NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog body, Monday urged the Pakistani authorities to urgently investigate the surge in violent attacks in Pakhtunkhwa province against transgender women as also allegations that medical staff and police failed to assist victims and pursue justice in cases involving them.

“The surge in brutal attacks on transgender women in Pakistan will only end when authorities signal that they will hold the attackers to account,” Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Hospital staff and police need to stop their humiliating treatment of transgender people and start protecting their rights.”

A Press release issued by HRW, which is based in New York, referred to the case of Sumbal, a transgender woman, who on Aug. 9 was shot three times by unidentified assailants in Abbottabad when she resisted abduction and rape.

The District Hospital refused to admit her, stating they only have male and female wards, and therefore could not treat a transgender person, the Press release said, adding the police also refused to register a case until transgender activists protested outside the hospital.

The attack on Sumbal was the latest of several recent attacks against transgender people in this province in northwestern Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said, citing two more cases of harassment and rights violations involving Ayesha, 22, and Arzu, 26, who belonged to Peshawar.

Pakistani law includes provisions to protect the rights of transgender people, Human Rights Watch pointed out, citing a 2009 call by the Supreme Court on all provincial governments to recognise the rights of transgender people.

The court also ordered the relevant authorities to ensure the right of transgender people to basic education, employment, and protection.

HRW noted that some local governments have carried out parts of the court’s order, including by creating employment programmes – for example by hiring transgender people as tax collectors in Karachi.

“Police involvement in abuses against transgender people has generated profound mistrust between the community and provincial authorities,” Adams said. “Authorities abusing transgender women and threatening them when they seek justice should be seen as a threat to all Pakistanis – a sign of the government’s failure to ensure basic safety for all.”