Thursday, November 02, 2006

THE KILLINGS IN PAKISTAN

By

Dr. Syed Farooq Hasnat

On October 3oth, the Pakistan army, as according to its own admission, wittingly killed scores of Pakistanis in the Khar village, located in Bajaur Agency, near the Afghan border. The army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan, gloating over the “success” claimed that in this operation gunship helicopters and precision weapons were used. Some eyewitnesses claimed that it was the American Predator Drone that fired missiles at the site, while the Pakistani official said that the Americans only provided intelligence. The Bajaur political officials barred local and representatives of foreign news agencies from entering the vicinity where this massacre took place. A noted newspaper editorial remarked that “the decision to ban journalists’ entry into the Bajaur agency is not prudent. It suggests that the government may have much to hide.”

In the first week of October, Foreign Minister Kasuri was reported to have said that Pakistan has made clear (to the U.S.) that it would not kill its own people in the tribal areas. He said that “use of military force is not the solution of problems and political matters are resolved through talks.” A CNN interview quoted his saying that “…there’s a time when not just brawn but brains are also needed,” Foreign Minister told CNN’s Late Edition. “Sometimes what happens is that when you have acts of violence you end up alienating the local population.”

The attack at Khar came as a surprise and as a tragic incident, for the people of Pakistan. The residents of Bajaur were shocked as they were gearing up for a North Waziristan type peace agreement. The signing ceremony was to take place after few hours.

It should be pointed out that the American officials have been critical of the previous peace deal between the government of Pakistan and the residents of the tribal areas, in North Waziristan. Apparently, the Bush administration demands the Pakistan government to use high handed methods against its own people. No matter, why and how it happened, there is no excuse for killing more than 80 Pakistanis. The manner in which this attack was conducted and the approach through which the government spokesmen justified it, raises lots of questions and doubts. A renowned Human Rights Organisation Amnesty International issued a statement saying that “if these killings were deliberate and took place without first attempting to arrest suspected offenders, without warning, without the suspects offering armed resistance, and in circumstances in which suspects posed no immediate risk to security forces, the killings are considered extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law.”

There is enough evidence by the foreign and Pakistani journalists that there were children at the premises and that the air attack was more than from the Pakistani air force. As mentioned earlier just after few hours a peace treaty was going to be signed with the tribal elders, on the same pattern as that of Waziristan. Part of the North Waziristan deal read, “There will be no target killing and no parallel administration in the agency. The writ of the state will prevail in the area”. Those who carried out December 30 Bajaur killings did so to sabotage peace in the tribal areas and as a consequence the unity of Pakistan is undermined and Army’s image is further tarnished.

Some analysts like Hassan Abbas argue that a high percentage of Pashtoon representation in the Army led to the Waziristan agreement. While others agree that in reality the Army suffered a “defeat” at the battle ground. According to government’s own admission more than 700 of its men lost their lives. The Army just fled as they have done before, in East Pakistan and Kargil. This was in spite of the fact that more than 80,000 Pakistani military troops are deployed along the tribal areas of the Afghan border. It was believed at that time that the best option for the establishment was to talk to the tribesmen through their representatives.

Another category of arguments goes that it was a pro Taliban faction with which the government entered into an agreement in Waziristan. The Taliban of the 1990s were prompted and encouraged by the Army and the tribes were made to believe that by supporting the Taliban they were helping the Pakistan Army, if not Pakistan, itself. Then, came that famous somersault in 2001. Any expert on human psychology would agree that it’s not an easy matter for the groups with conviction (instilled or otherwise) to turnaround and change their opinion, overnight. The change in attitudes comes through dialogue and persuasion. The use of force in such circumstances is counter productive and harmful for the unity and strength of the country.

There have been so many blames as well as blunders assigned to the Pakistan Army that it has become indefensible even for a relentless ally of the establishment to validate their performance. It is unfortunate that a national institution has lost its professionalism to a great extent. The obvious reason being the heavy involvement of the generals in politicking and their greed for wealth and other undue privileges (See the findings of Hamood ur Rehman Commission Report).They have too many stakes to guard – strict adherence to professionalism becomes the last option.

The crux of the matter is that one person is playing havoc with the civil, military and social institutions of Pakistan. His most serious crime in the eyes of many Pakistanis is that apart from tearing down the national institutions he is also deforming the language, culture, heritage and above all the sovereignty of Pakistan

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