State of human rights in FATA
By: Farhat Taj
The International Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. The day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The declaration endows all human beings with rights as inalienable and universal entitlements. Many states, including Pakistan, have signed the declaration, but nevertheless the declaration is being violated around the world by state as well as non-state actors
Being a security state, Pakistan has been violating the welfare demands of human rights of its citizens across the country, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – the area treated by the state as a strategic space for foreign policy objectives rather than a normal society. Despite being a signatory to the UN declaration, Pakistan has kept its tribal citizens deprived of human rights entitlements. Only recently some limited human rights have been extended to FATA. This is in violation of the right to equality before law and is entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Moreover, the governance system in the area continues to be marred by a great lack of democratic accountability leading to multiple violations of human rights. Thus, human rights violations rooted in the state governance system and policy have been a prominent feature of life in FATA even before the war on terror.
Violation of human rights multiplied following the US-led war on terror during which a managed chaos has been created to hide the terror sanctuaries of the Pakistani state proxies, the Taliban. Pakistan’s double dealing in the war on terror, ostensibly fighting the Taliban but tacitly entrenching them in FATA, has led to death, damage and human displacement on a large scale. Both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army have violated the tribal people’s right to life by killing and injuring thousands of people. Both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army have bombed schools, colleges, health centres and drinking water supply systems in the area. Thus, both have violated the tribal people’s right to education and health.
The government of Pakistan’s own report ‘Cost of Conflict in FATA’ informs that public and private properties worth millions of dollars have been destroyed in the conflict in FATA. The people’s means of livelihood linked with agriculture and small businesses, such as shops, have been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of the IDPs from FATA live in acute poverty in other parts of Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government has not provided them adequate means, such as employment, health, and educational and residential facilities. These people are faced with psychological traumas. Their human right to dignity has been thoroughly violated.
There are noble souls in FATA who have been making whatever contribution they could to service human rights of the tribal people. Such human rights defenders have been target killed by the militants. Last week, Mr Zarteef Khan, Khyber Agency Coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was assassinated. The remaining human rights defenders in the area have received death threats and face a perpetual threat to their lives. This implies that whatever little human rights service that might be available to the tribal people is also in danger of extinction.
Another issue with adverse human rights implications in FATA is that many Pakistani liberals have a discriminatory approach towards human rights. They stand up for women and minority rights in Pakistan but at the same time support the military establishment’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan, the key cause of gross human rights violations in FATA as well as Afghanistan. They do not treat the human rights violations of the Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line at par with the human rights violation of women and minorities in mainstream Pakistan.
The latter is seen as a priority and the former can wait indefinitely in pursuit of strategic depth. A good example of this Pakistani liberal mindset can be seen in a report prepared jointly by a Pakistani and an American think tank. In complete disregard of the ground realities as well as human rights of the terrorism-hit Pakhtun, the report conflates the entire Pakhtun nation with the Taliban and asks for the accommodation of Afghan militants, hosted, nurtured, trained and armed by Pakistan as its proxies, in the future government setup of Afghanistan. This is the strategic depth policy of the military establishment of Pakistan. Several of the leading Pakistani liberals prominent in the media and civil society contributed in making this anti-Pakhtun and pro-military establishment report.
Source: Daily Times