By Kamran Chaudhry
Amidst growing militant violence, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed concern at the increasing role of the nation’s army.
Speakers at the commission’s annual general meeting in Lahore on April 3 said the military’s actions are damaging the country’s democracy.
“The war against terrorism [has] led to the government’s apparent acceptance of the military as a senior player in all fields,” said Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the commission via statement.
She said that there were also signs of the judiciary being unable or unwilling to check the state’s growing militarization.
“[This] has adversely affected the human rights situation across the board,” said Yusuf.
As part of the country’s fight against Islamic militants, Pakistan’s constitution was amended to allow military courts to try suspected militants. A six-year moratorium on the death penalty has also been lifted.
Asma Jahangir, a top human rights lawyer, condemned the military’s disregard for the rights of the country’s citizens.
“The laws established in the name of security are based on lies; they are intended to hide the wrong doings of the army. They conflict with our international conventions and treaties,” said Jahangir.
“The army should respect the rights of citizens and laws of the country. Their actions have always damaged the democratic process,” Jahangir said.
“The people in tribal areas are pressed between the state and the terrorists. All people detained at army internment centers are not criminals,” he said.
“The judges are afraid to take up the cases of missing persons,” he added.
According to the human rights group’s 2015 annual report, 127 cases of enforced disappearances were reported last year.
Yusuf also expressed concern over the 366 executions in the country since December 2014.
“The way these executions are featured and even glorified by the media is further brutalizing an already brutalized society and is eating into whatever vestiges of sanity and tolerance that have survived,” Yusuf said.
The human rights meeting was conducted a week after the Easter Day terrorist bombing that killed 76 people in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Taliban splinter group, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The terrorist group said the target of the attack were Christians.
Despite the commission’s concerns over the military, Father Pascal Paulus, president of the church’s Major Superior Leadership Conference, has called for greater military action against terrorists in the wake of the terror bombing. The conference, representing 35 religious congregations in Pakistan, works on justice and peace issues.
He issued the call at an interfaith memorial service for the victims in Lahore, April 2.