Swat: Respect for life first, says HRCP

Press Release, September 25


Lahore: While endorsing the need for using effective force to fight terrorism in NWFP, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the authorities to avoid aggravating the already unbearable plight of the civilian population.

In a statement issued here, the HRCP Chairperson said:


The human rights situation in Swat is alarming and is getting worse every day. HRCP is shocked and grieved at the loss of life as a result of firing by security forces on a crowd that was only drawing attention to their unbearable suffering.


Information available to HRCP reveals that the situation in Swat is harrowing for more than one reason. One the one hand the population is facing a serious threat from militants and on the other hand disruption of electricity, gas and water supply and shortage of edibles have compounded their misery.


While the citizens have to put up with the rigours of extended curfew, at some places round the clock, they must have protection against criminals and lawless elements who appear to be enjoying a free hand. In this situation, the people of Swat’s decision to demonstrate in Mingora is a measure of their courage as well as their despair, for which they deserve to be respected and not fired upon.


The anxieties of the local community have been fueled by reports that the militants have been able to strengthen their domination in the areas falling under the Matta, Khawazakhela and Kabal police stations and that the authorities themselves appear to be skeptical about the outcome of the operation against them. Almost everywhere the people are astounded by the inability of the law enforcement agencies to track the apparently unhindered movement of the militants.


The ordeal of the people can be judged from the killing of at least three individuals, namely Abdul Kabeer Khan, Musa khan and Muhammad Amin for their affiliation to the government. In one case, the victim, brother of a sitting minister, resisted the militants throughout the night and consistently called for help but his cries for help went unheeded. Eventually, he and his family was mercilessly slaughtered. Equally hair-raising is the story of another victim whose child was killed in front of his eyes before he himself was liquidated.


HRCP calls for investigation of such cases and for justice to be done. HRCP has no doubt that such murderous acts do not enjoy any religious sanction and their perpetrators deserve to be dealt with collectively. They are themselves responsible for inviting use of force against them. However, it is necessary to ensure that the cost of operation to the civilian population must be drastically controlled and the needs of the internally displaced persons addressed with diligence and sincerity.


HRCP believes it is certainly time to seek the help of the UNHCR and the ICRC in mitigating the suffering of the displaced people.


This also applies to displaced persons in other parts of the country.


There is no gainsaying the fact that hardship caused to non-combatant population and perception of use of disproportionate force, which targets militants and civilians alike, will create more problems than it solves.


Asma Jahangir



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