

The issue of enforced disappearances has drawn attention from Pakistan’s judiciary, leading to court cases and the establishment of commissions, such as the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, aimed at addressing these incidents. Building trust between the government, security agencies, and the public is essential for effectively tackling this issue and upholding the rule of law.


Legal Provisions for Self-Defense and Property Rights


In Pakistan, the rights to self-defense and the protection of property are fundamental, governed by both statutory law and traditional legal principles. Pakistani law recognizes the right to self-defense, within the bounds of reasonable force, as outlined in the Pakistan Penal Code. This right is applicable under circumstances where an individual or their property is under imminent threat.

Legal provisions specify the conditions under which acts of self-defense are justified, ensuring that this right is not misused for unlawful purposes. Property rights are constitutionally protected in Pakistan. Laws regulating land ownership, property transactions, and inheritance are integral to safeguarding these rights. Ensuring that citizens are aware of their rights and have access to legal recourse is crucial for the effective protection of these rights.


Upholding Democratic Principles and Political Participation


Political rights and the sustenance of democracy are central to the human rights landscape in Pakistan. These rights facilitate active citizen participation in the political process and the governance of the country. The right to vote and participate in free and fair elections is a cornerstone of democracy in Pakistan. This right is enshrined in the Constitution and further detailed in electoral laws.

The rights to political expression and peaceful assembly are essential for a vibrant democracy. These rights allow citizens to express their political opinions, engage in political activities, and hold peaceful demonstrations. While these rights are constitutionally guaranteed, there are instances where they have been curtailed, highlighting the need for vigilance and advocacy to protect political freedoms.


Role of Civil Society and Media in Democracy


Civil society organizations and a free press play critical roles in promoting democracy and political rights. They provide platforms for public discourse, hold authorities accountable, and advocate for democratic reforms. Ensuring the independence and protection of media and civil society is vital for the health and sustainability of Pakistan’s democracy.

International Human Rights Laws and Pakistan


Pakistan’s adherence to international human rights laws is a crucial aspect of its legal system, reflecting the country’s commitment to global human rights standards and practices. Pakistan is a signatory to several key international human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The country has also ratified conventions like the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), committing to uphold the rights enshrined in these documents. While international treaties are ratified at the federal level, their provisions are often incorporated into domestic law through legislation and policy reforms. This process ensures that international human rights standards are reflected in Pakistan’s legal framework.

Pakistan’s engagement with the international human rights community, including participation in forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council, is pivotal for its ongoing human rights journey. Continued dialogue, policy reforms, and alignment with international standards are essential for enhancing the country’s human rights record and fulfilling its global commitments.


Seeking Justice for Human Rights Violations in Pakistan


Effective mechanisms for the redressal of rights violations are crucial in ensuring that individuals can seek and obtain justice when their rights are infringed upon. The judicial system in Pakistan, comprising the lower courts, High Courts, Federal Shariat Court, and the Supreme Court, plays a pivotal role in addressing human rights violations. Individuals can approach these courts for remedies through petitions and public interest litigations.

The National Commission for Human Rights and other similar institutions are mandated to investigate human rights violations, recommend policy changes, and promote human rights awareness. These institutions serve as a bridge between the public and the government, facilitating the reporting, investigation, and redressal of human rights abuses.


How to report and take action on Human Rights Violations in Pakistan


Civil society organizations, human rights NGOs, and advocacy groups play an instrumental role in highlighting rights violations, providing support to victims, and lobbying for policy changes. These organizations often act as watchdogs, holding authorities accountable and pushing for the implementation of human rights norms. Despite the existence of these mechanisms, challenges such as delays in judicial processes, lack of awareness about rights among the populace, and sometimes reluctance in enforcement agencies can impede the effective redressal of violations.

Despite these challenges, however, there have been notable advancements in human rights protections in Pakistan. Legal reforms, policy initiatives, and increased civil society activism have contributed to these improvements. Progress in areas such as women’s rights, children’s rights, and the rights of laborers demonstrates a growing awareness and commitment to human rights.

Whenever you see a violation of Human Rights, whether it is against you (personally) or others, do not stay silent. Report these incidents to the relevant authorities. If you need assistance in any of these matters, you are always welcome to contact us for further information by calling/WhatsApp messaging us at 0092 308 5510031.


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