Human rights-free zone -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Human rights-free zone

“Nearly four million people are effectively living under the Taliban in northwest Pakistan without rule of law and effectively abandoned by the Pakistani government,” was how Amnesty InternationalÂ’s interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone introduced its new report, ‘As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest PakistanÂ’.

This was indeed a serious allegation by an internationally renowned human rights organisation, thus we were bound to ask how Amnesty International had come to this conclusion. But when one reads this report, which is based on “over 300 interviews beginning in the second half of 2008, through 2009, and up to May 2010”, one finds that Mr Cordone’s words are a bit misleading. The actual report says: “Some four million Pakistanis have been caught in a human rights and humanitarian crisis that has gripped northwest Pakistan since 2004, when the Pakistani Taliban asserted themselves in the seven ‘agencies’ that comprise the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).” This is true but then it should be kept in mind that it is only an indicator of an ongoing struggle in the tribal areas. The people of FATA – termed a “human rights-free zone” in the report – have suffered a lot in recent years due to the brutality of the Taliban but now that the military offensives have largely cleared the areas under Taliban rule, things are getting back on the right track.

The report says that “Pakistan’s commitment to extending basic human rights protections to FATA is undercut by government’s repeatedly entering into ‘peace deals’ with the local Taliban groups, in each case without providing any concrete means to safeguard the rights of the local population.” It must be pointed out that the government has now decided against any more peace deals because such deals in the past have only allowed the militants to regroup and come back stronger every time. The peace deals were the results of a hangover of the state’s policy of nurturing and financing the militants for the purpose of exporting jihad. Now this policy has been reversed, as can be seen from successive military operations against these very same groups. But a serious charge has been levelled against the military in the said report. Amnesty International alleges that during the military operations, “in many cases the army had taken insufficient care to protect civilians and subjected them to indiscriminate or disproportionate force”. Now the word ‘indiscriminate’ sounds good rhetorically but these allegations must be backed up by concrete proof instead of relying on some few hundred interviews. In the absence of independent media reportage, it would be difficult to ascertain the facts. There may have been some civilian casualties, but such unsubstantiated criticism coming from a human rights organisation will inadvertently help the Taliban.

Coming to the issue of the lashkars, the report says that the government’s support to these private militias is a cause of worry as they “are poorly trained, subject to little oversight and monitoring, and operate without any accountability.” Most of the lashkars are not backed by the state and have been left to fend for themselves. But the fact that they have been accused of carrying out personal vendettas should be looked at closely and the government should not allow them to grow into monsters as was done in the case of the Taliban.

That said, the IDP crisis cannot be overlooked and the displaced people must be looked after properly. A rehabilitation programme is the need of the hour. Bringing the people of FATA into the mainstream is urgently required, as has been advised in the report.
Source: Daily Times