ISSN 2330-717X

Human Rights Violations In Pakistan Are Attracting Global Attention – OpEd

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After it successfully extracted an ‘unconditional’ apology from advocate and rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, who had [as per the military’s FIR] had “abused the senior military leadership [army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa] of the Pakistan Army,” the Pakistan army must certainly be rejoicing its ‘victory’. Rawalpindi may be able to silence domestic criticism thorough a wide-ranging array of novel methods that make any person criticising Pakistan army quickly realise his [or her] mistake, and make amends through ‘unconditional apologies’. However, its track record of human rights abuses has peaked to a level that it’s drawing global attention and the latest such attack comes from a Canadian lawmaker.

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While questioning the appropriateness of the Canadian Defence Ministry’s decision of releasing $ 50,000 for the visit of Gen Bajwa to Canada in 2020 [which was subsequently cancelled due to covid pandemic], Canadian Member of Parliament [MP] Tom Kmeic exposed the host of illegal activities committed under his watch by the Pakistan army. Speaking in the House of Commons, he mentioned that Gen Bajwa stands “accused of two toppling two governments of Pakistan, [and] the military under his command has been involved in human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings and has links to terror groups.” 

While Islamabad has served a démarche to the Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan as it considers that the Canadian lawmakers remarks are “against diplomatic norms and highly irresponsible,” even thoughwhat Kmeic has stated aren’t unsubstantiated allegations or mere hearsay. Au contraire, what he has said is already recorded in various reports prepared by both UN and other internationally recognised autonomous global watchdogs on human rights like UN Human rights commission, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as influential organisations like European Union and Financial Action Task Force [FATF]. 

Consequently, by remaining in a state of perpetual denial on human right violations, extrajudicial killings by Pakistan army as well as its links to terror groups, Islamabad has abdicated its constitutional responsibility of protecting its minority communities. So, just like Rawalpindi in Mazari-Hazir case, while Islamabad too must be complimenting itself for having ‘killed’ the serious charges of human rights Canadian lawmaker with a démarche, such puerile attitude is only damaging Pakistan’s international image and the fact that it has been languishing in the FATF grey list since June 2018, is proof of this!

Some very prominent personalities who have held the most responsible positions in the government and military have themselves admitted Pakistan’s institutionalised support of terrorism, and a few enumerated are just a few examples of such damning revelations:

  • In 2009, the then Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari frankly confessed that “militants and extremists emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralized but because they were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve short-term tactical objectives. Let’s be truthful and make a candid admission of the reality [Emphasis added].
  • Just a year later, in an interview given to ‘Der Spiegel’, Pakistan’s ex-President and former army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf proudly stated that “We poisoned Pakistani civil society for 10 years when we fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It was jihad and we brought in militants from all over the world, with the West and Pakistan together in the lead role.” [Emphasis added].
  • In 2017, retired Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani [who was Pakistan’s National Security Adviser [NSA] when the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack took place] disclosed that “26/11 Mumbai strikes, carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan [Lashkar e Taiba], was a classic trans-border terrorist event” [Emphasis added]. 
  • As late as 2019, while on a visit to the US, the then Prime Minister Imran Khan, revealed that “we still have about 30,000-40,000-armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.” [Emphasis added]. 
  • In the very same year, DGISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor admitted that Pakistan army was committing gross human rights violations when said during a media interaction session that “We don’t want any person to go missing but where there is a war, you have to do a number of [undesirable] things” and then having the cheek to defend human rights violations by saying, “It is said that everything is fair in love and war. War occurs to be ruthless! [Emphasis added]. 

Two former presidents [including an ex-army chief, one prime minister and two Generals [including one who was Pakistan’s NSA during the Mumbai attacks] openly accepting that terrorists enjoy state patronage and that the Pakistan army is indulging in enforced disappearances. Therefore, isn’t serving a démarche to the Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan since its MP has highlighted these very issues reek of moral depravity? While diplomacy may demand overlooking minor demeanours but for how long will nations who claim to have zero-tolerance for rights violations by states be mute spectators to institutionalised persecution of minorities in Pakistan?  

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Let’s not forget that it’s abject apathy of the international community that has convinced both Islamabad and Rawalpindi that they can [literally] get away with murder. So, as long as concrete steps to compel Pakistan end organised human rights violations are not taken, we by our stoic silence are complicit in these grave crimes against humanity and hence have no moral right to wax eloquent on this issue! 

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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