Pakistan Under Occupation?

By now you have certainly seen the photos of Motorway Police being attacked by truckloads of out of control Army personnel brandishing automatic weapons.

motorway police attacked by out of control Army men

Despite a near media blackout on the topic, it has become such an embarrassment on social media that GHQ has been forced to face the music and ISPR issued a public statement promising an inquiry.

Unfortunately, this is not the first ‘sad incident’ that has taken place. Who can forget the tragic story of Sarfaraz Shah, gunned down in cold blood by Pakistan Rangers.

This encounter, like the attack on Motorway Police, was caught on film otherwise what is the possibility of any inquiry? How many others were not so lucky? How many were never even reported? The answer is unknown, but there is a clue in one province where thousands of citizens simply vanish into thin air and thousands of bullet riddled and mutilated corpses appear later.

In the case where the attackers are caught on video, there is some chance that they will be punished. It will be termed as an ‘isolated incident’ and one or two will face some punishment to protect the reputation of the institution. The mindset, though, is laid bare on social media by other Army men who celebrate such attacks on their own fellow citizens.

army-man army-man-2 army-man-3

If this were taking place in Kashmir or Palestine we would not hesitate to call it an occupation. So what is it when the same is taking place in Pakistan?

UPDATE: Saeed Baloch Reappeared In Rangers Custody

Pakistan Rangers

After disappearing without a trace, General Secretary Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Saeed Baloch has suddenly been discovered. With no surprise, the disappeared human rights worker was missing in the hands of Pakistan Rangers who have now admitted that they have detained him.

According to agencies, Saeed Baloch was arrested with three others, Saleem Deedag, Mahar Bux and Dil Murad who have all confessed to providing funds to Peoples Amn Committee and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).

This will be an open and shut case for many people. If Rangers spokesman says there has been a confession, many people will blindly accept it. However this incident should raise questions for the judiciary if there is to be any hint of law and order in this country. Sadly, it appears that the judiciary is once again relegated to ‘meekly observing‘.

Surprisingly, the administrative judge of the Anti-Terrorism court, who is also a High Court judge, granted 90 days physical custody to the Rangers of the four suspects. It is no secret to the Sindh provincial judiciary that Saeed Baloch was illegally kept in Rangers’ custody after he was asked to come for an interview at the Rangers’ Kemari station on January 16. In fact, after Saeed’s disappearance, numerous national and international human rights organisations strongly condemned the paramilitary force’s actions, and called for his release. All sections of local media, together with some international media, gave tremendous coverage of his disappearance. Civil society held a huge protest against his disappearance on January 26, which was shown live by all media. Under these circumstances, how can a High Court judge believe the concocted story of the Rangers, without even referring to the petition pending at the Court?

Judicial ineptness and long undermining the judicial role of guaranteeing the fundamental rights of individuals has led to an acceptance of the primacy of law enforcement agencies. Keeping persons incommunicado is seen as their legal right, and their investigations and statements are the sole basis upon which judicial decisions are made. Pakistan’s judiciary thus plays a silent spectator to the human rights abuse meted out to citizens under the various guises of security, morality and national interest.

In a functioning democracy, the Supreme Court would take notice of this clear abuse of power by law enforcement agencies. If there really is authentic evidence against the accused, agencies should not need to kidnap and force confessions. Sadly, this case like many others not only hurts the image of the judiciary as being a toothless creature, but it defames the reputation of security agencies who are seen as taking actions above and beyond the bounds of the law with no accountability to anyone. The Supreme Court needs to step in to save the reputations of both institutions before it is too late.

Pakistan’s War On the Poor

Protestors clashed with police on Thursday over operations to clear encroachers in Islamabad. Two sides have emerged as those who are calling the issue a question of law and order and those who are calling for sympathy for the poor. However this scene must be viewed in a broader light which is that it is simply the latest battle in our war on the poor of this country.

Continue reading

Reality Check

zardari-speech

PPP may have faded in recent polls, but party co-Chairman Asif Zardari brought the party firmly back into the spotlight with a fiery speech that lashed out at the security establishment for overstepping its domain. If Zardari’s rhetoric was over the top, it has been outdone by hyperventilating media responses terming the speech as ‘declaring war on the military‘. I think a reality check is needed. Ejaz Haider noted that, with the current Rangers operations expanding in Sindh, “Zardari finds himself in a bind. He could act meek or throw down the gauntlet”. Zardari is many things, but “meek” is not one of his better known traits. Even though, he spent five years as President taking all manner of attacks against his party and himself. Only now is he really lashing out. Whether or not this is a wise political strategy only time will tell, but underestimating the PPP co-Chairman has never been a good bet. This time may be no different.

Continue reading

Raid on 90 sign of a dysfunctional system

Pakistan Rangers raid nine zero

Pakistan Rangers raid on MQM headquarters in Karachi has taken over the national discussion. By Wednesday afternoon there were no less than four different hashtags related to the raid trending on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, attitudes are divided about whether the raid was a positive or negative. I find myself in the second camp, not because of any love for MQM but because I think the action will do more harm to democracy and the armed forces than it will against any criminal elements hiding in 90.

Continue reading