EDITORIAL: Rights violations in Pakistan - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Source : www.dailytimes.com

In its World Report 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the security situation in Pakistan “continued to deteriorate in 2010 with militant groups carrying out suicide bombings and targeted killings across the country”. The HRW report shed light on some very important aspects like counterterrorism, human rights violations by our security forces in conflict areas, mistreatment of minorities, media freedom, judiciary and legal reforms. Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at the HRW, said that “Taliban atrocities are not happening in a vacuum, but instead often with covert support from elements in the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies”. This comes across as another damning indictment of our security establishment, which is protecting certain factions of militants, despite its campaign against terrorism. The local Taliban have wreaked havoc in the country. Thus, if some elements in our law enforcement agencies are indeed complicit in giving support to the Taliban, they must be given exemplary punishment. Pakistan has seen enough bloodshed to last us a lifetime, but there seems to be no end to this madness. Just yesterday, Lahore and Karachi were rocked by terrorist attacks. If the terrorists are not stopped, they will continue with their barbarity.

The HRW report also highlighted how our security forces violate basic human rights during military operations. According to the report, there were “summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced evictions, and house demolitions” in Swat by our military and the police. In a widely circulated video, some soldiers were shown executing a group of men in Swat. Despite assurances by General Kayani to investigate the matter, nothing has come out of it and no one has been held accountable. This culture of impunity is not just limited to FATA or Swat. The situation in Balochistan is far worse. The Baloch continue to go ‘missing’ despite the government’s promise of addressing the grievances of the Baloch. The FC is accused of running a parallel government in Balochistan. Many of the missing are tortured and then killed. Bullet-riddled bodies of the Baloch have been found in different parts of Balochistan. If the military establishment keeps up with this disastrous policy, the situation will certainly get out of control. A political solution is imperative or else the consequences can be catastrophic.

On the other hand, the mistreatment of minorities and violence against women continues in Pakistan. In a patriarchal society like ours, domestic violence, forced marriages and rape are a norm, especially in rural areas. Gender equality remains a distant dream. As for the religious minorities, there seems to be no end to their woes. Religious extremism and bigotry is on the rise. The brutal assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer is a stark reminder of how intolerant we as a nation have become and how fanaticism has permeated our society. On the one hand we are victims of terrorism in the name of religion, and on the other, ethnic strife has led to hundreds of deaths in Karachi. Meanwhile, a weak democratic government is struggling to survive.

Media freedom has also suffered a blow under these trying times. Those journalists who are brave enough to objectively criticise the military are threatened and harassed by the intelligence agencies. The Taliban and other terrorist groups have also threatened or killed journalists for their honest reporting. Pakistan’s tragedy is that our security forces are ‘protecting’ criminal elements while the latter continue to terrorise its citizens. It is time that the government takes some serious measures in order to save our beloved motherland. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Attack on Moscow’s airport

In another international incident of carnage, a suicide bomber detonated himself in the international arrivals section of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, resulting in more than 35 dead and scores injured. Putting to shame the mega security arrangements most countries in the world adhere to at their airports, this daylight attack is the first after the devastating attack on Moscow’s subway system in March 2010. It is suspected that Chechen militants from the North Caucasus area in Southern Russia are behind the airport attack. The guerrilla tactics of militants have breached stringent security checks put in place after the subway attack.

Although Russia is once again poised to become a world player, it is still plagued by the spectre of homegrown terrorism. Since 1991, the Chechen separatist movement has, time and again, engulfed the Russian heartland in a war where many campaigns have been launched to snuff out the militants but to no avail. No one can forget the horrors endured in this war, from the Moscow theatre siege in 2002 that resulted in 170 dead and the siege of the school in Beslan where 400 were killed. Vladimir Putin, as the President of Russia, went after the militants with a scorched-earth policy, sparing no one. This iron-fist policy placated conditions for a while but, as we in Pakistan are seeing today, the militants refined guerrilla tactics and scattered only to live and fight another day. That day has come. The Chechen separatists had vowed to target Russia’s most populated urban centres. There is strong likelihood that this attack too has been orchestrated by Chechen guerrillas in a new campaign to terrorise civilians.

Till recently, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev was focusing on addressing the root causes of terrorism like poverty, lack of employment and inadequate education. However, the two high profile attacks on the Moscow subway and airport have changed the president’s perception; he is becoming as hardline as Putin, giving weight to military means to eradicate terror once and for all. However, a political problem cannot be resolved by military means alone. It is hoped the Moscow will adopt a pragmatic approach in resolving this issue.

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