Published first on July 21, 2010
Fazal ur Rehman Afridi, journalist, writer and Human Rights Activist visited Lycée Phiippe Lamour at the city of Nîmes and Lycée Professionnel Jules VERNE, at the city of Tarare in France respectively. He elaborated on the social, economic, geographic and political situation in Pakistan with particular reference to War on terror and the press freedom situation.
Afridi informed the students that Pakistan has become a Human Rights Free Zone for independent and brave journalists and all those who dare to question the government of Pakistan on Human rights violations and criticize the barbaric acts of Taliban. Despite, enjoying a relatively more freedom, the journalists are under constant pressure and threats both from government and extremist elements.
There is a no difference at all between security agencies controlled by mighty military establishment and the extremists Taliban. By criticizing even one, a journalist can invite the wrath of both Military and Taliban as in most of the cases both work in tandem. For the last three consecutive years Pakistan has been earning unenviable second position in the world in terms journalists killed, confirmed by International Press Freedom Organizations like Reporters without Borders (RSF) and World Association of Press (WAN). This year, Pakistan is at the top with 6 journalists killed so far. These figures are just a tip of an iceberg. The real situation is worst then what is reported in media and confirmed by independent press organizations.
Military operations are underway, in most parts of the two Provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including FATA, which are not reported. There is complete media black-out in these parts of Pakistan, where journalists are not allowed to enter and report the stories. Only military version of information is given to the local and international media.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its latest report published in July 2010, has confirmed the reports of Extra-judicial killings of un-armed innocent civilians by Security forces of Pakistan in the Valley of Swat, during its military operations to drive-out local Taliban. The report confirm the earlier reports by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), relating to the discovery of Mass-graves in the Valley of Swat after Military operation conducted by Pakistan Army. Even now, dead bodies of innocent civilians are dumped on the streets and hanged on the electric poles in the Valley of Swat and FATA, who were earlier reported to be abducted by the security forces of Pakistan.
Amnesty International has termed Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as Human Rights Free Zone, where millions of Pakistanis have no legal protection from the government and are subject to gross abuses by Taliban. The report documents the systematic abuses carried out by the Taliban as they established their rule by killing those who challenge their authority, such as tribal elders, journalists, teachers, Human Rights Activists and government officials. They imposed their rule through torture and other ill-treatment, targeting teachers, aid workers and political activists. The Taliban have particularly targeted women and schools and health clinics catering to their needs.
“Nearly 4 million people are effectively living under the Taleban in Northwest Pakistan without rule of law and effectively abandoned by the Pakistani government,” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International’s interim Secretary General.
The residents of FATA continue to be governed by a colonial-era law, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901, which denies basic constitutional rights and protections for the residents of FATA,,. including their rights to political representation, judicial appeal, and freedom from collective punishment. The FCR gives a government-appointed Political Agent ultimate judicial and executive authority, including the ability to carry out communal punishment, including formal detention, by holding all members of a tribe potentially responsible for alleged infractions committed by any tribe member. The tribesmen do not have the right to appeal in the higher courts of Pakistan against these punishements, the report says.
Taliban have imposed a strict social codes on civilians, forcing men to wear long Beards, wear caps, perform prayers and women to wear full veils or burqas. These and other actions are abuses of a whole range of human rights of local residents, including to life, to liberty and security of the person, to non-discrimination, freedom of expression, religion, association and movement, and the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
“The Taleban have systematically abused the right to life, and to freedom from arbitrary detention, torture, gender, religious, and ethnic discrimination, and the right to free expression—among other internationally recognized human rights”, the report says. Many of these acts constitute violations of Many of these acts constitute violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of human rights.
Since 2001, Pakistan has deployed tanks, artillery, jet fighters and bombers, helicopter gunships, and thousands of regular military troops to FATA. This deployment of heavily armed troops was unprecedented in FATA’s history. Amnesty International’s research in FATA (as well as areas of the neighbouring NWFP affected by this conflict) demonstrates that the Pakistani military has not taken sufficient care to minimize the risk to civilians, often resorting to indiscriminate or disproportionate force in its operations. Pakistani government forces have detained hundreds, if not thousands, of FATA residents on suspicion of cooperating with the Pakistani Taleban…credible media reports suggest that some 2,500 people were in detention in the first half of 2010…the numbers subjected to enforced disappearances could be much higher. These detainees are not held under any clear legal framework under Pakistan’s law, the report confirms. Hundreds of thousands of FATA’s nearly four million residents have fled the increasing brutality of the Pakistani Taleban and of the government’s military response. Hundreds of thousands (ranging as high as more than two million in June 2009) of those who have fled from their homes have often left behind livestock, property, and money.
Inspite of dozens of reports and mountains of information piled up by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: analysis by think-tanks like Rand and Council for Foreign Relations: the protests filed by Press freedom organization like Reporters without Borders and World Association for Newspapers: US and European Annual Human Rights reports expressing concern about Human Rights abuses both by the State of Pakistan and Talibans in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, no International Inquiry has been conducted to verify the real situation on the ground which is far more dangerous than reported. A full-fledge war is going on in the Northern Part of Pakistan but partly to political reasons and partly due to scant worry by the Western countries for the lives of ethnic Pashtuns in the North-West of Pakistan, it is still not declared a war zone. North-West of Pakistan needs to be declared a War Zone by International Community, in order to protect the Pashtun race from ongoing Genocide by Punjabi Military Establishment, Afridi said.