When considering Pakistan’s human rights record, the ill-treatment faced by Pakistan’s minorities particularly Pashtuns has been a consistent point of grievance for activists both in Pakistan and abroad. Activists of civil rights movement Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) have protested on numerous occasions outside the Geneva headquarters of this Council to draw attention towards the severe human rights violations suffered by Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority.
The PTM is a social and Political movement which work for the rights of Pashtuns living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and parts of Balochistan. The movement rose to prominence in 2018 following the murder of a man named Naqeebullah Mehsud who was executed by a notorious ‘encounter specialist’ SSP Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan. The PTM organized numerous peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins and presented some demands to the Pakistani government and military, including the prosecution of Rao Anwar for a number of extra-judicial killings, habeas corpus requests for a number of activists who had been disappeared and the removal of landmines from Pashtun tribal areas.
On January 18, 2023, the compromised courts of Pakistan under pressure from Pakistan Army dismissed the charges against Rao Anwar and his 17 subordinates and released them. In a country, where not a single person or institution has been made accountable for more than 75000 Pashtuns who have been killed extra-judicially and 32000 forcibly disappeared in the last 20 years. Rao Anwar is the latest example of how the military Establishment consider itself above the law. So, will continue to trample the basic fundamental Human Rights of ethnic minorities with impunity. Rao Anwar, along with his subordinates, were charged with the killing of Naqeeb and three others after allegedly dubbing them militants linked to the “Islamic State and Taliban” in a “fake encounter” on Jan 13, 2018. Court says prosecution failed to submit sufficient evidence against Anwar, others accused. It is a well known secret as disclosed by a former Army Major Raja Adil; Rao Anwar was the front man of ISI and he acted under direct orders from ISI. ISI played an important role in his acquittal from the court. That’s how the compromised Judiciary works under the co-ersion of Pakistani Military Establishment acquitting a notorious Police Officer who was considered responsible by a Police Commission ordered by Former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar.
Thousands of Pashtuns particularly PTM activists protested in every nook and corner of Pakistan against the acquittal of Rao Anwar, a Police officer of Sindh Police responsible for Extra-judicial killing of 444 innocent Pashtuns in fake Encounters, but to no avail.
PTM leader and elected member of the Pakistan national assembly, Ali Wazir, has been languishing in jail since 16 December 2020, after being charged in various false cases where he stands accused of sedition, treason and defaming state institutions. Even though he was granted bail by the Pakistan Supreme Court, he has remained in jail due on another case on the orders of an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi. The Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa demanded that Ali Wazir apologize for his criticism of the Pakistan Army in public remarks, stating that such criticism would not be tolerated.Needless to say, this is violative of the Pakistan Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech; even allowing for reasonable restrictions, there is no official law prohibiting the criticism of Pakistan’s army.
These cases filed against Wazir are only one side of the campaign of oppression that has been waged against him and other members of the PTM. Wazir’s activism began as a result of a long history of oppression that he and his family suffered on account of the Pakistani State. The lives of human rights defenders and journalists living in Pakistan and even the West are not safe as ISI plans to kill them through pro-active diplomacy as has been done in the case of Arshad Sharif, a journalist killed in Kenya.
Pakistan is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having ratified the document on 23rd June, 2010. Article 19 of the ICCPR provides explicitly that everyone shall have the freedom of expression, however this idea is only paid lip service to in Pakistan, as media censorship of minority rights movements is rampant. Pakistan is entirely intolerant of any criticism of the Army or its excesses and the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa has stated that public criticism of the Army would not be tolerated.
Article 14 of the ICCPR provides for fair trials; of particular importance is the provision that everyone shall be entitled to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and that trials should be carried out without undue delay. The influence of the Pakistan Army and Government over the judiciary has been well noted. Typically activists are charged under a number of overbroad statutes for comments made in speeches to gatherings. The charges usually include incitement to riot, defamation and sedition. Often these speeches made in a local dialect such as Pashto are translated incorrectly into Urdu in ways that make the charges seem more plausible. Due to the linkage between the judiciary, Army and Government and the disfavoured status of the activists, conviction on these trumped-up charges are the norm, even when evidence is scant.
The demands of PTM are grounded in basic human rights which are recognized even in the Pakistani Constitution. Even in the face of a repressive response by the Pakistan Government the PTM has remained steadfastly peaceful while conducting its protests. Despite the peaceful nature of protest and its reasonable demands the Pakistani government and security apparatus has responded to the PTMs calls with extreme brutality. In particular, the Pakistani state has little tolerance for minority groups speaking out against the abuses of power committed by the Pakistan Army or its agents.
On January 30, 2023, in one of the bloodiest suicide attack by the proxies (TTP) of Pakistan Military Establishment resulting in killing of at least 101 Pashtuns and injuring of 217 in Civil Lines Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It seems that Pakistan has signed another project/war to be executed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to earn dollars from the West and USA on so-called claims of fighting terrorism. It is to be noted that Pakistani Military Establishment intends to bring more than 40 thousands TEHRIKE-TALEBAN-PAKISTAN militants and their families to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Afghanistan under a secret Peace Agreement. But, instead of PEACE, these militants with the active connivance of Pakistan Army have started killing Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is really worrying to note that Tehrike-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) released a report of the attacks carried out in 2022 ; in which the militant group claim to have executed 367 attacks including 5 suicide attacks in four provinces of Pakistan with 348 attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 12 in Balochistan, 5 in Punjab & 2 in Sindh province of Pakistan which resulted in killing of 446 People and injuring of 1015. Earlier in December 2014, the same group in one of deadliest attacks killed 147 students and teachers of APS in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan, as member of UNHRC has in the past accepted the recommendations from several member states to protect the freedom of expression and the rights of those defending human rights. The treatment faced by the PTM and its supporters in Pakistan, and the perversion of the legal process to target them calls into question the sincerity of these commitments. We call upon Pakistan to respect the freedoms and rights of PTM activists under the Pakistani constitution and take notice their calls for justice and accountability.
Seeing from the above, we will like to;
-Request the Human Rights Council to urgently set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have been and are being committed by the Government of Pakistan where there is no accountability for them. Noting that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms are severely curtailed in an overall context of a total lack of rule of law.
-Urge an independent and impartial mechanism to investigate and, where appropriate, to bring perpetrators to justice, in particular those with command responsibility, and to provide victims with adequate redress; and ensure that procedures are in place to hold all perpetrators of ongoing and future human rights violations fully accountable.