Pakistan: Military Undermines Government on Human Rights

Battling Taliban No Excuse for Complicity in Abusive Counter-terrorism Practices

(New York, January 21, 2010) – Pakistan’s military actively undermined the civilian government’s human rights agenda in 2009, Human Rights Watch said today in its new World Report 2010.

The 612-page report, the organization’s 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide.

The report says that Pakistan’s military publicly and privately resisted the government’s reconciliation efforts in the troubled province of Balochistan and attempts to locate people “disappeared” there during General Pervez Musharraf’s military rule. The military also opposed the international community’s attempts to end military intervention in the political and judicial processes through aid conditions.

“The Pakistani military continues to subvert the political and judicial systems in Pakistan,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “After eight years of disastrous military rule and in spite of the election of a civilian government, the army appears determined to continue calling the shots in order to ensure that it can continue to perpetrate abuses with impunity.”
In October, US President Barack Obama signed into law the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, promising US$7.5 billion in non-military aid over five years. Known as the Kerry-Lugar Act, the law places conditions on the military component of the aid. This includes a requirement for the US secretary of state to certify, before aid can be delivered, that the Pakistani military is combating terrorism, not engaged in nuclear proliferation, and not “materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.”

The Pakistani military led a backlash against these requirements, in an apparent attempt to destabilize the elected government and force the resignation of President Asif Zardari. It publicly rebuked the government for not opposing these conditions and pressed the foreign minister to travel to Washington to ease them.

“For constitutional rule to take root in Pakistan, the military needs to accept the primacy of civilian rule,” said Hasan. “The military needs to recognize that it no longer runs the show in Pakistan.”

Human Rights Watch said that Pakistan’s civilian government took a major step forward in December by formally acknowledging serious human rights abuses against the Baloch, including the enforced disappearance of hundreds of people during eight years of military rule, and announcing a reconciliation process in the troubled province. However, the military has blocked attempts by the government to locate the “disappeared” and continues to exercise sway over the province, muzzling the local media and using its intelligence agencies to undermine the provincial and federal government’s reconciliation efforts.

There were new reports of torture and arbitrary detention of Baloch nationalists at the hands of the military’s intelligence agencies, and targeted killings by Baloch nationalists of non-Baloch settlers also spiked sharply, Human Rights Watch said.

Hundreds of Pakistanis were killed in dozens of suicide and bomb attacks perpetrated by Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliated groups. The attacks targeted civilians, political leaders, educational institutions, hospitals, and marketplaces. These armed groups also continued to recruit and use children, including for suicide attacks.

“The Taliban’s actions amount to war crimes, and the Pakistan government should use all legal means possible to hold them accountable for these heinous abuses,” Hasan said. “But Taliban atrocities are no justification for new laws that violate fundamental rights or unlawful counter-terrorism operations by Pakistani and US forces.”

The government’s response to militant attacks routinely violated basic rights, Human Rights Watch said. Hundreds were detained in a nationwide crackdown on militant groups, particularly in the conflict zones in Swat and the tribal areas. Many of these suspects were detained in two military facilities in Swat, one in the Khyber agency of the tribal areas, and at least one more in Northwest Frontier Province. The military has not allowed independent monitors access to most of these detainees.

Since September 2008, US aerial drones are believed to have carried out dozens of missile attacks on suspected militant hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing hundreds of civilians in addition to alleged militants, and prompting allegations that US attacks have violated the laws of war. The areas of the attacks are generally inaccessible to independent monitors, making it difficult to assess the allegations, Human Rights Watch said.

In October, the government amended the country’s anti-terrorism laws through presidential ordinance to curtail further the legal rights of terrorism suspects. Under the ordinance, suspects can be placed in preventive detention for 90 days without judicial review or the right to post bail. Confessions to the police or military are admissible as evidence thought Pakistan’s police and the military’s intelligence services routinely torture suspects.

Other human rights concerns include the breakdown of law enforcement in the face of terrorism across the country, the failure of the judiciary to transform its newfound independence into non-partisan dispensation of justice, military abuses in operations in the tribal areas and Swat, and discriminatory laws against and mistreatment of religious minorities and women.

“Pakistan’s elected government took several political and legal steps to improve human rights protections in the country in 2009,” Hasan said. “However, serious challenges remain unaddressed, and the government’s soaring rhetoric on rights remains unmatched by commensurate actions. This year should be a year of action, not just words.”

To read Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2010 chapter on Pakistan, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2010/pakistan

12 Comments

Filed under Al Qaeda, Army, baluchistan, human rights, Kerry Lugar Bill, Obama, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror

12 responses to “Pakistan: Military Undermines Government on Human Rights

  1. ylh

    And what would one say of Indian chatter about Pakistani courts acquitting suspects for paucity of evidence.

    The world has double standards. We should only place before us the highest standards of impartiality, rule of law and justice dealing with anyone.

  2. Milind Kher

    @YLH

    I have not understood the context or implication of your comment. Please elucidate.

  3. hoss

    “Since September 2008, US aerial drones are believed to have carried out dozens of missile attacks on suspected militant hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing hundreds of civilians in addition to alleged militants, and prompting allegations that US attacks have violated the laws of war. The areas of the attacks are generally inaccessible to independent monitors, making it difficult to assess the allegations, Human Rights Watch said.”

    I have no problem with what HRW said, I endorse it fully but why they are wishy-washy when it comes to drones?

    I am not against the drone strikes either but I do think that HRW should at least acknowledge that there are documented cases where some civilians and kids died. And why they are just allegations? Why not some other appropriate word that describes the situation adequately? Israel and the US resort to using the word allegations every time their human rights record is challenged. This is part of the WOT speak that is promoted by the US.

    “US aerial drones are believed to have carried out dozens of missile attacks”
    HRW does not even acknowledge that drone attacks have taken place they are just “believed to have” taken place.

    In Pakistan’s context it is important to bring out what the army is doing there and how it is violating the human rights in the country but underplaying the US role in the area is just ridiculous and undermines the whole report. For the last 9 years the Pak army was pretty much following the US diktat but as soon as it begins to go off the US scripted war and some fissures appear the HRW comes out swinging against the army. It would be interesting to see what HRW reports said in the last several years when the army was scrupulously following the US approach of operations in the area, without any questions asked.

    I guess I forgot the HRW is funded by the US state dept. and many other US donors.

  4. Ali Abbas

    The drone attack casualties are undocumented as the affected areas are always cordoned off. Relying on paid-for-hire Pakistani journalists who cannot distinguish the difference between $50 million and $700 million due to their ideological blinders is foolhardy. Furthermore, foreign mecenary Islamist jihadis who used civilians as human shields against drone attacks are equally if not more culpable but the Sharia Bolshoveks of the Pakistani intelligensia rarely critisizes them without providing ample space for apologizing for them and deflecting criticism for their murderous acts.

    The crux of the report is one which Pakistani civil society will never acknowledge unequivocally as it goes against their pathological hatred with elected politicians and obssessive need to kiss the of un-elected dictators. One will rarely hear them speak with the same passion regarding the 8000+ missing Balochi youth as opposed to their single minded focus on the contradictary status of one US citizen of Pakistani origin (Aafia Siddiqi) and one Islamist army officer. As for the thousands of victims of the dastardly sucide attacks, well they are already blaming Blackwater/XE, even after the various Taliban affiliates issue admissions to the press.

    When they go on against drone attacks that took out the likes of Baitullah Meshud and some of the most violent Wahabi Uzbek mercenaries, it reveals their support for criminals and their disdain for those Pakistanis who continue to suffer at the hands of the Taliban. What ticks off many Pakistanis is that the HRW report indirectly alludes to the collusion betweent a highly biased and politicised Judiciary and the army, the intermediaries between whom are the Jamaati/PML N backed lawyer’s “movement” and the Pro Taliban media.

  5. Tilsim

    @ Ali Abbas
    “The crux of the report is one which Pakistani civil society will never acknowledge unequivocally as it goes against their pathological hatred with elected politicians and obssessive need to kiss the of un-elected dictators.”

    Agree with many of the points. However perhaps it’s not so grim as I think there are varying shades of opinion amongst the Army and the Judiciary and definitely the English media. I say this because, every now and then a rational step is taken such as the move in Swat against the Swat Taliban. Perhaps this reflects these otherwise weaker voices coming to the fore when things get truly out of control. However, as you point out, the influence of the right wing and the religious element on the national agenda and national psyche is profound. It appears to me that the Judiciary is also losing it’s relatively liberal character. As pointed out by many, the recent NRO Supreme Court judgement had important religious references. Each arm of the State seems to be headed in a similar direction. Clearly there are powerful people in the army, media and legal professions who are actively trying to bring about a particular vision of Islam in Pakistan in short orde. However, I think others are also trying to expose or blunt some of the irrationality and self-destructive ideas.

  6. Ali Abbas

    @Tilsim:
    “It appears to me that the Judiciary is also losing it’s relatively liberal character”

    What liberal character! This judiciary has committed Judicial murder of a democratically elected Prime Minister in highly controversial circumstances. It has had the odd honorable dissenters but on the whole, has always supported an autocratic and Islamist establishment. The current judiciary gave between 2-3 Non-constitutional Oaths and facilitated dictatorship for 8 years! They have never engaged in judicial activism against the draconian Islamist laws put in place by military dictators; rather they have facilitated it. Their current activities puts them clearly beyond the pale of honest and objective arbitors of justice.

  7. Gorki

    Dear Hoss Sahib, you wrote:

    “It would be interesting to see what HRW reports said in the last several years when the army was scrupulously following the US approach of operations in the area, without any questions asked….”

    Why don’t we check?😉

    HRW which follows HR violations in more than 90 countries (including USA) had detailed reports about Pakistan under titles such as these in the years past:
    • Pakistan: Musharraf Uses Anti-Terror Laws to Jail Critics Nov 16, 2007
    • Pakistan: End Emergency Rule and Restore Constitution Nov 4, 2007
    • Leading Human Rights Groups Name 39 CIA ‘Disappeared’ Detainees Jun 6, 2007
    • US: Secret CIA Prisoners Still Missing Feb 25, 2007
    • Pakistan: End Excessive Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Nov 1, 2006

    You get the idea.
    One can reads hundreds of more reports like these on their web site and publications.

    You also wrote the following:

    “I guess I forgot the HRW is funded by the US state dept. and many other US donors.”

    You are only partially right.
    HRW does not accept funds from the State department or any other department or government for that matter. It is an independent organization financed by mostly small private donations from concerned individuals from all over the World.

    I guess as a private donor (of small amounts) and still living in the US, I have to agree with the second half of your statement.😉

    Regards.

  8. Tilsim

    @ Ali Abbas

    I don’t want to change the nature of the topic here but just to say, the Judiciary’s liberal character is a matter of relative degree. There seem to be fewer and fewer of those odd voices or judgements that you mention around. The Judiciary’s previous rubber stamp of military rule/ direction was more a case of power politics. Some of those Justices in the 50s and 60s such as Justice Munir can hardly be described as fundos even though they may have been very pro-establishment. However, it is interesting to note that this Supreme Court has acknowledged a separate gender and rights for Heejras – wonder what the Jamaat has to say about this (perhaps they are secretly rejoicing!). Sorry to divert from the topic at hand.

  9. Ali Abbas

    @Tilsim,
    The Jamaat was one of the most vociferous backers in the restoration of the Qazis/Judiciary. Some of the main leaders of this “”movement”, Asmatullah in Pindi and Abdul Rehman Ansari in Lahore are Jamaat. Furhtermore, some prominent leaders like Ahsan Iqbal are also from a Jamaat background. To see their medieval thinking, one needs look no further than parts of the judgement on the NRO issue. It looks like Mullah Omar may have been dictating parts of it. Same goes for their kid gloves treatment of murderous Jihadi and sectarian leaders like Hafiz Saeed, Abdul Aziz and Masood Azhar.

  10. updike

    To PTH

    Everywhere the judges are under pressure or suspicion. In India a supreme court judge stated that one third of the judges in lower courts are corrupt. Many of their judgments get revised in higher courts.

    In Pakistan the judges have to reckon with terror from shariah-pasand muslim street-gangs. So they pronounce judgements that are acceptable to the street-gang leaders.

    Greed and fear are natural human weaknesses and the judges are no exception. We are doomed.

  11. Milind Kher

    The terrorists and jihadis are responsible for the wrong depiction of Islam and therefore the troubles invited on the Ummah.

    There is no need for them or for the tinpot mullahs that create them.

    The Holy Prophet (SAWA) had the Dirar mosque set on fire because of the anti Ummah activities. Imam ali (a.s.) annihilated the Kharjis. This was the kind of resolute action that these charismatic and upright leaders took.

    Today, the rot has set in because people are not taking the terrorists head on who have mounted a frontal assault on Islamic values and the Islamic people.

  12. Sadia Hussain

    The military operation was inevitable and much needed, but reports of human rights abuses are an alarming precedent. Force should be used with caution as the line of civil liberties is often blurred in counter terrorism approaches.