Remembering democracy and forgetting human rights -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Remembering democracy and forgetting human rights

By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: A phone call from a TV channel’s office to its DSNG (digital satellite news gathering) vehicle driver panicked journalists during the tea break after a breaking news discovered “explosion” near the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Within no time, all DSNGs were driven from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly premises to beam up live images from the blast scene.

Later, it was revealed that the explosion occurred when leaked gas caught fire inside a room rather than a blast of explosives. However, the phone call panicked assembly members on Thursday and a few lawmakers from treasury benches turned up after the tea break.

Speaker Karamatullah Chagarmati adjourned the session for December 30 after quorum was pointed out and the opposition used the occasion to accuse the coalition partners of running away from the debate on Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted under blasphemy law.

As the end of the day’s session came before the agenda was finished, the start was also much beyond the scheduled time of 10am. There was a 90-minute delay before the start of the session. Since the very first day when the House met for the first time in 2008, there has not been a single instance that the speaker was able to begin the session on time.

Old habits die hard. However, if the country experiences uninterrupted democracy, this bad habit may be seen off one day. But at a time when Pakistan is under a democratic set-up, something said about democracy always sounds pleasant. And every time provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain takes the floor, the media men listen to him with great deal of interest.

He stood up after the speaker gave him the floor and the minister welcomed the passage of 19th Amendment by the National Assembly on Wednesday to accommodate the Supreme Court views regarding appointment of new judges to the higher judiciary.

It is indeed a moment of joy. But it is also heartrending that in the shadow of democracy, fundamental human rights are at times disrespected. A back-page story in Thursday’s edition of Daily Times is aching. A man whose two sons and three relatives were presumed terrorists and killed allegedly by the security forces is seeking justice from the Peshawar High Court.

His two sons, according to the grieving father, were taken from their home by security personnel and later found dead. The father told the court on Wednesday he has a video in which 17 people were being executed and among them were his two sons — students of classes 10 and 9

The two students were not residents of Waziristan, the birthplace of terrorism in Pakistan. They were living in Koi Hasan Khel area of Frontier Region Peshawar. Pleading their case does not mean we presume they were innocent. It is well documented that the terrorists used children to spy on security forces or carry out suicide attacks.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have seen large-scale destruction and killings due to Taliban-linked terrorism and thousands of security personnel also lost lives in the same course. All these pains and sacrifices at all do not allow state actors to treat suspects the way non-state actors are treating their opponents.

The danger that may come from the operations to the security forces’ rules of engagement is that if such behaviour of these personnel continues with impunity, it will make them habitual of trampling the set rules of engagement. No disciplined force can afford this for its personnel. So, it should not be the case with Pakistani security forces.

Private militias in the name of ‘amn lashkars’ (armed peace groups) have lately been encouraged by the government to partner against the terrorists. The move is proving productive on one hand but also destructive on the other hand as personal or family feuds are settled by accusing the rival of being a Taliban or their supporter.

Foreign forces killed several thousands of Afghans after such private militias used the pretext of terrorism to get rivals killed or punished. These cases have been documented in Afghanistan after investigation by the United Nations and independent Afghan human rights organisations. There seems a genuine reason to believe that the same may be happening here.

During the Taliban-linked mayhem in Swat many residents pointed out their rivals to the terrorists accusing them of being government supporters or spies, and the next day the bodies of these accused people were found on roadsides. Inter-tribe or family or personal feuds among the Pashtuns is a common phenomena and they use such periods – the one Swat experienced between 2007 and 2009 and now when the security forces are combing the previous strongholds of Taliban.

If proper investigation is carried out the security forces may find evidence that innocent people were pointed out as terrorists or their supporters to the government by amn lashkars meeting dreadful fate for their presumed crimes.

By all standards, state actors cannot be allowed to behave like non-state actors. Democracy does not preach this and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government should uphold democratic values and norms which guarantee fundamental human rights.
Source: Daily Times
Date:12/24/2010