By Zahir Shah
Pakistanis are chalking up the recent arrests of suspects accused of being Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants who shot girls’-education activist Malala Yousafzai as a big success for women’s rights and the country’s security.
A joint intelligence-police-military operation nabbed 10 suspected TTP members accused of carrying out the shooting of Malala and two other schoolgirls in Mingora in October 2012, Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said September 12. All three recovered.
Accused TTP terrorist Israr ur Rehman was the first suspect caught. He confessed to being one of two gunmen who carried out the attack.
A 10-member shura led by Swat resident Zafar Iqbal plotted the assassination attempt, Rehman told authorities. They were following orders from now-TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah. Fazlullah was based in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, when he ordered the shooting.
The nine other accused shura members have confessed to carrying out Fazlullah’s orders.
The group also admitted to involvement in the November 2012 slaying of Abdul Rasheed, watchman of Swat College of Science and Technology, in November 2012. Members said they had plans to kill 22 significant locals, including Aman Committee members and other notable Swat residents, all on Fazlullah’s orders.
Police have recovered the weapons used in those incidents. They will produce all suspects before an Anti-Terrorist Court that will try them under the Anti-Terrorism Act, Bajwa said.
Security situation, human rights improve in Pakistan
The arrests are proof that the country’s law-and-order situation is improving, observers say.
These arrests will enhance a sense of security among the masses, Shabeena Ayaz, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) resident director of Aurat Foundation, an NGO committed to human rights and democracy in Pakistan, said.
“It’s a good sign that the culprits involved in crimes against humanity have been arrested, but it’s the need of the hour they be punished,” she added.
Shugafta Shaja, chairwoman of the Community Welfare Organisation, which is active in KP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), agreed.
“It’s a ray of hope for women’s rights defenders to go ahead with their mission,” she said. “There used to be many who were too scared to do so after the attack on Malala, but this action will boost their morale. It shows that a group of a few extremists can’t stop women from progressing.”
Even thought the suspects have confessed, many want them to have a fair trial.
“If there is credible, admissible evidence against them, they should be brought to trial in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness,” Amnesty International Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri said in a statement.
“Human rights defenders play a critical role in promoting the rights of everyone in Pakistan society,” he said. “With the world watching, it is critical that Pakistan seizes this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights, justice and rule of law.”