The HRCPs report Human Rights in 2008 presents as usual a dismal picture. Whatever progress was made during the first ten months of the elected government vis--vis human rights was both meagre and marginal. The overall situation remained as bad as before, and in certain areas it deteriorated First the positive things that the report takes note of. Pakistan signed or ratified three UN human rights treaties, "though steps for their implementation remained elusive." The government initially thought of converting all death sentences into life imprisonment "but later it seemed to back paddle and introduced more laws punishable with death." A new law on industrial relations freed the trade unions of some of the curbs imposed by the previous government, but respect for freedom of association was still conditional. Curbs on media diminished but the state failed to protect media persons against violence and threats from non-state actors. One has a feeling of dj vu as one reads successive chapters of the report dealing with separate categories of rights abuses. Foremost among those responsible for the violations are the agencies of the state. Involuntary disappearances declined but did not end after February 18 elections. The euphemism refers to the notorious practice of the picking up of citizens by the security agencies without due process, subjecting them to torture and keeping them incommunicado as long as they liked. There are cases where victims had in the past turned into vegetable by the time they were released. Families of the disappeared persons were broken, others suffered dire poverty as the only bread winner they had been taken away. The kidnapping of hundreds of people deepened the already existing sense of alienation in Balochistan. That the practice has not been discontinued underlines the fact that agencies remain as powerful and as disrespectful to law as ever. In the year under review 289 persons were dispatched by police in staged encounters which have in the past been encouraged by governments under the misguided concept that they discouraged criminals and reduced crime. Instead of improving the judicial system governments have indirectly maintained that with the existing loopholes, influential criminals tend to get released and the only way to get rid of them is the resort to extra judicial killing. Violation against women continues. Sanction is sometime sought for this from the outmoded feudal and tribal customs. Jirgas continue to permit honour killings, vani, and even rape of women. Of the 1,210 women killed this year, at least 612 were executed in the name of honour. Domestic violence took toll of 185.350 cases of rape and 445 of gang rape were also reported. Some of the laws promulgated by Ziaul Haq, and retained by subsequent governments out of the fear of the mob continued to be used to persecute the minorities. Poverty remained as before another source of the denial of basic human rights. Despite the government's agenda of providing food, clothing and shelter to the population, there were at least 70,000 children living and working in the streets. With 500,000 workers in the APTMA units alone losing jobs due to energy shortages, and the overall economy facing a slow down, a large section of population was deprived of the source of sustenance. With the spread of terrorism, suicide attacks which were an aberration in 2006 became a norm in 2008. Kidnapping for ransom increased. There were 540 cases of the sort by September 2008 and Interior Ministry told Parliament that these incidents were considerably higher than in any year during the past decade. Human rights abuses are a slur on any democratic government. While it is the duty of the government to put an end to them, they cannot be eradicated by it without support from the rest of the society. To address them in a comprehensive way the government needs to formulate a Charter of Rights on the lines of the Charter of Democracy. It has then to get it approved from all major political parties so that irrespective of who is in power the plan continues to be implemented in coming years. Judiciary has to be encouraged to take action against human rights violations. The task cannot be fulfilled by the Supreme Court alone. The apex court has to activate lower echelons of judiciary to take up suo motu action against violations of basic rights. Further, human rights issues which have not so far found a place in the text books have to be included in the curriculum to raise awareness. What is more media has to be taken on board and convinced to take a pro-active approach to create a strong public opinion in their support. E-mail: