PAKISTAN: The dubious role of Pakistan army in dealing with Taliban thereby legitimizing the massacre 

May 06, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The dubious role of Pakistan army in dealing with Taliban thereby legitimizing the massacre

After the failure of the peace initiatives with the Taliban and Tehreek-e- Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (TNSM), the government of Pakistan has started an operation with the help of the Pakistan army in the northern parts of country, bordering Afghanistan, on the request of provincial government of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), resulting in the killings of innocent persons and the migration of several hundred thousand people from homes. According to information received from the affected areas, people find themselves trapped between the deep sea and the devil.

Caught in the cross-firing from the Taliban on one side and the Pakistan Army on the other, people have not been able to even collect the dead bodies of their loved ones. The military operation against the militants is carried out by gunship helicopters, mortar and jets but the entire land mass and vast mountainous areas are covered by militants armed with rockets, rocket launchers and other sophisticated arms which they captured from the NATO and allied forces as well as from the Pakistan army during the siege of almost three districts since six years. Media reports claim that the arms were allegedly supplied by the ISI – the intelligence agency of Pakistan.

The army is reluctant to either directly target the militants or disarm them, but instead is just retaliating to the gun fires from the Taliban militants in the mountains and blindly firing on the civilian population. The Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR) of the armed forces claim that more than 90 Taliban are killed in the military operation but local media sources claim that ISPR are providing wrong information as the most killings are from civilian population. More than two hundred security personnel including, army persons, are captured by the militants and about half a dozen army men were slaughtered by the militants since the last week of April. Civilians have to walk several miles to take refuge while both the governments – the NWFP and federal, have become mere spectators. The inland migrants have dispersed in different directions and are settling under the open skies.

The NWFP government has acted very arrogantly by pressurizing the federal government to implement the NAR and have an agreement with TNSM so that peace can be established in the northern parts. But when militants, particularly Taliban refused to abide by the agreement, the NWFP government has left people of the area at the mercy of the militants. More than half of the cabinet of the provincial government of NWFP is out of the province and are running their government from Dubai and Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Media access to the areas is not allowed and local journalists are under surveillance of state intelligence agencies. The notorious intelligence agency – the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) are consistently asking local journalists to give them their stories before they are published or aired. The ISI has made it mandatory for local journalists to disclose the source of their news reports.

The civilian government is fighting on two fronts namely, the Pakistan Army and the Taliban, and trying to please both of them. The Pakistan Army is reluctant to fight with the Taliban as they were nurtured and trained by its intelligence agency – the ISI.  It is this very ISI that is leaking out all the moves of the Pakistani government to the militants in the northern parts. Therefore, it is very easy for the militants to change their policies quickly, relying on information provided from fundamentalist officers of the army. In the latest military operation in the three districts of the province namely, Swat valley, Buner and Dir, where Taliban has full control, the Pakistan armed forces are evading protection to civilians and not targeting the strong pockets of the militants where training is provided in open places. Two army officers, who were slaughtered by the militants in Buner districts on May 01, were killed because they focused on attacking militant pockets and the information was treacherously passed to the militants. The army officers were trapped by the militants and butchered in an open place. As an exemplary punishment beheaded bodies of two soldiers were handed over to local authorities and families have to bury them with out their heads.

The reason behind the army’s reluctance to stop the militancy and control on them is generally defined, as the Pakistan army has never favored a stable civilian government. Hatred against the civilian setup can be judged by the army’s historical role whenever there was an elected government. The Pakistan Army never allowed it to complete its constitutionally-stipulated five year tenure. There is solid proof of this in that the ISI was found hatching conspiracies against elected governments or making pro-military political alliances, particularly in the late 80s and the entire decade of the 90s. Finally General Musharraf had taken over the control of the country in 1999 and remained in power supported by state intelligence agencies for almost nine years. The projected rationale for the army’s support to the militants, in the country’s political scenario is that the ISI had portrayed President Asif Zardari as the most corrupt person in the country for almost two decades.  It is on these grounds that Zardari was kept in detention for nine years on corruption charges, and as he was democratically elected president, it is difficult for the army officers to salute him who was once declared a security risk for the country.

The Pakistan ambassador in the Great Britain, in May 05, had also appealed to the Pakistan army to support the government against the Taliban and Muslim militants and provide protection to the people who were being killed by militants. In his appeal he said that it was the duty of the Pakistani armed forces to protect every inch of the country. The ambassador’s remarks also show that the Pakistan government still needs help from the Pakistan army to combat the Talibanisation of the country. In the mid- 2008, the Prime Minister attempted to hand over the ISI to the home ministry but the Prime Minister had to take back his orders immediately, as Pakistan army reacted severely and even threatened not to support the government. The international community has also been very skeptical of the role of ISI in providing armed training to the Taliban and Muslim extremists. In the wake of the reaction of the international community against the ISI, the government had to change the ISI Chief on the instruction from USA authorities. In spite of this, the new ISI Chief could not control its intelligence service. The Pakistan army is also black mailing the civilian government on the nuclear assets which has total control on the nuclear fusion and the civilians authorities are not allowed to have control.

The militancy and Talibanisation of the northern parts of the country can not be controlled until and unless the government has full control on the institutions of the state, including the army and ISI. There are visible signs that the Pakistan army is taking advantage of militancy to overthrow the civilian setup. The brutal killings of the innocent people are generating an insecurity in the minds of the Pakistani masses who were compelled to think that army governments were better and army could control the situation. The prevailing insecurity is creating a welcome environment for military rule. The government of Pakistan should take all measures to provide security to the people of the northern parts of the country, rehabilitate the affected people, and give the command of military action to the parliament and its members, so that the life of the every person may be protected and there are no more human rights violation. The control of nukes must also rest with the parliament.  If the ISI continues to control nuke, then there are chances that the nuclear technology will be transferred to Taliban.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-097-2009
Countries : Pakistan,