Pakistan is a country in Southeast Asia where the military plays arguably the biggest part in its functionality or lack thereof. From 1951 to 2011 (60 years), the United States provided almost $67 billion to the Pakistani Army, allowing their power to surge. And in the ten additional years since then, the numbers have only grown. Through the years there have been many instances of injustice through the hands of military leaders. Laws were put in place to sensor television and media, clothing, women generally, and more aspects of everyday life. While it’s considered a rising democracy in some senses now, some would say it appears to have created an almost air-tight authoritarian regime. I’d argue it’s created one of the most lawless countries in the world. There are regular instances of mercy killings, sexual assault, kidnappings, terrorist camps, complete violence towards women, and even enforced disappearances. The military government in Pakistan does not only fail to prevent such instances but is in fact sometimes the cause of them in the first place.
The Pakistani military’s use of enforced disappearances became more known and widespread when they began abducting people more publicly in broad daylight as a punishment for dissent. When it first began it was typically human rights defenders, political activists, students, and journalists who were the victims of these abductions, but in July of 2020, a very active local critic of the government named Matiullah Jan was abducted in Islamabad. The abduction was captured on video and incited an uproar in the people, leading to his release twenty-four hours later. Although these enforced disappearances are not supported by the Prime Minister, there’s a kind of impunity around it. Those who are responsible are almost never convicted or held accountable by any means.
Women are targeted very differently from those who face harassment from the government (such as journalists, protestors, etc.) because of the lack of equality. The vulgar truth is rape is a common occurrence in Pakistan. Of all the incidents that occur, only hundreds of file cases and rarely receive justice. In September of 2020, a woman was raped on a motorway in front of her sons and a high-ranking police chief deemed it was her fault. This resulted in a national outcry with protests across the country. People demanded justice, stating that chemical castration or hangings were what needed to be done. The media highlighted the failure of human decency as a way to speak against violence towards women. This year in 2021, the two perpetrators were sentenced to death. Few of many stories that ever receive any form of justice. Regardless of physical harm, women are harassed daily as well. Even those who wear burqa or hijab deal with catcalling, sexual harassment, and the safety of their lives every day. And there is no military protection against, nor repercussions for, these incidents.
In 2018, women in Pakistan came together to create the Aurat Women’s March which now happens every year in Pakistan. This march represents the lack of respect and the mistreatment of women in Pakistan, as well as their sexualization. They’re constantly scrutinized for how they’re dressed or who they are with or what they choose to do. When in reality, women in Pakistan have less freedom than the country even allows men. Conservative groups will chant at the marchers, “chadar aur char diwari” which means veiled and within the four walls of her home. Essentially saying, the women’s place is in the home, and nowhere else. Besides having kids, taking care of them, the house, and the husband, women are not “supposed” to have other roles. The Aurat march empowers them to stand up for themselves. Something few ever do for them and they are afraid to do themself for fear of their safety.
People’s voices are silenced. Journalists, protestors, women, students, civilians; they’re all fighting for a better Pakistan. This isn’t to say Pakistan hasn’t had some major accomplishments within recent years as well, but the fact of the matter is the military rulership dictates everyone’s lives. Alcohol is banned, yet people can always get their hands on a bottle. What makes Pakistan lawless is the fact that for every law the military government has put in place, there have been hundreds of crimes against it to follow. Whether it be mass murder, rape, abduction, violence, harassment, etc., crime is evidently present and continues to occur despite the laws in place. It’s up to the people of Pakistan to stand, and for the military government to take care of its people, instead of its military.