The Horrific Human Rights Crisis in North-west Pakistan

The recently unveiled report  titled “As If Hell Fell On Me”, by Amnesty International (AI), depict a horrifically dismal picture of the Human rights situation in Northwest of Pakistan, with particular emphasis on atrocities committed by the security forces of Pakistan and Taliban. The report is a red-card by Amnesty handed over to Pakistan- playing foul in the field of Human Rights. Focusing mainly on the  deteriorating Human Rights situation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Amnesty was having no choice but to declare FATA to be a Human Rights Free Zone. Keeping in view the stature of Amnesty as defender of the Human Rights on International level, this report can work as an eye opener for the Western World, which is hesitant to declare Northwest of Pakistan a war zone mainly due to political hypocrisy and vested interest. The report is not complete and comprehensive partly due to the fact that the representatives of Amnesty International were not allowed to enter FATA to directly meet, talk, investigate and interrogate the people and the security forces: to assess the situation on the ground objectively by itself.

The current sporadic and continuous low intensity fighting in FATA and Northwest of Pakistan represent a war theater. A war zone far more dangerous and bloodier than Afghanistan and Iraq resulting in dozens of casualties on daily basis. The astronomical human and material cost of this ongoing strife has pushed Pakistan hard enough to overtake Afghanistan and Iraq. Mass graves discovered at different locations in Swat as confirmed by HRCP, AI and HRW: reminds of the Serb genocide of 1995 in the city of Srebrenica in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Many more undiscovered Mass-graves are waiting to be unearthed, if and when International Human Rights Organizations will be allowed to enter FATA.

The magnitude and scale of torture, killing and forced disappearances by Military Establishment of Pakistan dwarfs the Chilean Dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is powerless, as its orders to produce missing persons before the court for trial are thrown into dustbin by Military Establishment.

The situation is pathetically dismal in areas of Freedom of expression and liberty of the Press. Pakistan holds the unenviable top position in the world with the highest number of journalists killed so far this year. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and FATA are lawless with complete break-down of Law & order.  Government security agencies and Taliban show scant respect for the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution.

A brief description of Human Rights violations by Taliban and the governemt of Pakistan (Military) are enumerated by Amnesty International as under:

TALIBAN ATROCITIES:

  1. Many of the Taleban’s acts constitute crimes under international law. They are also crimes under Pakistan’s law but in the absence of suitable judicial structures and the Pakistan government’s inability or lack of will to protect the local population from such crimes, these crimes have been committed with impunity”. The Pakistan-based Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, have both estimated more than 11,000 Casualties in 2009 only in North-West of Pakistan.
  2. In 2008 and 2009, Amnesty International documented 114 cases of attacks by the Taleban against locally prominent persons, including government officials, tribal leaders allied with the government, Journalists, aid workers and human rights activists. These attacks resulted in at least 256 deaths of civilians belonging to the aforementioned groups.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT (MILITARY):

  1. Pakistan has deployed tanks, artillery, jet fighters and bombers, helicopter gunships, and thousands of regular military troops to FATA for the first time in the history of Pakistan. The research conduct by Amnesty International shows 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.
  2. Cedible 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.
  3. Amnesty International has documented multiple instances of the military blocking members of the Mehsud tribe from using major roads to flee the conflict zone during its military operation of Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan.

These violations presented by Amnesty International is just like scratching the surface. Now, I would like to see as to which International mechanism exists, through which the Taliban and Military commanders who committed and ordered these abuses and brutalities to be brought to justice at an appropriate time. The following International Criminal, Human Rights and Humanitarians laws and other UN conventions have been violated:

Under international criminal law (ICL), individuals may be held criminally responsible for certain violations of international human rights law (IHRL), such as torture and enforced disappearance, for crimes against humanity and genocide, and for serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), such as war crimes. International human rights law applies both in peacetime and during armed conflict and is legally binding on states and has implications for non-state actors.

International humanitarian law (IHL) also known as the law of armed conflict, is binding on all parties to an armed conflict (regardless of whether the conflict is international or non-international), including non-state armed groups.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), though not itself a binding treaty, articulates some of the most basic rights that all UN member states pledge to promote and protect pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations. A number of the UDHR provisions, including the prohibition on  discrimination and the right to equality before the law, prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment, and the right to fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal are violated by the government of Pakistan.

Under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) , Pakistan is required to ensure that women enjoy equal rights and access as are provided to men in a range of fields such as holding public office, education, employment, health care, other areas of economic and social life CEDAW requires Pakistan to accord to women equality with men before the law, including a legal capacity in civil matters identical to that of men and the same opportunities to exercise that capacity, and equal treatment in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals. The draconian black law of Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) imposed on FATA residents clearly violets CEDAW and UDHR as most of its articles particularly Clauses 21, 22, 40 FCR are barbaric medieval-aged interpretation of laws. Under the clause of collective responsibility, tribesmen are arrested and sentenced some times for 14 years without trial in the courts of Pakistan for the crimes they have not committed. A women can be imprisoned without any trial before any court of law, without a right to appeal: if her husband or father-in-law accuse her of extra-marital relationship. Hundreds of children are languishing in prisons for the crimes they have not committed under 40 FCR in contravention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Constitution of Pakistan of 1973 explicitly excludes FATA from the legal, judicial and parliamentary system of Pakistan, including barring residents from full representation in parliament and bringing appeals to a higher courts of Pakistan. One does not understand as to how a state can maintain its membership of UN when its laws and Constitution clearly violate all International Human Rights instruments, treaties, laws and conventions.

“Finally, it is worth recalling that members of the Pakistan government or army and the insurgency movements may be subject to criminal prosecutions under international criminal law, in relation to war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other crimes under international law” Amnesty International confirms.

This statement of Amnesty International which clearly put the responsibility on the government of Pakistan or Army and the Taliban should be taken seriously by US, EU and relevant institutions like International Court of Justice (ICJ) to take measures to bring the culprits to justice, otherwise the world will witness a genocide in comparable in the history of Mankind.

I fully appreciate the efforts of Amnesty International for documenting this report with razor-beam focus on violations of IHRL, IHL, UDHR, CEDAW, CRC and the relevant Geneva conventions in Northwest of Pakistan, particularly FATA.

But, 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, condemnations and reports filed by Press freedom organization like Reporters without Borders(RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and World Association for Newspapers (WAN): Annual Human Rights reports both by US and  European governments, expressing concern over Human Rights abuses both by the State of Pakistan and Taliban in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:  no Inquiry under an International Inquiry Commission (my proposal) has been conducted to verify and ascertain the factual 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 still the Western countries are reluctant to declare it a war zone. Northwest of Pakistan needs to be declared a Safe Area under International protection, in order to protect the Pashtun race from ongoing Genocide by Punjabi Military Establishment.

The human rights abuses and violation of IHRL and IHL documented in this report is just a tip of an iceberg. Despite the fact that this effort of Amnesty International is a bold step in the right direction but the international community cannot relieve itself of its main responsibility to make the government of Pakistan accountable for the human right abuses that are taking place under the nose of the military establishment or to put it more precisely, with the active connivance or orders of the higher Command of the Military.

The merciless killing of innocent Pashtun Nation by the Pakistani Military will continue until the International Community act with resolute commitment taking tough measures to bring the higher command of Military to justice by invoking the relevant articles of the IHRL, IHL and Geneva Convention of 1949.

We cannot wait to see the situation convert into just like the tragedy of the Genocide of Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina or worst in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Unconfirmed reports suggests that more civilians have been killed in violation of International Humanitarian law than one can imagine. It needs to stopped immediately, otherwise the resultant balkanization of Pakistan will be more tormenting and ferocious than one can imagine leaving the un-healing scars of war and destruction dividing Pashtuns and Punjabi communities of Pakistan on blood lines. Again, I would also like to remind the International Court of Justice to take notice of the War Crimes committed by the government of Pakistan and Taliban to bring the culprits to justice.

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