Pakistan

Partly Free
37
100
PR Political Rights 15 40
CL Civil Liberties 22 60
Last Year's Score & Status
38 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Note

The numerical scores and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Pakistani Kashmir, which is examined in a separate report. Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the report methodology and FAQ.

header2 Overview

Pakistan holds regular elections under a competitive multiparty political system. However, the military exerts enormous influence over security and other policy issues, intimidates the media, and enjoys impunity for indiscriminate or extralegal use of force. The authorities impose selective restrictions on civil liberties, and Islamist militants carry out attacks on religious minorities and other perceived opponents.

header3 Key Developments in 2020

  • Though the government lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was still in place, several prominent imams ignored pandemic restrictions and called on worshippers to defy the government’s orders. Some who ignored the restrictions attacked police officers attempting to stop them. By the end of the year, over 479,000 people had tested positive for the virus and more than 10,000 people had died, according to government statistics provided to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • In October, the major opposition parties joined together to form the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and held rallies protesting Prime Minister Imran Khan, who they accused of having been “selected” for office by the military. The PDM emerged after a series of politicized corruption cases were filed against key opposition leaders, and legislation the military supported was railroaded through parliament without opposition support during the year.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 1.001 4.004

A prime minister responsible to the bicameral parliament holds most executive power under the constitution. The president, who plays a more symbolic role, is elected for up to two five-year terms by an electoral college comprising the two chambers of the parliament and the provincial assemblies. PTI-nominated candidate Arif Alvi was elected president in September 2018.

Imran Khan became prime minister in August 2018 when the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party formed a coalition government, having emerged from the general elections as the largest party in the National Assembly. In the run-up to the polls, observers documented concerted efforts by elements of the country’s military and judicial establishment to hamper the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in order to increase the chances that Khan would attain a parliamentary majority. These included corruption, contempt-of-court, and terrorism charges against PML-N leaders and candidates, and their politicized adjudication. Observers also noted pressure on and interference with the media, apparently at the behest of the security services, that resulted in muted coverage of the PML-N’s campaign. In 2020, the opposition parties challenged Imran Khan’s legitimacy as prime minister in numerous forums, claiming that he had been “selected” by the army and not elected through a fair process.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 2.002 4.004

The parliament consists of a 342-member National Assembly and a 104-member Senate. Members of the National Assembly are elected for five years. Of the 342 seats, 272 are filled through direct elections in single-member districts, 60 are reserved for women, and 10 are reserved for non-Muslim minorities. The reserved seats are filled through a proportional representation system with closed party lists.

In the Senate, each provincial assembly chooses 23 members, National Assembly members representing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) elect 8, and the National Assembly chooses 4 to represent the Islamabad capital territory. Deliberations occurred in 2020 on a formula to replace the old FATA quota as the terms of the incumbents expire. Senators serve six-year terms, with half of the seats up for election every three years.

International and domestic election observers delivered a mixed verdict on the July 2018 National Assembly elections. Polling was orderly and generally took place according to the electoral law, though serious technical difficulties with the Result Transmission System created significant delays in reporting the results. At the same time, the rush of judicial actions against PML-N leaders and restrictions on and interference with media coverage significantly disadvantaged the party, contributing to a spectacular rise in PTI representation in the National Assembly. The PTI received 32 percent of the vote and 149 seats, compared with just 35 seats previously. The PML-N received 24 percent of the vote and 82 seats, down from 157 seats previously. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) received 13 percent of the vote and 54 seats, an increase of 12 from its previous representation. Notably, parties and candidates linked to active Islamist militant groups, including Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and Allah-o-akbar Tehreek (AAT), participated in the elections.

The PTI formed a coalition government at the national level, with the support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), other minor parties, and independents. Voter turnout was 52 percent. The PTI coalition lacks a majority in the current Senate.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 2.002 4.004

Elections are administered by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), whose members are current or retired senior judges nominated through a consultative process that includes the government and the parliamentary opposition. In January 2020, the government appointed Sikander Sultan Raja as Chief Election Commissioner, along with two new commissioners, after reaching a consensus with the parliamentary opposition.

The electoral laws are largely fair, and candidates have extensive access to the courts in electoral disputes.

Election observer missions in 2018 acknowledged that the formal electoral framework and its implementation complied with international standards. However, the ECP proved unable to counteract efforts by elements of the judicial and military establishment and their allies to manipulate the campaign environment. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, politically orchestrated judicial activism resulted in the disqualification of candidates, while the “censorship, intimidation, harassment, and abduction” of journalists who were critical of the security establishment or favored the PML-N or PPP ensured uneven access to the media.

Other, ongoing problems include lower rates of voter registration among women, a requirement that members of the Ahmadi religious minority register as non-Muslims despite considering themselves Muslims, and vague moral requirements for candidate nomination.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 2.002 4.004

Several major parties and numerous smaller parties and independents compete in elections and are represented in the parliament and provincial legislatures. However, established parties maintain patronage networks and other advantages of incumbency that hamper competition in their respective provincial strongholds. In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that major parties’ freedom to operate is related to the strength of their relationships with unelected arms of the state, which have sought to sideline figures not to their liking through a variety of legal and extralegal means.

In October, the PML-N and PPP joined together to form the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and held rallies protesting Prime Minister Imran Khan, who they accused of having been “selected” for office by the military. The PDM emerged to contest several seats in the Senate that are up for election in 2021, after a series of politicized corruption cases were filed against key opposition leaders, and legislation the military supported was railroaded through parliament without the opposition’s support during the year.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 2.002 4.004

Opposition parties campaign and contest elections, and each of the last three national elections has resulted in an erstwhile opposition party taking power at the federal level. National opposition parties also continue to hold power or significant shares of assembly seats at the provincial level. However, the military is currently considered more powerful than elected politicians and the judiciary has shown a willingness to engage in politically targeted accountability. Therefore, opposition parties have increasingly concluded that their most plausible route to power is by winning the backing of the unelected establishment rather than through a straight electoral contest. For example, in January 2020, members of the PML-N claimed they could replace the PTI administration by winning army support to form an interim government.

Throughout 2020, the PML-N and PPP, both former governing parties, were profoundly disrupted by a barrage of court cases brought against their first- and second-rank leaders and their family members. The government charged high-profile former officials with corruption, alleged breach of media regulations, and participation in unauthorized demonstrations. Those targeted included former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, his younger brother and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza, and former prime ministers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Raja Parvaiz Ashraf, all political figures within PML-N. Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, both PPP politicians, were also targeted. Nawaz Sharif travelled to the United Kingdom in 2019 for authorized medical treatment and stayed there throughout 2020 in de facto exile. Hamza and Shahbaz Sharif were jailed. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)—the government’s anticorruption body—and the courts kept the accused occupied with multiple notices and required court appearances. Nevertheless, the parties’ senior figures continued to play leadership roles from jail or abroad, and Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari represented the PML-N and PPP in rallies and meetings. The 2020 arrests were a continuation of the 2017–18 dubious court rulings that effectively removed Nawaz Sharif from political life, and subsequently weakened the PML-N.

Throughout 2020, the authorities continued to disrupt the activities of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which campaigns against violence by both the state and Islamist militants in ethnic Pashtun areas. Security forces dispersed rallies, arrested participants and activists, suppressed media coverage, and charged rally participants with sedition. In January 2020, PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen was arrested on sedition and antistate charges (and released after a month in detention) and PTM’s two National Assembly members, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazeer, were briefly detained in Islamabad. Wazeer was later arrested again in Karachi. The army reportedly suspects PTM leaders of opposing the Pakistani state and having links to Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies, which PTM supporters deny.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 1.001 4.004

The manipulation of politics by religious extremists has long hampered voters’ ability to freely express their political preferences. In recent years, the military has reasserted its role as the political arbiter—more powerful than either the judiciary or the elected government—setting the constraints within which civilian politics play out.

In 2018, the heavy presence of security agents at many polling stations was interpreted by observers, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, as tantamount to voter intimidation. A number of candidates in the 2018 election campaign had links with extremist groups that had advocated or carried out acts of violence, further contributing to a sense of unease among many voters.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 1.001 4.004

A joint electorate system allows members of non-Muslim minorities to participate in the general vote while also being represented by reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies through the party-list system. However, the participation of non-Muslims in the political system continues to be marginal. Political parties nominate members to the legislative seats reserved for non-Muslim minorities, leaving non-Muslim voters with little say in the selection of their supposed representatives. Ahmadis, members of a heterodox Muslim sect, face political discrimination and are registered on a separate voter roll.

Political parties maintain women’s wings that are active during elections, but women face practical restrictions on voting, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, where militant groups and societal constraints are more prevalent. Women rarely achieve leadership positions in parties or the government. The interests of LGBT+ people are generally not represented by elected officials.

The single member constituency system for national elections ensures that the major ethno-linguistic groups from each province are represented in the National Assembly and participate in party politics, government, and opposition. Although Sindhi, Pashtun, and Baloch figures all play visible roles in national political life—alongside the largest ethno-linguistic group, Punjabis—the military works to marginalize figures from minority groups it suspects of harboring antistate sentiments, as exemplified by its treatment of the PTM.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1.001 4.004

Formally, the elected prime minister and cabinet make policy in consultation with the parliament, which holds legislative power. However, there has been a long-running struggle between these civilian structures and the military establishment for control of national security policy. The military has asserted primacy on relations with India, Afghanistan, China, and the United States, as well as on counterterrorism policy within Pakistan. In the last two years of the previous PML-N government, it appeared that the civilian administration aspired to act independently of some military priorities, most notably through exploring détente with India. Since the August 2018 installation of the PTI government, the civilian administration has aligned itself more closely than its predecessor with the military’s foreign policy, domestic security, and economic priorities. In early 2020, the government and opposition alike were widely criticized for capitulating to military pressure in extending the Army Chief’s term in office.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

While there are numerous formal safeguards against official corruption, it is endemic in practice. The use of accountability mechanisms is often selective and politically driven, as demonstrated by the charges brought against PML-N and PPP leaders and former politicians, such as former prime minister Sharif and former president Zardari in 2020. The NAB focuses on cases against politicians and senior officials. By September 2020, it claimed to have launched 3,371 cases, from which it achieved 1,124 convictions (a 58 percent conviction rate), with 1,257 cases pending.The military and judiciary have their own disciplinary systems.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

The government has relatively progressive laws around public finances, procurement processes, and general government operations. Some effort is put into being seen as complying with international norms.

Access-to-information laws have long been applied in Pakistan; the parliament passed the Right to Access of Information Act in 2017 to update a 2002 law. Information commissions have been established in the provinces supposedly to enable implementation, which is inconsistent. Determined citizens can demand information from departments and complain to the information commissions when departments fail to deliver. Many departments tend to ignore requests.

Vocal civil society groups and journalists often weigh in on policy debates. However, debates about policies with national security implications are closed down quickly. Members of both provincial and national assemblies are expected to make themselves accessible to constituents. Parliament regularly debates and scrutinizes the budget, accompanied by commentary from the media.

There is a procurement regulatory agency that uses many standard transparency tools, including procurement manuals and publication of tenders. However, international bodies such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have scrutinized Pakistan’s public procurements. Members of parliament and select public officials are compelled to submit asset declaration forms that civil society organizations often upload to the internet.

The military—which controls large parts of government functioning under the guise of national security concerns—is deeply opaque in its affairs. Military officials’ ability to influence policies, politics, and legislation is formidable, and military intelligence agencies act without oversight and often without the public’s knowing of their involvement. Intelligence agencies abduct, detain, interrogate, and torture individuals for extended periods without publicizing information of their whereabouts or the purpose for their detention. The military is also able to censor media and information published about its activity by means of vaguely worded regulations that empower officials to monitor and manage content deemed harmful to “national security interests.” Since 2018, multiple high-ranking military officers have been appointed to government positions historically under civilian control.

Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to the opaque nature and unknown extent of the military’s influence in the government.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

Over the past two decades, Pakistan has boasted a relatively vibrant media sector that presents a range of news and opinions. However, both the civilian authorities and military in recent years have curtailed media freedom. In 2020, the government targeted individual journalists, television programs and stations, and media houses for raising issues authorities considered unpalatable. Authorities employed range of instruments to do so, including the long-used tactic of withdrawing government advertising from critical publications, fines, and temporary bans imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). In 2020, journalists considered suspect by the state were subject to enforced disappearance, and four local journalists were murdered in unexplained circumstances. Authorities are also believed to rely on “troll farms,” which are directed to harass critical commentators. The state continued efforts to enforce a media blackout on the PTM and its members during the year.

The authorities continued to target the Jang media group in 2020 by arresting group owner Mir Shakil ur Rahman, withholding government advertising and temporarily banning operation and distribution of its TV channel Geo. The government continued to withhold public advertising moneys from the Dawn group.

In October 2020, after Nawaz Sharif had received publicity for speeches he made from London, the PEMRA issued an order banning all broadcasters from covering absconders. This order was subsequently challenged in court.

Access to certain regions of the country is prohibited by the military, impeding coverage of issues there. In Baluchistan, local journalists are often caught between authorities who order them not to cover separatist rebel activity, and rebel groups that threaten them for siding with the government.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.001 4.004

Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom have not provided effective safeguards against discriminatory legislation, social prejudice, and sectarian violence. Hindus have complained of vulnerability to kidnapping and forced conversions, and some continue to migrate to India. Members of the Shia sect, Christians, and other religious minorities remain at risk of blasphemy accusations that can arise from trivial disputes and escalate to criminal prosecution and mob violence. The blasphemy laws and their exploitation by religious vigilantes have also curtailed freedom of expression by Muslims.

In October 2020, the Council of Islamic Ideology withdrew its objections to a restored Hindu temple in Islamabad. In December, a violent mob destroyed another Hindu temple in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Members of the Ahmadi community are legally prohibited from calling themselves Muslims and face discrimination. Four Ahmadis were killed during 2020 in suspected hate crimes.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2.002 4.004

Pakistani authorities have a long history of using the education system to portray Hindus and other non-Muslims negatively and to rationalize enmity between Pakistan and India, among other ideological aims. Past attempts to modernize education and introduce tolerance into school textbooks have made little progress, and minority groups consider negative portrayals of non-Muslims in textbooks as a continuing source of hostility towards them. In July 2020, the Punjab government gave itself additional powers to censor publications deemed offensive to Islam. In the course of a review of textbooks taught by private schools in the province, it banned 100 books.

In recent years, scholars have been somewhat more able to discuss sensitive issues involving the military. However, there is no academic freedom on matters pertaining to religion, where academics remain vulnerable to blasphemy accusations.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2.002 4.004

Pakistanis are free in practice to discuss many topics both online and off, but the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECB) gives the executive-controlled Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) unchecked powers to censor material on the internet. The PTA encourages reporting of websites complainants consider offensive. The level of investment in tracking and blocking sites is typically justified by a professed intention to prevent dissemination of blasphemous and pornographic content. However, the broad and poorly defined censorship mandate of the PTA also includes preventing the maligning of the “state, judiciary, or armed forces.” In practice, the agency censors content arbitrarily.

In February 2020, the government adopted a new set of rules, under the PECB, imposing restrictions and obligations on social media companies. The latest rules obliged social media companies to take responsibility for enforcing the government’s restrictions on objectionable content and called on them to maintain a physical presence in the country, with threats of fines and service interruption for noncompliance. However, the rules provoked widespread criticism both from Pakistani civil society concerned about the potential for censorship, and from an alliance of major social media companies.

Extralegal violence and allegations of blasphemy also deter unfettered speech.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees the right to assemble peacefully, though the government can harness legal provisions to arbitrarily ban gatherings or any activity designated a threat to public order. During 2020, the authorities repeatedly withheld authorization for opposition demonstrations and harassed event organizers—for example, by closing roads leading to rally venues. Despite these obstacles, most demonstrations went ahead. Authorities dispersed the peaceful rallies held by the PTM in major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Loralai, and Bannu.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the government installed a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. However, several prominent imams ignored pandemic restrictions and called on worshippers to defy the government’s orders. Some who ignored the restrictions attacked police officers who attempted to stop them.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 1.001 4.004

The current government has continued a crackdown on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both domestic and foreign, initiated by its predecessor in 2015. Organizations are subject to intrusive registration requirements and vetting by military intelligence. Officials can demand that NGOs obtain a “no-objection certificate” (NOC) before undertaking even the most innocuous activity. During 2020, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government blocked the bank accounts and froze the registration of 65 percent of the NGOs operating in the province.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

The rights of workers to organize and form trade unions are recognized in law, and the constitution grants unions the rights to collective bargaining and to strike. However, these protections are not strongly enforced. Roughly 70 percent of the workforce is employed in the informal sector, where unionization and legal protections are minimal. The procedures that need to be followed for a strike to be legal are onerous. Strikes and labor protests are organized regularly, though they often lead to clashes with police and dismissals by employers.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 1.001 4.004

The judiciary is politicized and has a history of involvement in the power struggles between the military, the civilian government, and opposition politicians, and has often issued rulings aligned with the priorities of the military. During 2020, corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif and other senior PML-N and PPP opposition politicians continued and were widely reported on. The paucity of equivalent cases against PTI figures suggest that the judiciary has allowed itself to be instrumentalized in national politics.

In 2020, Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa faced complex legal action over allegations of undeclared family property in the United Kingdom. The Law Minister temporarily stepped down in order to represent the government in the case. Fellow Supreme Court Justice Umar Ata Bandial claimed that the case against Isa was unwarranted and could hurt the independence of the entire judiciary.

The broader court system is marred by endemic problems including corruption, intimidation, insecurity, a large backlog of cases, and low conviction rates for serious crimes.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1.001 4.004

Police have long been accused of biased or arbitrary handling of initial criminal complaints, and both the police and the prosecution service have been criticized for a chronic failure to prosecute terrorism cases.

In 2019, the mandates of a system of military courts empowered to try civilians lapsed. However, under the Army Act, the military continued to operate its own courts, primarily for its own personnel. However, the army asserted the right to selectively try civilians, on camera, under the Army Act courts, in cases of national security.

Access to due process has increased in the former FATA, which in 2018 was absorbed into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Consequently, the Pakistan Penal Code was extended to the former tribal areas, along with the writ of the superior courts. For the first time, the regular police force was established in the old tribal areas.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

In 2020, 509 people were killed in terrorist incidents, up from 370 in 2020. This increase reversed the multiyear decline in terrorist violence over the past decade, since its 2009 peak when over 11,700 people were killed.

Unlike the earlier period of terrorism in Pakistan, large suicide bombings and mass casualty attacks occurred far less frequently in 2020. Only two attacks by suspected Islamic State militants were conducted against madrassahs controlled by the Afghan Taliban Movement: one in Quetta in January killed 15 people, the other in Peshawar in October killed 8.

A low-intensity insurgency continued in Baluchistan, in which the Baloch Liberation Army and several other outfits routinely conducted attacks against security forces, sabotaged infrastructure, and occasionally killed or abducted civilians deemed to be aligned to the state. In response, the Pakistan Army targeted suspected insurgents while conducting numerous operations in insurgency-affected districts. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Pakistan Taliban Movement conducted multiple terrorist attacks against security forces throughout the year. Although attacks were smaller in scale and less deadly than in 2009, they took place in many of the same areas where militants were previously active.

Civilians face the threat of extralegal violence by state actors, including enforced disappearances. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons accused the state of operating “death squads” to abduct and kill Baloch people suspected of being sympathetic to the insurgency. The number of pending cases of people registered as missing since 2011 by the official Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances rose to 6,921 during 2020, of which 4,798 cases had reportedly been resolved by the end of the year. However, the Commission was inactive for much 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions. The International Commission of Jurists critiqued the Commission, concluding that its approach had enabled impunity by diverting attention away from the judicial process and into an ad hoc process vulnerable to political interference. There was no sign in 2020 that the Commission’s deliberations would lead to effective sanctions against agencies involved in the disappearances. For example, in June, the army acknowledge that they were holding human rights defender Idris Khattak, missing since November 2019, and that he was being tried under the Official Secrets Act. However, the Commission treated the case as “disposed of,” and did not consider Khattak to be a victim of enforced disappearance. Most victims were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former FATA, or Baluchistan, and typically were held incommunicado by security and intelligence agencies on suspicion of antistate agitation, terrorism, rebellion, or espionage.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

Women face discrimination in employment despite legal protections and are placed at a disadvantage under personal status laws. Women are also subject to a number of harmful societal practices and abuses, the perpetrators of which often enjoy impunity. Registration of the “first information report” of a crime is the first hurdle involved in accessing justice; police are often reluctant to proceed in the face of complaints of crimes against women, including so-called crimes of honor.

Other segments of the population that suffer legal or de facto discrimination and violence include ethnic and religious minorities, Afghan refugees, and LGBT+ people. The penal code prescribes prison terms for consensual sex “against the order of nature,” deterring LGBT+ people from acknowledging their identity or reporting abuses. Transgender and intersex people are authorized to register for official documents under a “third gender” classification recognized by the Supreme Court since 2009, and some transgender people were recognized in the 2017 census. However, they continue to face targeted violence as well as discrimination in housing and employment.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 2.002 4.004

There are some legal limitations on travel and the ability to change one’s residence, employment, or institution of higher learning. The authorities routinely hinder internal movement in some parts of the country for security reasons. The main tool for restricting foreign travel is the Exit Control List (ECL), which blocks named individuals from using official exit points from the country. It is meant to include those who pose a security threat and those facing court proceedings. However, periodically it has been used as a means of controlling dissent.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

In principle, Pakistan’s constitution, legal system, and social and religious values all guarantee private property and free enterprise. In reality, however, organized crime, corruption, a weak regulatory environment, and the subversion of the legal system often render property rights precarious. Powerful and organized groups continue to engage in land grabbing, particularly in Karachi and Punjab.

Inheritance laws discriminate against women, and women are often denied their legal share of inherited property through social or familial pressure.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

In some parts of urban Pakistan, men and women enjoy personal social freedoms and have recourse to the law in case of infringements. However, traditional practices in much of the country subject individuals to social control over personal behavior, and especially choice of marriage partner. Despite successive attempts to abolish the practice, “honor killing,” the murder of men or women accused of breaking social and especially sexual taboos, remains common, and most incidents go unreported.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Bonded labor was formally abolished in 1992, and there have been long-standing efforts to enforce the ban and related laws against child labor. Gradual social change has also eroded the power of wealthy landowning families involved in such exploitation. Nevertheless, extreme forms of labor exploitation remain common. Employers continue to use chronic indebtedness to restrict laborers’ rights and hold actual earnings well below prescribed levels, particularly among sharecroppers and in the brick-kiln industry.

On Pakistan

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  • Global Freedom Score

    37 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    25 100 not free