UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday urged [statement; press release] the Pakistani government to continue to work to improve its human rights situation. In particular, Pillay stressed that the government must work to eliminate institutionalized discrimination and to prevent torture and corruption. She also stressed the importance of emphasizing women's rights. In her statement, Pillay indicated that government accountability was the key to improvement in Pakistan:
Equality before the law and true democracy will only be achieved if there is genuine accountability of ALL state institutions to the elected civilian government and independent judiciary. During my visit, I heard of many instances in which the abduction, killing and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers are alleged to have been carried out by powerful and largely unaccountable state institutions, especially the military intelligence services.Pillay offered the continued support of her office in Pakistan's efforts to introduce reform.
Pakistan has been under pressure recently to improve human rights conditions. Last week Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari signed a bill authorizing the creation of an independent human rights commission [JURIST report] in Pakistan. Last April, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [official website], a non-government organization, harshly criticized the Pakistani government [JURIST report] for its poor human rights record and called on government officials to fix the human rights abuses occurring in the country. Earlier that month, the US Department of State [official website] released [JURIST report] the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials]. The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan were criticized for their conduct in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the 2008 Pakistani elections [JURIST report] were deemed "competitive and reflective of the people's will," restoring democratic rule and leading to some human rights progress.