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U.S. and Human Rights? Grow up

Human Rights

By Asif Haroon Raja

The US has earned the dubious reputation of pursuing double standards and making unsubstantiated allegations against a country which it wants to browbeat. These unholy tactics are applicable to friends and foes alike except for Israel , India and western world. Ironic part of the story is that it doesn’t feel an iota of embarrassment in leveling accusations on aspects which are applicable to the US , Israel and India the most.  

Pakistan ’s brilliant success in Malakand and Swat operations in May-June 2009 was applauded by all and sundry including USA , but in actuality the outcome was not to the liking of Indo-US-Israeli nexus. The trio had expected the Army getting irretrievably bogged down since huge supplies had been provided to Maulvi Fazlullah led militants to make Swat fortress impregnable. Not only Pakistan Army overturned series of strongholds in record time of one month, it also laid bare huge stocks of weapons provided by foreign powers. Caught with pants down, the strategic partners took cover behind its tool of propaganda from September onwards so as to put Pakistan on the defensive and to spoil the image of Pak Army that had soared. 

The US had the audacity of leveling a charge of extra judicial killings in Swat on Pakistan . Several US officials expressed their deep concern. They based their observations on New York based Human Rights Watch, which claimed it had mounting evidence of over 200 summary executions in Swat Valley. Its spokesman Malinowski said that pace of extra judicial killings in Pakistan was not slowing down. He added that the Army was targeting civilians voicing support for Taliban or providing food and shelter. He made a reference to US law which bans assistance to units involved in this practice.

The matter had been aired in September 2009 soon after the successful Rah-e-Rast operation in Malakand Division and Swat and further drummed by US spokeswomen Asma Jahangir, a known critic of Army, establishment and Islamists and supporter of American and Indian policies. ICFI report of 16 September about mass graves in Swat, Times magazine report of one Akhtar Ali and a clip showing an army officer kicking a suspect in Swat aired by local and foreign media indicated a trend to undermine Army’s achievements. The motivated propaganda died down when 2.3 million displaced persons returned and cheered the Army lustily. Army’s efforts were also lauded by the Pakistani public and the world. Yapping tongues of the propagandists got silenced when the Army added another feather in its cap by overpowering the impregnable fortress of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in South Waziristan (SW) in a month’s time. The adversaries who till then were upbraiding Pak Army and accusing it of being hand-in-glove with Taliban were compelled to change their tunes from admonishment to extolment.

When the wind that had blown against Pakistan for over eight years became relatively steady, allegation of extra judicial killing seemed strange but was not without a definite purpose. Other than the frowns of Robert Gates, Geoff Morrell said that ‘irrespective of close Pak-US partnership in combating terrorism, the US takes human rights abuses seriously’. It is well known that human right violation is one of the sticks the US has in its armory which it brandishes to make the other obey its dictates. This stick has never been used on India or Israel , the two most horrible human rights violators.

It is paradoxical that the US notorious for worst human rights violations and being the biggest violator of law today stands up as a pleader of human rights and upholder of law. Its past gory acts are too many to recount. It has turned Iraq and Afghanistan into killing grounds where over 1.6 million have been hacked to death; millions injured critically, tens of thousands rendered homeless, widowed and orphaned. Thousands have suffered gruesome tortures in US run infamous jails, which have so far not been closed despite world protest and commitment given by Obama. George W. Bush and his team of neo-cons along with Tony Blair should have been tried as war criminals for the crimes committed against humanity and that too under false pretexts.

Till November 2009, ruthless killing of militants as well as civilians was justified under the comical label of collateral damage. Deaths of civilians in each cross fire or aerial attacks were taken as a natural phenomenon in war conditions. It was only when security situation in Afghanistan spun out of control that Gen McChrystal, notorious for brutal actions in Iraq suddenly transformed himself and tried to put up a soft face by instructing his under commands to keep collateral damage to bare minimum. Despite his commands, cases of excesses kept occurring and resentment against restrictions kept mounting. McChrystal’s softness towards Afghan civilians became one of the reasons for his sacking. His successor Gen Petraeus has removed the curbs.

Pakistan Army had to all along fight war on terror imposed upon it with its one hand tied to the back because of the factor of collateral damage. In their effort to limit fatalities to the civilians, the army took huge risks by resorting to controlled and precision firing in the face of indiscriminate firing by militants camouflaged among civil population. The soldiers always remained mindful of the fact that they were up against misled brethren and use of more carrot and little stick might bring them back on the right path. This policy didn’t work because the militants were paid huge salaries and other perks by foreign conspirators while Pakistan lacked resources to develop impoverished FATA. In order to avoid losses to civilians, Malakand Division, Swat, Bajaur and SW were got vacated prior to launching operations.

Army Jawans and officers have performed their duties with total dedication, grit and determination. They pray five times to seek Allah’s blessings.  Fear of God together with enforcement of correct guidelines given by the top leadership and maintenance of strict discipline at unit levels helped in keeping the troops on the virtuous path. In the last nine years, not a single case of moral turpitude or any case of trauma has taken place despite having suffered over 30,000 killed and injured. Hats off to the dynamic commanders at all levels who have kept their troops committed and motivated all these years under such adverse conditions and achieved remarkable results.

People of Swat and Bajaur celebrated the ouster of militants and garlanded the soldiers as their saviors and benefactors. Never before the people of these regions had come so close to the Army. Pak Army has been sharing their rations with the affected persons, rendering medical services, distributing relief goods and its sappers reconstructing destroyed houses, mosques, small bridges and culverts etc. Affectionate response of the affected people belies false claims made by vested interests.

Pak Army is once again winning the hearts and minds of people caught up in worst ever floods by providing them all possible assistance. Under special instructions from Gen Kayani, officers and men are working round the clock to cope with the unprecedented natural calamity. Pak Army’s heavy commitment in flood duties is not at the cost of war on terror which is proceeding unhindered. It is not allowing terrorists to take advantage of floods to win the sympathies of flood affectees.

Army has launched scores of operations in seven tribal agencies of FATA since 2002 but the US never made any complaint of human rights abuses. Rather, it always expressed its displeasure and was averse to peace deals and repeatedly pressed Pakistan to do more since it was not doing enough. In other words, what it meant was to make use of stick only with full force in complete disregard to pro and anti-Pakistan militants and not to even spare the sympathizers providing food and shelter to militants. It wants complete cleansing of extremist forces in the two Waziristan and adjoining agencies and is not bothered about its catastrophic consequences on Pakistan ’s social fabric.

Intriguingly, what it implies is that human rights laws are applicable in Swat and Balochistan only and not in FATA. Human rights laws are also not applicable in India-held Kashmir against Kashmiris where unarmed protestors including teenage boys are being gunned down almost daily since June, and atrocities against Indian Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and Christians in India is a routine affair. Likewise, Israel has also been absolved of human rights abuses despite its policy of repression against Palestinians and keeping Gaza under economic blockade since 1987. Recent monstrous raid by Israeli storm troopers on peace flotilla near Gazan coast has also not been censured by USA .  

With this kind of track record it makes one laugh to hear US officials sermonizing about abuses in Swat and gloating over US laws and principles of counter insurgency and trying to show the right path to Pakistan .

The writer is a retired Brig who writes regularly for various international and national newspapers/websites. Email: [email protected]

View the original article at Veterans Today

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