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Extra-judicial killings in Pakistan

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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Extra-judicial killings in Swat

The Lahore-based Human Rights Commission of Pakistan provided a list of 249 suspected extra-judicial killings from July 30, 2009, to March 22, 2010, saying most of the bodies were found in Swat. It said independent journalists and locals widely believed security forces were behind them.

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Human Rights Watch said the Army was targeting civilians who had voiced support for the Taliban when they controlled Swat or were suspected of providing them food or shelter. "People are taken away, and sometimes they turn up a few days or weeks later having been tortured. Sometimes they disappear. Sometimes their body is dumped with a bullet in the head," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said.

Al Jazeera reported last October that an amateur video posted on an organization called the International Pashtuns' Association posted the video on Facebook appears to show Pakistani troops killing six young men. The blurry video, which runs for more than 5 minutes, shows men in Pakistani military uniforms lining up blindfolded young men with their hands tied behind their backs before gunning them down. The International Pashtuns' Association says that   the incident took place during the military's crackdown on the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley in the summer of 2009.

As the soldiers prepare to fire, one of them asks the commander: "One by one, or together?" "Together" is the reply. The conversation is in Urdu, the language used by the Pakistani military.

The authenticity of the video cannot be independently confirmed and the Pakistani government have said it was fabricated. But Human rights groups say the video fits in with "credible allegations" they have received about the conduct of Pakistani troops.

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Amnesty International told Al Jazeera that while it could not confirm the authenticity of the video, but that it has "received credible reports of suspected insurgents being summarily executed by the Pakistani security forces in Pakistan's swat valley."

"There have also been a number of sightings of mass graves in the region, with notes attached to the dead bodies, warning local people not to join the Taliban otherwise they would meet the same fate," said Maya Pastakia, Amnesty's specialist in Afghan and Pakistan.  

U.S.'s extra-judicial killings in Pakistan

Tellingly, the US, a global champion of human rights, has virtually turned a blind eye towards Pakistan's mercenary army's grave human rights violations. Perhaps, there is a reason for that. The US is itself involved in extra-judicial killings in Pakistan through drone attacks.

As many as 24 people were killed in a US drone attack in Shawal tehsil of North Waziristan last Wednesday.   A US drone fired at last five missiles on a house situated in the Zawai Narai area, close to the Pak-Afghan border. Wednesday's strike came two days after US missiles killed 18 people in neighboring South Waziristan. Thirteen attacks have been reported in the tribal belt since the US operation in Abbottabad. Since the beginning of 2011, the U.S. has launched 37 drone strikes, killing 284 people, including women and children, according to media reports.

During United States President George W. Bush's tenure as Commander in Chief, the U.S. military initiated unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones, to carry out attacks against militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since entering office in 2009, President Barack Obama has escalated drone attacks in Pakistan.   According to New America Foundation drone database 248 strikes were launched in northwest Pakistan, including 37 in 2011, from 2004 to the present.

What is the end result of extra-judicial killings through drone attacks? The Times London reported in March 2010, US drone strikes in Pakistan tribal areas boost support for Taleban. The Times said: "Drones are the Obama Administration's weapon of choice for killing militants in the tribal areas. The pilotless Reapers and Predators have chalked up a long list of insurgent deaths, accounting for scores of leaders from al-Qaeda and the Taleban since their deployment in 2004.   The effects of the campaign, however, are beginning to veer dramatically off course as the strikes intensify, according to tribesmen. "Before the drone attacks began the Taleban weren't so obvious among us and the militancy wasn't as strong," Amir said. "But now every home in North Waziristan seems to have one or two Taleban living in it. The youth are joining them. Feelings against the US and Government are rising because of the attacks. Al-Qaeda has been badly affected by drones -- but it has benefited too."

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The Times went on to say that for Waziris and other Pashtun tribes living in the shadow of the drones, it is not just the missiles they fear. "The Taleban have grown increasingly convinced that spies are in the midst of the local people, planting transmitter chips -- patray, as the locals call them -- to guide the drones on to their targets. Although no chips have yet been discovered, after every raid witnesses say that the Taleban react with rage, abducting, torturing and killing anyone suspected of planting a chip."

To borrow Central Asia affairs expert Joshua Foust, the end result of this incessant drone war against militant leadership is that the leadership itself is far more radical and far less willing to negotiate an end to their insurgency than they were in 2004. While the drones could be called a stunning success in going after al Qaeda, they've also been used for years to go after the Pakistani Taliban--and in both cases the men who replaced the dead commanders were more vicious and less amenable to overtures from governments to discuss an end to the violence.

"Even within the insurgency in Northwest Pakistan, we cannot conclusively say that drones have had a major effect on operations, considering how much worse the area has gotten as strike frequency increased. (we cannot draw anything more than a correlation on this front). Al Qaeda's expeditionary reach may have been curtailed, but it seems to have been at the cost of vast swaths of Pakistan" and even Afghanistan. Have we been shooting ourselves in the foot," Joshua concludes.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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