‘Tribal areas held hostage to increasing HR abuses’
* HRW says Pakistan Army withdrawal gave Taliban free reign to commit abuses
* Government responsible for governance and safety of tribal populations
ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday issued a reprimand to Pakistan, saying that Islamabad had to act to protect civilian populations in its tribal areas from attacks by the Taliban, which, the New York-based group said, had soared since the government signed a peace deal with “militants”.
The human rights watchdog, in a press release, said that insurgents had set up a vigilante-style moral policing system — regularly resulting in violent attacks on civilians, including murder and public beheadings —as the semi-autonomous region of Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, was becoming increasingly “Talibanised”.
Referring to the North Waziristan September 5, 2006 peace pact signed between Islamabad and tribal elders, under which the government agreed to halt military operations in the area in exchange for tribal elders pledging to close down local Taliban and Al Qaeda operations — HRW noted that the result of the deal had been nothing less than an effective ceding of power to local tribal leaders closely allied with the Taliban in the Waziristan tribal belts.
Thus HRW South Asia researcher, Ali Dayan Hasan, said in report: “Taliban attacks on civilians in the tribal areas have soared since the Pakistani forces pulled out, and the government can’t just turn a blind eye to the violence.”
The group also noted that, as a direct result of the peace accord, civilians in the area were currently subjected to a “deteriorating human rights” situation.
This year alone, it pointed out, two men had been beheaded for allegedly spying for United States forces in Afghanistan while a bomb blast killed a doctor in charge of a campaign to inoculate children against polio.
“The Pakistani government can’t simply refuse to take responsibility for the governance and safety of people in the tribal areas. Pakistan cannot look the other way as the population of the tribal areas becomes hostage to increasing violence and human rights abuses,” HRW’s Hasan said.
But the watchdog also called on the Taliban, tribal leaders and their supporters to respect human rights and criticised the militants for their attacks and efforts to curb the rights of women.
While stressing that Islamabad needed to prosecute Taliban leaders responsible for the violence, HRW said “it can’t because it has effectively allowed the Taliban and its allies to control the area and has given them free rein to commit abuses”.
Pakistan has repeatedly defended its commitment to curbing cross-border infiltration by militants from its territory into Afghanistan, pointing out that it has stationed 80,000 troops and 1,000 guard posts along the border — a far larger deployment than that undertaken by NATO and US-led coalition forces.
It has also repeatedly defended the North Waziristan peace deal, with NWFP Governor Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai last week saying that a political settlement was the only way of addressing the current insurgency in Afghanistan, which he described as increasingly representing a “liberation war”.
Kabul strongly rejected the comments.
Source: Daily Times