Why gifting recovered arms to LEOs is a bad idea

seized weaponsPakistan Army has announced that it will gift thousands of weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition to police, Rangers and the Levies. At first this appears like a sound policy that is not only economical but also helps build camaraderie between security agencies. However, on second thought there are important reasons why this programme should be abandoned immediately.

LEAs regularly discover weapons caches when conducting raids, and often these weapons are claimed to be of foreign origin, suggesting links between suspected parties and hostile agencies. There have been some problems with these claims, though, such as when Rangers accused MQM of having a large cache of weapons stolen from NATO containers, only to have the US government clarify that they were not NATO weapons. These and other incidents have created some doubts about whether or not agencies are ‘planting’ weapons.

The fact is that tracing the origin of weapons is especially difficult, and sometimes impossible. By giving LEAs a treasure trove of illegal weapons used by terrorists, it will only open the flood gates of denials and doubts about whether future seizures are real or planted. Officials have thought of this, and are trying to take some measures.

These arms and ammunition recovered during various operations are properly being recorded and marked to ensure that none of these arms and ammunition is misappropriated or misused,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

This is not enough, though. If the records are made and kept by the same agencies that are making arrests where weapons are found, how will we know that those records are not being manipulated or hidden? No, the best answer is that all weapons seized in raids should be destroyed in public, and all security personnel should be issued new arms whose serial numbers are recorded in official records.

Nobody wants to doubt the sincerity of our security personnel, especially when it is a matter of planting weapons. 99.99% of our LEOs are above reproach, but there are a few who get carried away such as in the killing of Sarfraz Shah and the torture death of Aftab Ahmed. Introducing thousands and thousands of illegal weapons into the system will only add to doubts at a time when national security dictates that all means should be taken to protect the credibility of the law enforcement system.

Arrest Militants Not Scholars

Protest release Dr Riaz AhmedIn January, several bloggers including Professor Salman Haider mysteriously disappeared. After initial outcry about the fate of the disappeared persons, soon they were facing allegations of blasphemy. Soon later, the missing were returned just as mysteriously as they disappeared. There has been no official report of what happened to these bloggers and activists, but according to Ahmad Waqass Goraya there is no question that he was picked up and tortured by state agencies. The state has never admitted any involvement in the incidents, however even after the international embarrassment the Islamabad High Court has now instructed FIA to investigate the victims further and if possible bring them back to Pakistan to prosecute them under laws. While the entire nation was distracted by this case of kidnapping and torture of liberal activists, terrorists carried out a bomb attack that killed 25 and injured almost 100 innocents.

In February, terrorists struck again, this time killing at least 99 people including innocent women and children in a week of bloody attacks across the country.

Week of deadly attacks

Soon after these attacks, Defence Minister demanded a Parliamentary Commission to investigate an article by Husain Haqqani, and Pakistan Rangers arrested two Karachi University professors who were preparing to give a press conference. One professor Dr Riaz Ahmed has been remanded to jail on accusation of supposedly possessing an unlicensed weapon but the real issue was mentioned by SI Shahid Pervez Khan who told the Court that the professor was advocating on Facebook for the release of so-called ‘blasphemous’ bloggers even though the bloggers have faced no charges and no evidence has been given against them. So why security agencies are arresting these scholars?

There have been at least 17 terrorist attacks already so far this year, over double the number during same period last year. Civil and military leaders are on the same page and both claim that terrorists have been defeated even though they are ramping up attacks. Worst, both civil and military leaders have shown more interest in harassing and targeting scholars than actual militants who are carrying out attacks and killing people. If terrorism is going to be defeated in reality and not just in slogans, state agencies will have to carry out operations against extremist militants, not scholars.

Proof that Pakistanis are World’s Greatest Human Rights Defenders

Shireen Mazari Human Rights Defender

Once again, international human rights NGOs, media, and even the UN have Pakistan in their sights. As usual, we are accused of ignoring human rights violations. How can this even be possible? As I will now prove to you, Pakistanis are not human rights violators, actually we are the world’s greatest human rights defenders!

Liberals note the abuse of blasphemy laws for land grabbing from religious minorities in Pakistan, but does this mean that we don’t care about minority land rights? No! Many Pakistanis take out massive rallies against land grabbing by Israel.

International media prints reports about an epidemic of violence against women in Pakistan, including cases of rape going unpunished. However, ask any Pakistani man and he will tell you in deep forensic detail about rapes and other abuses faced by women in India.

Human Rights NGOs spread stories about Pakistan security agencies killing unarmed youths and murdering journalists, but does that mean we are ignoring abuses of security agencies? Absolutely not! Obviously these NGOs are the ones ignoring the outcry in our own media against abuses by security agencies in America.

Now once again the UN is pointing fingers at Pakistan over the mysterious disappearance of activists, just like they have pointed fingers over missing persons in Balochistan.  Liberals are pointing at social media trends like #WhoAreTheyDefending and #MissingOrRAWterrorists to say that we don’t care about enforced disappearances. Not true! We have been leading all efforts to raise awareness about enforced disappearances in Kashmir.

It is clear that all accusations are part of a world wide conspiracy to defame Pakistan. The proof is clear to anyone willing to admit facts. Pakistanis are the world’s greatest human rights defenders…for everyone except Pakistanis.

Kashmir uprising a distraction from local atrocities?

wani-beesThe latest Kashmir uprising has united Pakistan unlike anything before. Whole nation has come together and is ready to sacrifice for the liberation of Kashmir from Indian oppression. Even APS massacre was not able to keep the nation united like Indian abuses in Kashmir has. In his speech at the UN, PM Nawaz Sharif noted the abuses being faced by Kashmiri people and even offered to provide a dossier documenting these brutalities. Kashmir has been the top news story for months, and social media has become filled with Burhan Wannabees. But there is another place where Muslims are being abused and even killed in much larger numbers, so why nobody is rising up to defend them?

Human Rights Watch has released a new report documenting that thousands of Pakistanis are being murdered by police in fake encounters. Such atrocities come as a surprise only because our media does not celebrate them like atrocities in Kashmir. However, if Burhan Wani being killed by Indian security forces makes him a martyr for Kashmir, how can we not give the same title to Pakistanis illegally killed by Pakistani security forces? Social media is filled with Burhan Wannabees, but no one is seen wearing a mask of Aftab Ahmed who was tortured to death by Pakistan Rangers.

Kashmiri people are facing horrible abuses by Indian security forces, and we have declared that we will even gladly die in a nuclear war to free them, but we will do not even notice when our own fellow citizens are facing the same abuses and even worse? I am not saying that social media’s keyboard commandoes should be rallying behind a ‘Karachi Intifada’, but I am saying that we should stop to think why are so passionate about abuses somewhere else and so dispassionate about the same, and even worse abuses at home.

Where is Saeed Baloch?

Saeed BalochSaeed Baloch is human rights activist since 1980s and General Secretary Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF). On 16th January he was called to Pakistan Rangers office in Kemari. He has not been seen or heard from since.

51 rights based organisations have condemned Pakistan Rangers treatment of Saeed Baloch and demand his immediate release. Asian Human Rights Commission has noted that such treatments is a known danger of handing over powers to the military.

The arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of Mr. Saeed reveals the dangers of handing over sweeping powers to military, paramilitary and law enforcement authorities under the draconian Anti-Terrorist and Protection of Pakistan Acts (PPA).The Rangers and other paramilitary and military officials often abduct a person keeping him under arbitrary detention and later seek remand of 90 days from the anti-terrorism courts under the draconian Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPA).

The archaic and faulty criminal justice system of Pakistan makes it possible for the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) to extend their tentacles wherever they deem fit, often seeking vengeance against those who dare uncover their tyrannical designs. Instead of actually tackling the material and ideological infrastructure of terrorism in the country, the authorities routinely abuse their powers to target those engaged in resistance to injustice and inequality.

Who can forget the tragic story of Sarfaraz Shah an unarmed youth who was shot and killed in the street while pleading for his lift after being confronted by Rangers in 2011? Therefore is it any surprise when human rights organisations report that encounter killings have increased significantly?

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) annual report for 2014, around 592 people were killed in alleged encounters with the police and Rangers. In 2013, which the HRCP termed to be Karachi’s deadliest year with 3,251 deaths, around 184 were killed in encounters.

There can be no doubt that Rangers and other forces have an important role when the country faces serious threats from criminals and terrorists. However it is also important that Rangers and other security forces maintain the trust and faith of the people who they are protecting. This will quickly become undone if innocents like Sarfaraz Shah are killed in the streets or if human rights workers like Saeed Baloch are disappeared. Effective counter-terrorism operations must have the element of transparency to reassure the people that terrorists are being targeted and not innocent people or those targeted for political issues. Then there can be no doubt about security forces as the nation will be united.