Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bullets don't win hearts and minds

Pakistan has a long history of extra-judicial killings; not only by Pakistani security forces but also by permitted US drones strikes. Apparently the Pakistani civilian government, independent judiciary and the general public are all powerless before the powerful Army. 

1971: atrocities in Bangladesh,1992: operation clean up in Karachi , the military conflict in Baluchistan, peace operation in KPK; Pakistan Armed forces has been accused of extra-judicial killings and disappearances of innocent civilians. Pakistan Army categorically refuses these allegations but human right organizations, court documents, international observers and the evidence speaks oppositely. 

On Oct-28-2013, the relatives of missing persons from Baluchistan started a 730 kilometer peaceful long march from Quetta to Karachi for the recovery of disappeared persons. Few hours before the long march, the frustrated Chief Minister of Baluchistan, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch admitted administrative failure over the missing persons. According to the Chief Minister “he could not resolve missing person issue.”

During hearings of the Baluchistan unrest case, the Commission on the Inquiry of Enforced Disappearances has itself confirmed the extrajudicial killings of 530 persons during 2001-2013. The official list also confirms that over 2,500 persons are missing after their arrest. On one occasion, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that the evidence was available against Frontier Corps (FC) personnel in some ‘missing’ person cases. Inspector General Frontier Corps (IGFC) denied the charges and stated that all cases would be thoroughly examined and any missing person found with the FC would be revealed.

In September 2009, then US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, sent an assessment to the US State department. According to reports, an estimated 5000 detainees were picked up illegally by Pakistani security forces during anti-Taliban operations in Malakand division, KPK.

In 2010, shocking footage emerged that purported to show Pakistani soldiers (the targeted units 12 Punjab infantry regiment and the paramilitary Frontier Corps) murdering six men. By conservative estimates over 300 people had been extra judicially murdered by Pakistan security forces during Swat operation in 2009, according to US State department reports. COAS formulated the investigation team and denied the charges at the same time.

Recently, the metropolitan city of Karachi witnessed an increase in illegal arrests, torture, kidnapping and extra judicial murders by law enforcement agencies. Dilshad Ahmed Khan, a worker of Muttahida Quami Movement was illegally arrested and brutally tortured to death by Rangers, the para-military force of Pakistan. To no one’s surprise, the Rangers denied the allegation.

This is not the first time the Army or other law enforcement agencies were involved in extra-judicial activities in Karachi. During operation cleanup (1992-2000), over 15000 MQM workers were extra-judicially killed, 28 missing persons and countless tortured by Pakistan armed forces. The Amnesty International 1996 report “Human rights crisis in Karachi” urged the Government of Pakistan to adopt measures to stop the large-scale human rights violations in Karachi, the capital of Sindh. Once again the law enforcement agencies rejected those changes.

A recent report by The Washington Post, based on US classified secret documents, revealed that U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani territory have been secretly permitted over years by the government in Islamabad.  According to two leading human rights NGOs, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch between 400-900 civilians have been killed in over 330 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013. Ironically, for past 10 years Army also denied these allegations. 

The government of Pakistan and independent judiciary must take action to halt extra-judicial killing and brutal torture by armed forces and intelligence agencies. Those who committed atrocities in Bangladesh, Baluchistan, Swat or in Karachi should be brought to justice. There is no excuse for law enforcement personnel to betray the public’s trust by rebuttals and false statements. Pakistani Army, Para-military forces and Intelligence agencies should understand that a bullet in the back of the head is simply not the way to win hearts and minds.

Twitter ID @fawadrehman

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