The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) annual report on the state of human rights in 2023 details the deteriorating law-and-order situation in Sindh, particularly the marked increase in street crime-about 11 percent in Karachi-and kidnappings. In response, the Sindh police launched a large-scale operation against dacoits in the Katcha (riverine) area with the help of the army and Rangers.

Violations of civic and fundamental rights continued to take place. During the 9 May riots, a number of public and private properties were damaged. In an excessive crackdown by the state, over 25 PTI leaders, including former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, were arrested. Enforced disappearances of political workers, nationalists, lawyers and journalists also continued unabated, with at least 175 cases reported from different districts during the year. In another incident, a security operation in a village near Sakrand resulted in at least four people being killed extrajudicially and nine others injured.

The rights of vulnerable groups in Sindh also took a hit; scores of Afghan refugees and migrants were arrested and deported following the federal caretaker government’s executive order to deport ‘illegal’ foreigners. Unfortunately, the civil society’s response was visibly divided in Sindh, with a large faction endorsing the policy. Violence against women and children remained a persistent issue, with at least 546 cases of child abuse reported in Sindh during 2023. In terms of labour rights, the minimum wage for unskilled worker was increased to PKR 32,000 although implementation of this wage at workplaces remained lax. Attacks on the worship places of religious minorities, especially the Hindu and Ahmadi communities, and forced conversions were also reported, with the affected communities frequently demonstrating for an end to these violations.

In welcome news, amendments to the Sindh Local Government Act were approved that gave mayors and chairs of municipal corporations more powers. Another key amendment paved the way for reserved seats for transgender persons in local councils for the first time, increasing representation and visibility for the community and their rights. However, the state must make a concentrated effort to uphold the fundamental rights of Sindh’s vulnerable groups, and restore law and order without further delay.