Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Pakistan received a downward trend arrow due to greater self-censorship on the issue of blasphemy laws in the wake of the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer in January, as well as an increase in official attempts to censor internet-based content during the year.
In 2011, tensions between the civilian government, the military and intelligence agencies, and the judiciary—and attempts by all three groups to exert greater control over policy formulation—continued to threaten the government’s stability and the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan. Societal discrimination and attacks against religious minorities and women, as well as weak rule of law and impunity, remained issues of concern. Journalists and human rights defenders came under increased threat during the year, particularly those who spoke out on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws or abuses by security and intelligence agencies. Freedom of expression also suffered due to official attempts to censor online media content and greater self-censorship on sensitive issues. The army’s campaigns against Islamist militants in the tribal areas led to a range of human rights abuses, displacement of civilians, and retaliatory terrorist attacks across the country, while violence in Balochistan and the city of Karachi worsened.
Pakistan was created as a Muslim homeland during the partition of British India in 1947, and the military has directly or indirectly ruled the country for much of its independent history. As part of his effort to consolidate power, military dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq amended the constitution in 1985 to allow the president to dismiss elected governments. After Zia’s death in 1988, successive civilian presidents cited corruption and abuse of power in sacking elected governments headed by prime ministers Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 1990 and 1996, and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in 1993.
Sharif, who returned to power in the 1997 elections, was deposed in a military coup after he attempted to fire the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, in 1999. Musharraf appointed himself “chief executive” (and later president), declared a state of emergency, and suspended democratic institutions. The 2002 Legal Framework Order (LFO) gave Musharraf effective control over Parliament and changed the electoral rules to the detriment of opposition parties. The regime also openly promoted progovernment parties, such as the newly formed Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), which captured the largest share of seats in the 2002 parliamentary elections and led the new government.
While he managed to contain the secular opposition over the next several years, Musharraf was less willing to rein in radical Islamist groups, with which the military traditionally had a close relationship. These groups gradually extended their influence from outlying regions like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to major urban centers, carrying out attacks on both military and civilian targets.
Tensions between Musharraf and the increasingly activist judiciary came to a head in 2007 when he suspended Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, sparking mass protests by lawyers and wider political unrest. When the court attempted to rule on the validity of Musharraf’s victory in the October presidential election, he again took preemptive action and imposed martial law on November 3, suspending the constitution, replacing much of the higher judiciary, and arresting more than 6,000 civil society activists, political leaders, and lawyers. The state of emergency was lifted in mid-December and an amended version of the constitution was restored, but some restrictions on the press and freedom of assembly remained in place, as did the emasculated judiciary. Following the December 27 assassination of former prime minister Bhutto, parliamentary elections planned for early January 2008 were postponed until February, and Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, assumed de facto leadership of the PPP.
The PPP led the February voting with 97 out of 272 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, followed by Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N with 71. The ruling PML-Q was routed, taking only 42 seats, and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of Islamic parties, was also severely weakened. At the provincial level, the PML-N triumphed in its traditional stronghold of Punjab, the PPP dominated in Sindh, and the Awami National Party (ANP), a secular and ethnic Pashtun group, won the most seats in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The PPP and PML-N initially agreed to share power in a coalition government. However, less than a week after Musharraf resigned as president in the face of impeachment efforts in August, the PML-N withdrew from the coalition, accusing the PPP of breaking a promise to immediately reinstate all of the ousted judges following Musharraf’s exit. In September, Zardari won an indirect presidential election with 481 of the 702 votes cast; 368 national and provincial lawmakers abstained or boycotted the vote. In addition, the PPP and its allies gained a plurality in the March 2009 Senate elections. After Chaudhry was reinstated as chief justice, also in March, the Supreme Court began dismantling the actions taken by Musharraf, declaring them illegal and calling on Parliament to “regularize” them through ordinary legislation.
During 2010, tensions between the civilian government, the judiciary, and the military persisted. The government faced pressure from the military to replace Zardari, and the judiciary repeated its calls for Zardari’s old corruption cases to be reopened. The military and intelligence agencies also attempted to undercut the government’s policies and decision making. In a step intended to strengthen the democratic process, Parliament in April unanimously passed the 18th Amendment to the constitution, which among other provisions rescinded the power of the president to dismiss Parliament and reduced executive power over appointments to the judiciary, the electoral commission, and the military leadership. At the end of the year, both houses of Parliament also passed the 19th Amendment, strengthening the role of the senior judiciary in making appointments to superior courts and thus neutralizing a potential source of conflict between the executive and judiciary.
The government’s hold on power became tenuous in early 2011 following the withdrawal of the MQM from the ruling coalition, which left the PPP with a minority in Parliament. In addition, the government, the military, and the judiciary continued to grapple with one another for control over policy formulation. However, the PPP-led government remained in place at year’s end, and predictions that it would be forced to call early elections failed to materialize, amid a careful balancing act by politicians to keep power in civilian hands.
Armed conflict between the military and Islamist militants affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taliban) network persisted during 2011, as did regular missile attacks by U.S. drone aircraft that killed militant leaders but also caused civilian casualties and stoked resentment among many Pakistanis. Meanwhile, a range of Islamist militant groups continued to stage bombing and other attacks against official buildings, prominent politicians and military personnel, and religious ceremonies and places of worship. These included an audacious assault on the Mehran naval base in Karachi in May. While the number of killings overall declined from 2010, spreading radicalization led to high-profile murders such as that of Punjab governor Salman Taseer in January, contributing to a climate of fear and widespread self-censorship on sensitive issues such as blasphemy.
Pakistan’s relations with the United States deteriorated during 2011 amid a series of high-profile scandals over matters including a January shooting involving a CIA contractor, a secret May raid by U.S. commandos that killed international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, and a November NATO attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border. After the soldiers’ deaths, Pakistan cut off shipments of NATO supplies to Afghanistan through its territory, and the dispute remained unresolved at year’s end.
Pakistan is not an electoral democracy. A civilian government and president were elected in 2008, ending years of military rule, but the military continues to exercise de facto control over many areas of government policy. The political environment is also troubled by corruption, partisan clashes, and Islamist militancy, among other problems.
The lower house of the bicameral Parliament is the 342-seat National Assembly, which has 272 directly elected members and additional seats reserved for women (60 seats) and non-Muslim minorities (10 seats), all with five-year terms. The upper house is the 100-seat Senate, most of whose members are elected by the four provincial assemblies for six-year terms, with half up for election every three years. The president is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of the national and provincial legislatures. The Constitution (18th Amendment) Act of 2010 rescinded the president’s right (granted by the 2002 LFO) to unilaterally dismiss the prime minister and the national and provincial legislatures and to impose a provincial state of emergency. The president also lost the power to appoint the head of the army and the chief election commissioner. The reforms were intended to strengthen the premiership and Parliament.
The 2008 parliamentary elections were not completely free and fair. A European Union observer mission noted the abuse of state resources and media, inaccuracies in the voter rolls, and rigging of the vote tallies in some areas. Opposition party workers faced police harassment, and more than 100 people were killed in political violence during the campaign period. However, private media and civil society groups played a significant watchdog role, and despite the irregularities, the balloting led to an orderly rotation of power that reflected the will of the people. An amendment to the Election Law passed in April 2011 was designed to strengthen the independence of the Election Commission and improve procedures for voter registration while limiting the scope for rigging.
The institutional capacity and internal democratic structures of political parties—some of which are based more on personalities than ideologies or platforms—remain weak. Some political parties also have armed or militant wings, which raised concern in 2011 as turf battles among various factions worsened in Karachi.
A certain number of legislative seats are reserved for women and religious minorities at the national, provincial, and local levels. In some parts of the country, women have difficulty voting and running for office due to objections from social and religious conservatives, though women won an additional unreserved 16 National Assembly seats in the 2008 elections. At least 17 seats in the Senate are reserved for women, and religious minorities were allotted four seats in the Senate as part of the 18th Amendment. Members of the heterodox Ahmadiyya sect, who consider themselves Muslims but are deemed a non-Muslim minority by the constitution, largely boycotted the 2008 elections to protest this official designation.
The FATA are governed by the president through unelected civil servants. Elected councils set up in 2007 have not altered the established decision-making structures. In April 2011, President Asif Ali Zardari issued a decree that allowed political parties in the tribal areas and reformed several regressive aspects of the FATA justice system.
Pakistan’s government operates with limited transparency and accountability, though this has improved with the resumption of civilian rule. The military has a stake in continuing to influence both commercial and political decision-making processes, in addition to its traditional dominance of foreign policy and security issues. Serving and retired officers have received top jobs in ministries, state-run corporations, and universities, and they enjoy a range of other privileges. Although several thousand active-duty officers were withdrawn from civilian posts in 2008, a tenth of all civilian jobs remain reserved for officers.
Corruption is pervasive at all levels of politics and the bureaucracy, and oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency remain weak. Hundreds of politicians, diplomats, and officials, including Zardari, were granted immunity in ongoing corruption cases under the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Though the Supreme Court revoked the NRO in December 2009 and upheld this decision in a November 2011 ruling, prosecution of reopened cases remains uneven and ineffective. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), established in 1999 to combat corruption, has been criticized for failing to act on the judiciary’s calls for it to reopen hundreds of cases. In late 2011, the opposition denounced Zardari’s nomination of an admiral to the post of NAB chairman. Pakistan was ranked 134 out of 183 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. Transparency International–Pakistan, under official pressure, decided not to produce its annual corruption survey in 2011; the organization also faced harassment and threats over its efforts to highlight an increase in corrupt practices under the Zardari administration. In general, Pakistan has an extremely low level of tax collection, as many of the country’s wealthiest citizens, including members of Parliament, use legal loopholes to avoid paying taxes.
Pakistan’s outspoken newspapers and private television stations present a diverse range of news and opinion. However, powerful figures, including military officials and members of the higher judiciary, attempt to silence critical reporting, and there is a high level of violence against journalists. The constitution and other laws authorize the government to curb speech on subjects including the armed forces, the judiciary, and religion. Blasphemy laws are occasionally used against the media, and since 2010 broadly defined contempt laws have increasingly been employed to restrict reporting on particular court cases or judges. The government in 2011 continued to engage in sporadic efforts to temporarily suspend certain broadcasts or programs under other media regulations or on an ad hoc basis surrounding sensitive events, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least seven journalists were murdered because of their work in 2011, making Pakistan the world’s deadliest country for members of the press. In late May, investigative reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad was abducted, tortured, and killed, allegedly by the military’s powerful Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); Shahzad had previously received threats from the agency. Amid an outcry over his death, an official commission was established to investigate the murder, but had not released a report by year’s end. Intimidation by the security forces—including physical attacks and arbitrary, incommunicado detention—continues to occur, as do harassment and attacks by Islamic fundamentalists and hired thugs working for feudal landlords or local politicians. A number of reporters covering the conflict between the military and Islamist militants in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (or KP, as NWFP was renamed in 2010) and the FATA were detained, threatened, expelled, or otherwise obstructed in 2011, by either government forces or militants. Conditions for journalists in Balochistan also deteriorated sharply.
While websites addressing sensitive subjects, particularly Balochi separatism, have routinely been blocked by the authorities, in 2010 the government moved more aggressively to block “blasphemous” material. This trend continued in 2011, affecting websites as well as mobile-telephone content. For example, a September 2011 decision by the Lahore High Court ordered officials to block access to a number of websites, including the U.S.-based social-networking site Facebook.
Pakistan is an Islamic republic, and there are numerous legal restrictions on religious freedom. Violations of blasphemy laws draw harsh sentences, including the death penalty, and injuring the “religious feelings” of individual citizens is prohibited. Incidents in which police take bribes to file false blasphemy charges against Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and occasionally Muslims continue to occur, with several dozen cases reported each year. No executions on blasphemy charges have been carried out to date, but the charges alone can lead to years of imprisonment, ill-treatment in custody, and extralegal persecution by religious extremists. Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, remained in jail throughout 2011 pending an appeal.
Religious hard-liners have argued that even advocacy of reforming the blasphemy laws constitutes an act of blasphemy. In January 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard after he publicly defended Aasia Bibi and spoke out against abuse of the blasphemy laws. Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities affairs and a Christian, was murdered by Islamist extremists in March, also in response to his stance on the blasphemy laws. Others who shared the views of Taseer and Bhatti faced death threats and legal harassment, and many more were reluctant to denounce the murders or even attend memorial events, particularly as religious leaders and media commentators openly defended the killings. In September, the guard who murdered Taseer was sentenced to death, though the judge reportedly received death threats from both lawyers and Islamist groups and briefly left the country following the verdict.
The penal code severely restricts the religious practice of Ahmadis, who comprise a small percentage of the population, and they must effectively renounce their beliefs to vote or gain admission to educational institutions. Authorities occasionally confiscate or close Ahmadiyya publications and harass their staff, and dozens of Ahmadis faced criminal charges under blasphemy or other discriminatory laws during 2011.
Religious minorities also face unofficial economic and social discrimination, and they are occasionally subject to violence and harassment. In a growing trend, particularly in Sindh Province, Hindu girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and compelled to marry their kidnappers. Terrorist and other attacks on places of worship and religious gatherings occur frequently, leading to the deaths of dozens of people every year. There has been a notable upsurge in violence between members of the Sunni Muslim majority and the Shiite Muslim minority since 2009, with largely Shiite ethnic Hazaras in Balochistan facing particular threats during 2011. Recent waves of attacks on Christians have also been attributed to the spread of Sunni extremist ideology.
The government generally does not restrict academic freedom. However, the university cadres of political parties and Islamist groups intimidate students, teachers, and administrators; aim to impose “Islamic” moral codes by blocking certain types of classes or behavior; and try to influence university policies. In several cases noted during 2011, professors were reportedly attacked or murdered. Schools and female teachers, particularly in the FATA and KP, continue to face threats and attacks by Islamist militants.
The rights to freedom of assembly and association are selectively upheld. Authorities sometimes restrict public gatherings, disperse protests with excessive force, and use preventive detention to forestall planned demonstrations. However, such tactics were employed less in 2011 than in previous years.
Authorities generally tolerate the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and allow them to publish critical material. However, NGOs that focus on female education and empowerment, and female NGO staff in general, have faced threats, attacks, and a number of murders by radical Islamists, particularly in the FATA and KP. Citing security concerns, the government has at times prevented aid groups from operating in Balochistan, exacerbating the province’s humanitarian situation, and access to KP and the FATA remains challenging. Working or commenting on issues concerning blasphemy or the intelligence services became more risky in 2011, for both local and international activists. Attacks on human rights defenders appeared to be on the rise. Pakistan is home to a large number of charitable or cultural organizations, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), that have links to Islamist militant groups.
An April 2010 constitutional amendment placed labor law and policy under the purview of the provinces. Provincial labor laws allow workers to form and join trade unions, but place restrictions on union membership, the right to strike, and collective bargaining, particular in industries deemed essential. Although protests and strikes occur regularly, many workers have been fired for union activity, and union leaders have faced harassment. An antiterrorism court sentenced six leaders from the Labour Qaumi Movement to a collective 490 years in prison in November 2011, after they attempted to organize strikes in 2010. Illegal bonded labor is widespread, though the authorities in 2011 continued efforts to combat the practice in the brick-kiln industry. Enforcement of child labor laws remains inadequate; recent surveys have indicated that there are at least 10 million child workers in Pakistan.
The judiciary consists of civil and criminal courts and a special Sharia (Islamic law) court for certain offenses. Lower courts remain plagued by corruption, intimidation, and a backlog of more than a million cases that results in lengthy pretrial detention. The 2009 National Judicial Policy aimed to tackle all three problems, and appears to have had some positive effects, with backlogs dramatically reduced in certain provinces.
Provisions of the 18th Amendment granted power over judicial appointments to a judicial commission rather than the president, and the 19th Amendment further strengthened the role of the chief justice and other senior judges in the commission and appointments process. However, tensions between the judiciary and the executive persisted in 2011. The Supreme Court continued to push for the revival of corruption cases against Zardari and engaged in activism in politically popular cases concerning blasphemy and economic policy. Observers voiced concern that the judiciary was becoming increasingly close to the army, supporting its agenda while trying to undermine the executive.
Other parts of the judicial system, such as the antiterrorism courts, operate with limited due process rights. The Sharia court enforces the 1979 Hudood Ordinances, which criminalize extramarital sex and several alcohol, gambling, and property offenses. They provide for Koranic punishments, including death by stoning for adultery, as well as jail terms and fines. In part because of strict evidentiary standards, authorities have never carried out the Koranic punishments. The justice system in the FATA is governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation, which allows collective punishment for individual crimes and preventive detention of up to three years. It also authorizes tribal leaders to administer justice according to Sharia and tribal custom. In designated parts of the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas and KP, Sharia is imposed under the 2009 Nizam-e-Adl regulation, and judges are assisted by Islamic scholars.
Feudal landlords and tribal elders throughout Pakistan adjudicate some disputes and impose punishments—including the death penalty and the forced exchange of brides between tribes—in unsanctioned parallel courts called jirgas. Human rights groups have noted that such jirgas impose hundreds of death sentences each year, the majority on women. Militants in the tribal areas and parts of KP have reportedly set up their own courts, enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic law and dispensing harsh penalties with little regard for due process.
Police and other security services routinely engage in excessive force, torture, extortion, arbitrary detention, rape of female detainees, and extrajudicial killings. Outrage over extrajudicial executions resurfaced in June 2011, when the killing of an unarmed student by paramilitary police was captured on video in Karachi. Conditions in the overcrowded prisons are extremely poor, and case backlogs mean that the majority of inmates are awaiting trial. Feudal landlords, tribal groups, and some militant groups operate private jails where detainees are regularly maltreated. Progress on creating an official human rights body empowered to investigate cases and redress grievances has been slow, and while a number of cases are investigated and some prosecutions do occur, impunity for human rights abuses remains the norm.
In 2010 the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)—an NGO—estimated that at least 1,100 people were being illegally detained by state agencies, while the Interior Ministry acknowledged 965 cases of disappearance; other estimates range from 200 to 7,000 cases. Some victims were suspected of links to radical Islamist groups, but such detentions have also affected Balochi and Sindhi nationalists, journalists, researchers, and social workers. The ISI, which operates largely outside the control of civilian leaders and the courts, has faced intermittent pressure from the Supreme Court to end the practice of secret detentions, but the court’s ability to resolve cases has been limited, according to a September 2011 Amnesty International report. While official commissions of inquiry established by the government in March 2010 and March 2011 to trace individual cases have had some success, new cases continued to be reported in 2011, particularly in Balochistan.
Tens of thousands of armed militants belonging to radical Sunni Islamist groups have varying agendas and carry out terrorist attacks against foreign, government, and religious minority targets, killing hundreds of civilians each year. Sunni and Shiite groups engage in tit-for-tat sectarian violence, mostly bomb attacks against places of worship and religious gatherings. The New Delhi–based South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) reported that 203 people were killed and 297 were injured in sectarian violence in 2011, a substantial decrease from the previous year.
The military’s campaigns against Islamist fighters in the tribal areas since 2002 have been accompanied by human rights abuses, and missile strikes attributed to U.S. drone aircraft have reportedly killed or injured civilians along with their intended targets. In total, more than 550 people were killed by alleged drone attacks in 2011. The authorities are sponsoring tribal militias, or lashkars, to help control the FATA, creating yet another unaccountable armed force. Islamist militants’ expanding influence over territory in KP and the FATA has led to severe practical restrictions on local inhabitants’ dress, social behavior, educational opportunities, and legal rights. The militant groups also target political leaders (particularly from the ANP), tribal elders, teachers, and aid workers in their quest for control over local populations. In January 2011, militants killed a female police officer and several members of her family; she had received threats urging her to quit her profession. On a positive note, many of the internally displaced civilians in KP returned to their homes in 2011, although hundreds of thousands remained displaced in the FATA. The SATP reported that 6,303 people were killed nationwide in terrorist- or insurgent-related violence in 2011, including 2,738 civilians, 765 security force personnel, and 2,800 militants, an overall decrease from the previous year but an increase in the number of civilians affected.
A simmering insurgency continued in Balochistan in 2011, with ethnic Balochi activists demanding either enhanced political autonomy or outright independence as well as more local control over the province’s natural resources. Armed militants carried out a growing number of attacks on infrastructure, security forces, and non-Balochi teachers and educational institutions during the year. The army’s counterinsurgency operations have led to increasing human rights violations and the displacement of civilians. Thousands of activists, political leaders, and other locals with suspected separatist sympathies have been detained, according to the International Crisis Group, with scores killed in apparent extrajudicial executions. Sunni militants, seen to operate under the protection of the security forces, carried out a campaign against mostly ethnic Hazara Shiites in Balochistan, killing dozens of Hazaras in a series of targeted attacks during the year.
Ethnic violence in Karachi escalated in 2011, killing more than 1,000 people, mostly ordinary civilians. The turf battles are exacerbated by the fact that each faction has the support of a political party, including the traditionally dominant Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which represents refugees from India who settled in Karachi in 1947; the ANP, representing ethnic Pashtun migrants from other areas of Pakistan; and the PPP, which is allied with Balochi gangs. The criminal gangs that carry out much of the violence also regularly extort money from businesses in Karachi, a crucial economic hub.
Pakistan hosts approximately 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees and more than a million undocumented Afghans, with the majority living in urban areas rather than refugee settlements on the border. They face societal and official discrimination as well as economic exploitation, since even registered refugees are not allowed to work legally.
Traditional norms, discriminatory laws, and weak policing contribute to a high incidence of rape, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence—including acid attacks—against women. According to the HRCP, up to 80 percent of women are victims of such abuse during their lifetimes. Female victims of sexual crimes are often pressured by police not to file charges, and they are sometimes urged by their families to commit suicide. Gang rapes sanctioned by village councils to punish the targeted woman’s relatives continue to be reported, even though perpetrators in some cases have received harsh sentences. In April 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittals of five of the six accused in the 2002 gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, whose case garnered international attention. The 2006 Women’s Protection Act (WPA) requires judges to try rape cases under criminal law rather than Sharia. However, extramarital sex is still criminalized, and spousal rape is not recognized as a crime. In late 2010, a Federal Shariat Court decision declared four provisions of the WPA to be unconstitutional; an appeal of the ruling by a consortium of women’s rights groups was pending before the Supreme Court at the end of 2011.
According to the HRCP, at least 943 women were killed by family members in so-called honor killings in 2011, a significant increase from the previous year, but many such crimes may go unreported. Activists have cast doubt on the authorities’ willingness to enforce a 2005 law that introduced stiffer sentences and the possibility of the death penalty for honor killings. Illegal forms of child and forced marriage remain problems. Most interfaith marriages are considered illegal, and the children of such unions would be illegitimate.
Pakistani inheritance law discriminates against women, who also face unofficial discrimination in educational and employment opportunities. Two laws were enacted in 2010 to criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and establish related codes of conduct and mechanisms for complaints. The trafficking of women and children remains a serious concern, with female victims used for forced labor or sexual exploitation.
Societal discrimination against gay men and lesbians is pervasive, and most individuals do not identify themselves as such openly. In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered that hijras (a term covering transvestites, hermaphrodites, and eunuchs) be considered equal citizens and allowed to classify themselves as a distinct gender on national identity cards.
The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, which is examined in a separate report.