HRCP wants civilians to oversee army operations
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has stressed the need for the government to develop a mechanism of civilian oversight of military operations to ensure protection of citizens’ rights in conflict areas.
The HRCP executive body that met here on Saturday expressed concern at the indications of growing anarchy that was reflected in a number of recent developments such as intra and inter-institution clashes. It noted that tensions between the parliament and the judiciary were taking serious dimensions and there was no cohesion between the political forces themselves.
The disturbing incidents of violence by lawyers against judges of subordinate courts leading to protests and strikes showed that even judges were disappointed at their inability to stop violent defiance of a community that was supposed to uphold the rule of law. This situation was aggravated by the fact that the norms of justice were being distorted and large sections of the population were resorting to rough and easy justice, such as growing incidents of vigilante excesses.
Acts of barbarism by law enforcement personnel were being glorified. There was friction between the law enforcement agencies themselves and in some instances police resorted to vandalism to press for their own demands.
The HRCP council noted that conflicts in the country had acquired a complex character and multiple dimensions. There were clashes between ethnic and sectarian groups as well as militants and principal organs of the state. In this state of chaos, human rights had been seriously undermined. The situation in the strife-ridden north-western regions of the country was a cause of concern for more than one reason. There were complaints of extrajudicial killings of the suspected militants and recruitment of children by private militias (lashkars) raised with the backing of the government.
In Swat Valley, HRCP said, a large number of suspected militants had been detained by the security forces on private premises. These instances were in violation of the due process of law and were fuelling revenge killings. HRCP demanded access to the conflict areas for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations as well as independent journalists.
The rights group says another cause of concern in the tribal belt had been signs of famine-like conditions as a consequence of the fighting between security forces and militants, mass migration from parts of the tribal areas and depletion of the economic resources. If not addressed in time, this might develop into a full blown humanitarian crisis, complicating the war against terror. The authorities needed to seriously address numerous complaints of the discriminatory nature of registration of the internally displaced persons that was being used by the security forces as a tool to strike deals with certain local communities.
HRCP said that Baloch people’s sense of deprivation and alienation continued to grow despite announcement of the reforms package for Balochistan by the federal government. Target killings by sectarian or nationalist organisations increased greatly. Illegal detentions, including forced disappearances, of Baloch activists and repressive tactics of the security establishment against civilians were causing widespread resentment. The provincial government itself declared its helplessness and talked of a ‘parallel government’ functioning in Balochistan. A delay in finding a durable political solution to the Balochistan problem would have very serious consequences.
HRCP said the situation of religious minorities had worsened. There were illegal evictions of Hindus in Tharparkar by gangsters who were allegedly supported by agents of the state. There were complaints of young Hindu girls being forcibly converted and migration of religious minorities in Sindh and the north-western tribal belt because of a climate of fear, especially directed at them. Hate speech against religious minorities was being tolerated with impunity. An ugly example of this is the statement of the chief justice of the Lahore High Court who proclaimed that terrorism in Pakistan was being financed by Hindus. Condemnation by parliament was not enough, at least a public apology by the author of the calumny was warranted, it added.
HRCP said it watched the polling during the recent by-elections. While the outcome was not seriously disputed except in the case of Gujrat, quite a few irregularities were observed and there was obviously a need for moving toward a truly independent and more efficient election machinery. It said it was outraged at the obstacles put in the way of women voters. Such violation of their rights was again neither addressed by the Election Commission nor denounced by political forces.
The rights group said there were credible accounts of massive land-grabbing in Karachi. Almost every political party, ethnic group and powerful institution of the state was competing in such illegal actions. Kidnapping for ransom had become a routine in all parts of the country. There were indications that perpetrators were being protected by elements within the state. In Punjab, there had been an alarming rise in extrajudicial killings.
HRCP observed that all these were the ugly symptoms of a dysfunctional state where governance was missing and institutions crumbling. The worst had yet to come as an economic meltdown was staring the nation in the face. Power cuts, gas shortage and the rising prices of all utilities would force industrial closures and consequently massive unemployment. This would inevitably lead to deeper anarchy, which the state would be unable to check.
HRCP asked the government and all state institutions to rise above their petty differences and collectively address the catastrophe at hand.