BBC on Secret Human Rights abuses by Pakistan’s Deep State

Over the years reports by international Human Rights organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have pointed to human rights abuses by the Pakistani deep state. Recently the BBC’s investigative reporting provides detailed reporting about the human rights abuses, the civilian death toll and the repression faced by locals in Pakistan’s north west.

According to BBC “militant violence since 2002 has forced more than five million people in Pakistan’s north-west to leave their homes to seek refuge either in government-run refugee camps or rented houses in peaceful areas. There are no official figures of the total death toll of this war but estimates from academics, local authorities and activists put the number of civilians, militants and security forces killed at well over 50,000.”

Further, “Local rights activists say scores of civilians have been killed in successive air campaigns and ground operations by the military. They have been collecting video and documentary evidence to back up their claims. These activists are linked to a prominent new rights campaign called the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM) which emerged early last year and has since been publicising alleged rights abuses in the tribal region that victims had previously been too scared to report.”

Further, “These individual stories are shocking but they are not unique. The PTM alleges that hundreds of people from the tribal areas could tell similar stories. But they remain officially unacknowledged. They are the consequences of a war Pakistan has gone to great lengths to hide from the world. This conflict on the Afghan border has for years been an information black hole.”

Finally, the report refers to how the Pakistani state is attacking the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and its activists “when the PTM broke through this chokehold last year, its media coverage was put under a comprehensive ban. Those in the media who have not heeded the ban have faced physical threats and financial pressure. The military has openly called the PTM’s patriotic credentials into question, accusing it of links to “hostile” intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and India. And some PTM activists who were documenting cases of abuse and running the group’s social media campaign have been jailed. The treatment of the activists who are finally, after years of silence, raising the alarm on the abuses of a long and secret war suggests that those who have suffered in the conflict face an uphill battle for justice.”

The BBC report which gives details about individual cases can be read here

Pakistan’s economic woes continue: SBP talks of higher inflation

Pakistan’s leadership may be feeling good about staving off an immediate economic crisis through the $6 billion IMF bailout but Pakistan’s economic problems are structural and this will not resolve them.

On Monday, the State Bank of Pakistan raised its policy rate by 150 basis points to 12.25 per cent citing rising inflation as well as “expectations of future inflation driven by a weak rupee, widening fiscal deficit and potential adjustments to the utility tariffs.”

According to the monetary policy statement issued, “The [IMF] program is designed to restore macroeconomic stability and support sustainable economic growth, and is expected to unlock considerable additional external financing. Inflation is expected to be in the range of 6.5pc to 7.5pc in the current financial year and it is anticipated to be considerably higher in fiscal year 2020. Inflation outlook is subject to a number of upside risks from an expected rationalisation of taxes in the upcoming budget, potential adjustments in electricity and gas tariffs, and volatility in international oil prices. The bank stated: “In addition, a greater reliance on central bank financing of the deficit has acted to dilute the impact of previous monetary tightening … The resulting increase in monetisation of the deficit has added to inflationary pressures.”

According to a detailed report in Dawn, “Inflation eased from 9.41pc in March — the highest in five years — to 8.8pc in April. Average inflation reached 7pc in July-April fiscal year 2019, compared to 3.8pc in the same period last year. The decline in the rupee’s value during the past two weeks and the lagged impact of previous bouts of depreciation pushed the prices of almost all essential items including flour, dates, meat, fruit etc during Ramazan.”

Further, “The SBP’s financing of the fiscal deficit resulted in increase of printed money leading to further inflationary pressures, said the monetary policy statement. The government had borrowed Rs4.8 trillion from the SBP during the ongoing fiscal year, 2.4 times higher than the same period last year, as it is expected to book a considerably higher fiscal deficit during the first three quarters of the current fiscal year due to a decline in revenue collection, increase in security-related expenditures and higher interest-related payments. On the external front, the current account deficit narrowed by $4 billion to $9.6bn during the July-March period but financing challenges rose despite significant bilateral inflows. “The reduction is mainly driven by import compression and a healthy growth in workers’ remittances. [However,] this impact was partially offset by higher international oil prices. The non-oil trade deficit declined from $13.7bn in July-March FY18 to $11bn in the first nine months of 2018-19 reflecting the impact of stabilisation policies implemented so far,” the SBP policy statement explained. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have already fallen to $8.8bn — enough to cover three months of imports — despite bilateral inflows from China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “Despite improvement in the current account and a noticeable increase in official bilateral inflows, the financing of the current account deficit remains challenging,” the SBP pointed out. The recent exchange rate fluctuation reflects the underlying pressures on the local currency that has depreciated by 5.9pc since the last monetary policy announcement hitting record low of Rs150 against the greenback last week.”

Gwadar Suicide Attack Reflects the Challenges in Balochistan

On May 10, 2019, five people including a soldier were killed after gunmen stormed the Pearl Continental, a five-star luxury hotel, in Balochistan. According to news stories the attack killed four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier and injured six others, including two army captains, two navy soldiers and two hotel employees.

In a statement the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack referring to it “a practical example of following our founder leader martyr General Aslam Baloch’s approach of fighting against the occupiers until the complete liberation of Balochistan.” The BLA also asserted that the attack “was fully supported by Baloch armed organisations Balochistan Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Army (Beebarg).”

Further, the statement said “Our self-sacrificing squad successfully achieved all their targets and killed dozens of Chinese and military personnel in Gwadar attack today. China or any other foreign power will not be allowed to exploit the natural resources of Balochistan and they will be targeted with brute force until and unless they leave Balochistan and put an end to all their so-called economic and military endeavours.”

BLA statement also noted: ““Today members of BLA Majeed Brigade broke all security cordons in Gwadar and fully occupied Pearl Continental Hotel, where we had information that dozens of Chinese and other foreigners were present. In the battle that lasted for multiple hours our brave fighters killed scores of foreigners and Pakistani personnel. Simultaneously, Gwadar port was also attacked with rockets inflicting heavy losses on it. Our brave fighters occupied the hotel for more than ten hours. During this time, they did not only fight against the Pakistani military but also searched each and every room of the hotel and killed scores of Chinese officials. Pakistani state and its media are once again hiding their failures by downplaying the number of causalities. However, Baloch fighters successfully achieved their targets and embraced martyrdom by using their last bullets on themselves after they run out of ammunition. We have warned China and other foreign investors multiple times and we want to inform them once again that Baloch Liberation Army will not accept any so-called economic or military manoeuvres in Balochistan. No one will be allowed to plunder Baloch resources and use our coastal line for their military interests. Therefore, foreign powers particularly China should immediately withdraw from their all projects in Balochistan. In these circumstances BLA is willing to halt its actions against Chinese nationals until they fully evacuate. Otherwise, today’s attack in itself proves that BLA is capable of achieving any target no matter how heightened Pakistani security cordons are.”

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad condemned the attack and hailed the “heroic action of Pakistani army and law enforcement agencies” in a post on Twitter.

Why did someone accused of fraud in US have Pakistan President’s Phone No.?

Pakistan-born Arif Naqvi, the founder of Abraaj Group who faces fraud charges in the United States, was denied bail by a London court out of fear that Mr Naqvi would flee to Pakistan. He is known in Pakistan as owner of Karachi Electric and for being a major backer of PM Imran Khan’s PTI.

According to a Bloomberg report Mr Naqvi “is one of several Abraaj officials caught up in a U.S. probe of what was the Middle East’s biggest private equity fund. Naqvi is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm’s holdings and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. He denies inflating valuations and says the idea he took money out for his own personal benefit is “ludicrous,” his lawyer Hugo Keith said in court Friday.”

The London court “denied Naqvi’s request after prosecutors said the 58-year-old wrote down the phone number of the Pakistani president when he was arrested earlier this month. Naqvi appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court for the latest stage of his extradition battle following his arrest this month on American charges of defrauding investors. “I’m concerned to see he had the president’s number on him,” Arbuthnot said because it was a sign he had friends in high places in Pakistan. “If he were to be granted bail, I’d be extremely concerned he would leave the country.”

Further, “The phone number of Arif Alvi was one of seven numbers Naqvi scribbled out during his arrest, prosecutor Rachel Kapila said at the hearing. When he was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport, Naqvi had an “Interpol passport,” and asked police, “is there not meant to be a red notice?” Kapila said. He had the passport — alongside two Pakistan passports and one from Saint Kitts and Nevis — as an honorary trustee of the Interpol Foundation, Keith said. “There is a strong concern he will flee to Pakistan” if granted bail, and he has been known to use a private jet, which may provide the means to do so, Kapila said. The U.S. doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, she said. If he did flee to the country, it would be “extremely difficult to get him back.” Abraaj is headquartered in Dubai but has a satellite office in Manhattan, Kapila said.”

According to news reports “Abraaj collapsed last year in the world’s biggest private-equity insolvency. Founded in 2002, it grew to become one of the world’s most influential emerging-market investors, with stakes in health care, clean energy, lending and real estate across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Turkey. Naqvi surrendered control in 2018. Abraaj, which managed almost $14 billion, was forced into liquidation in June after a group of investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in its health-care fund.”

Naqvi “is alleged to have played the leading role in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud investors,” she said, and if extradited and convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years. “The exact scope of his personal benefit is still being determined,” Kapila said, though so far “at least millions” have been identified as having been diverted to Naqvi, either to his accounts or those of his family members and associates. Naqvi has known about the “high likelihood” of an American indictment for months, yet “he has continued to reside in London” without trying to flee, Keith said in court Friday as he applied for bail. He offered a 2 million-pound ($2.6 million) security for bail. “The idea he took money out for his personal benefit is ludicrous,” Keith said. “The personal benefit allegation is wrong.” Naqvi sold his jet in 2016, and doesn’t have access to a private plane, he said.”

Violence against a peaceful movement: Pakistan army and the PTM

For the last one year, a peaceful non-violent movement, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) that started in Pakistan’s tribal areas has spread around the country. It was started by young Pashtuns fighting for human rights but has found an echo in all parts of the country.

Right from the start, the Pakistani military -intelligence establishment has viewed this movement as anti-national and treasonous. They have banned PTM rallies, arrested its leaders and even placed its Members of National Assembly on the Exit Control List. Yet they have been unable to suppress the popularity of the PTM, its leaderManzoor Pashteen and others including MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar. 

Just last week a leading PTM activist Alamzeb Mehsud was arrested. And today, a senior member of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Arman Luni, was killed in a police crackdown on a sit-in being held in Loralai district of Balochistan.

The security establishment is worried that a peaceful non violent movement led by Pashtuns fighting for human rights will find support from other ethnic groups inside Pakistan, namely the Baloch, Muhajirs and Sindhis.

For a long time now, the security establishment has hoped that its iron hand will result in the PTM turning violent and then that would be the pretext the military needs to crack down on the movement and its supporters. Despite all its attempts the PTM has refused to turn violent.