Pakistan’s record of impunity has emboldened hostile actors and fostered an increasingly violent climate for HRDs, who face high risks including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, abduction and kidnapping, surveillance, threats and judicial harassment. The government of Pakistan has made no real effort to support or protect their work and instead regularly votes against UN resolutions aimed at providing better protection for HRDs.
Defenders investigating human rights violations in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) face a particularly hostile climate, as they are targeted by security agencies, religious groups, militants, and armed gangs. Women HRDs face particular risks due to their gender. Besides threats by security agencies and armed groups, WHRDs can receive threats from their own family members, who exert pressure on them to quit their human rights work, or be threatened with the safety of their children. While the transgender community in Pakistan has made some strides in recent years, attacks on transgender HRDs remain widespread and the violence has been increasing. HRDs working on religious freedom and minority rights are also targeted.
Pakistan's Penal Code includes several sections that comprise blasphemy laws. Sections §298 and §295, which provide for penalties ranging from imprisonment to capital punishment, are widely used to target HRDs, especially those defending the rights of Christian minorities. In August 2016, the Pakistani government enacted a cybercrime law – the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 - which is being used to hamper digital freedom of expression and gives overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies. On 1 October 2015, Pakistan announced a “Policy for Regulation of International NGOs in Pakistan” that severely limits the activities of HRDs and non-governmental organisations working in the country as it requires mandatory registration and restricts their operations to specific issues and geographical areas.