Rights Watch | 23rd July 2020

Rights Watch

HIV cases increasing in Pakistan

The UNAIDS 2020 report names Pakistan as one of two countries in Asia reporting “sharp increases” in HIV infections. The report provides updates on the current state of the HIV epidemic and emphasizes how it is linked to social and economic inequalities, as well as charting the state of progress in the treatment of the disease.

“HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific have declined slightly… offset by sharp increases in Pakistan and the Philippines,” it mentions, and further states that “AIDS-related mortality rates are rising in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines”.

The report emphasizes the role played by delayed diagnoses and lack of discipline in sticking to treatment in transmitting the disease, as well as raising the number of AIDS-related deaths. Furthermore, half of HIV positive populations remain unaware of their HIV status, which can be addressed through increased testing, including self-testing, to raise diagnoses and awareness.

Activists decry deforestation in Swat

Environmental activists protested against rampant illegal deforestation in upper Swat on Wednesday, July 22. Activists alleged that the government allows illegal logging by exploitative timber mafias to go unchecked, even as said mafias destroy what activists and civilians feel makes Swat unique: it’s a breathtaking natural environment.

The demonstrators congregated at Nishat Chowk in Mingora, holding protest signs and banners, and sloganeering against the timber mafias and Forest Department officials. Protestors say that timber mafias have been relentlessly cutting down trees in forests in Swat and Dir, and allege that their ties to the government allow them to go unchecked.

Fawad Chaudhry against app ban

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry voiced his disagreement with the “moral policing and ban approach” to apps in Pakistan, warning that indiscriminately banning apps will cause great harm to the local technology industry.

Chaudhry warned that Pakistan was already lagging behind in science and technology-related developments and that banning apps and social media platforms left, right and center would worsen the situation. This comes in the wake of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banning the streaming platform BIGO for “obscene and vulgar content” and issuing popular video-sharing app TikTok a final warning on the same grounds.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Qazi Amin also pointed out ‘objectionable content’ on YouTube, asserting that the site had simply been banned in other nations where local laws control social media platforms and expressed his dissatisfaction at online attacks on the judiciary.

Senate on custodial death & torture bill

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights deliberated on elements of Senator Sherry Rehman’s Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2020 during a Wednesday, July 22 session, and assured that the bill will be considered in the next hearing after implementation of recommended amendments.

The house also discussed the Lahore Grammar School sexual harassment scandal, as well as the brief abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan hours before he was to appear before the Supreme Court for a contempt of court notice.