Rights violations in Pakistan

In its World Report 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the security situation in Pakistan “continued to deteriorate in 2010 with militant groups carrying out suicide bombings and targeted killings across the country”. The HRW report shed light on some very important aspects like counterterrorism, human rights violations by our security forces in conflict areas, mistreatment of minorities, media freedom, judiciary and legal reforms. Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at the HRW, said that “Taliban atrocities are not happening in a vacuum, but instead often with covert support from elements in the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies”. This comes across as another damning indictment of our security establishment, which is protecting certain factions of militants, despite its campaign against terrorism. The local Taliban have wreaked havoc in the country. Thus, if some elements in our law enforcement agencies are indeed complicit in giving support to the Taliban, they must be given exemplary punishment. Pakistan has seen enough bloodshed to last us a lifetime, but there seems to be no end to this madness. Just yesterday, Lahore and Karachi were rocked by terrorist attacks. If the terrorists are not stopped, they will continue with their barbarity.

The HRW report also highlighted how our security forces violate basic human rights during military operations. According to the report, there were “summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced evictions, and house demolitions” in Swat by our military and the police. In a widely circulated video, some soldiers were shown executing a group of men in Swat. Despite assurances by General Kayani to investigate the matter, nothing has come out of it and no one has been held accountable. This culture of impunity is not just limited to FATA or Swat. The situation in Balochistan is far worse. The Baloch continue to go ‘missing’ despite the government’s promise of addressing the grievances of the Baloch. The FC is accused of running a parallel government in Balochistan. Many of the missing are tortured and then killed. Bullet-riddled bodies of the Baloch have been found in different parts of Balochistan. If the military establishment keeps up with this disastrous policy, the situation will certainly get out of control. A political solution is imperative or else the consequences can be catastrophic.

On the other hand, the mistreatment of minorities and violence against women continues in Pakistan. In a patriarchal society like ours, domestic violence, forced marriages and rape are a norm, especially in rural areas. Gender equality remains a distant dream. As for the religious minorities, there seems to be no end to their woes. Religious extremism and bigotry is on the rise. The brutal assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer is a stark reminder of how intolerant we as a nation have become and how fanaticism has permeated our society. On the one hand we are victims of terrorism in the name of religion, and on the other, ethnic strife has led to hundreds of deaths in Karachi. Meanwhile, a weak democratic government is struggling to survive.

Media freedom has also suffered a blow under these trying times. Those journalists who are brave enough to objectively criticise the military are threatened and harassed by the intelligence agencies. The Taliban and other terrorist groups have also threatened or killed journalists for their honest reporting. Pakistan’s tragedy is that our security forces are ‘protecting’ criminal elements while the latter continue to terrorise its citizens. It is time that the government takes some serious measures in order to save our beloved motherland.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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