Do India Or Pakistan Have The Moral Ground To Decry Human Rights Violations?

21/08/2016 7:01 PM IST | Updated 25/08/2016 8:41 AM IST
Danish Ismail / Reuters

Former Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani recently tweeted about the human rights violation in the two major disputed areas of India and Pakistan:

He is right. Human rights violations are wrong anywhere, whether Kashmir or Balochistan, and both India and Pakistan are guilty of perpetrating them for political ends. The people are the ones who end up getting hurt.

The State's violence in the Valley

According to the Pakistan Foreign Office, United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has shown concern over the situation in Kashmir and offered his "good offices" to facilitate dialogue between the two countries to resolve the Kashmir issue. He made these remarks in letters received by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had apprised him about the "grave situation in Kashmir where large-scale violations of human rights were being committed by Indian security forces."

He's not the only one with complaints on the human rights front, though. On the occasion of India's 70th Independence Day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought up the strife in Balochistan in Pakistan, where a contentious separatist movement has been brewing for years. He said, "Pakistan forgets that it bombs its own citizens using fighter planes. The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Baluchistan and PoK (Pakistan-administered Kashmir)."

Since the violent uprising started in Indian-administered Kashmir, the human rights abuses have ramped up. More than 700,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Valley and tens of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed. Since July 2016 alone, at least 50 people have been killed and hundreds injured as Indian forces and protesters faced off. The use of pellet guns has led to the loss of vision in many Kashmiris, On 4 August 4th 2016, Zahoor Wani, a senior correspondent from Amnesty India said, "Pellet guns are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, and have no place in law enforcement".

Whether Modi or Sharif, they should be getting their own houses in order.

In July 2015, Amnesty International highlighted the extra-judicial killings of the people of Kashmir at the hands of Indian security forces. The report focuses primarily on the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA), that grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for alleged human rights violations. According to the report, between 1990 and 2011 over 43,000 people were killed, of whom 21,323 were "militants", 5369 security force personnel and around 20,000 civilians. Then, following a 13 August seminar on Kashmir's human rights crisis, Amnesty International was accused of sedition, and forced to temporarily close its offices in several cities.

Crises in Karachi and Balochistan

Now for decades, Pakistan has declared itself to be a champion of the human rights cause in Kashmir. Unfortunately, this moral high ground has been lost by the rise in human rights violations and extra judicial killings within Pakistan as well, particularly in Balochistan and the Pakistani financial capital of Karachi. The 2015 Human Right Watch reported, "The Rangers, a paramilitary force, were given complete control over law enforcement in the city of Karachi, where there were reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. The military continued to exercise sway over the province of Balochistan, using torture and arbitrary detention as instruments of coercion."

Recently, the Sindh Rangers submitted a fake human rights report regarding the Karachi operation prepared by an unknown organization "Human Right Organization of South Asia". In the prepared report, the Sindh Rangers were given clean chit. In May 2016, Director-General Rangers, Bilal Akbar, admitted that a political worker, Aftab Ahmad, was tortured to death. Recently, in the month of July, the human right defender, Wahid Baloch, went missing under suspicious circumstances. Amnesty reported that it was likely that this was an "enforced disappearance" by state security forces in Karachi and that he was at risk of being tortured or even killed.

Pakistan is unique among democratic states in the world in providing legal cover to the practice of enforced disappearances.

A year ago, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement demanded that the Pakistan government "should criminalize enforced disappearances." The commission also pointed out that Pakistan is unique among democratic states in the world in providing legal cover to the practice of enforced disappearances.

Under the Pakistan Protection Act of 2014, "based on reasonable suspicion, it is legal to deprive any person of liberty for 90 days without warrant." Similarly, the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation of 2011 "provides legal protection to the actions and operations of the armed forces."

The ongoing operation is not the first paramilitary operation in Karachi. Between 1992 and 1997 the governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif tried to portray the Rangers as an "anti-terrorist" force, and launched operations against the opposing political party, MQM. In 1997, the then Pakistan president, Farooq Laghari dismissed Bhutto's government on charges of corruption and ordering extra-judicial killings in Karachi.

According to the Human Right Watch report, "Soiled Hands", in 1995 alone, more than 500 extra-judicial killings, primarily at the hands of the Rangers, happened in Karachi.

After committing such atrocities against their citizens, both India and Pakistan have lost their respective moral ground to advocate against each other. Whether Modi or Sharif, they should be getting their own houses in order.

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