Thursday, December 12, 2013

PAKISTAN: Whereabouts of 9,120 arrestees from Karachi remain unknown

I prepared this Statement on behalf of the Pakistan Desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission. It is high time the government of Pakistan started protecting the people they have sworn to protect.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The suspects are missing after arrest and 150 have been extrajudicially killed during the last three months of the “Karachi operation”

The federal government has started an operation in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, under the title: “Targeted Operation” with the support of the police and Pakistan Rangers. The operation, which commenced on September 5, is supposedly against the increase in targeted killings, extortion, kidnappings and incidents of terrorism including bomb blasts. The Pakistan Rangers has been given powers of arrest and detention of the suspects including permission to shoot on sight. The operation has mainly focused on Lyari, the Baloch dominated area and one ethnic political party.

The photos reveal that the arresting officers wore head masks during their targeted operations. The question which begs to be asked is, if indeed, the operations are perfectly legal why should they be afraid to reveal their identities. Also, the second picture shows the suspects also wearing head masks standing before a cache of weapons supposedly taken at the time of arrest. The photos are reproduced courtesy of News Tribe and the Daily News.

During the last three months of the operation, from September 5 to December 5, according to official report, 10,620 persons were arrested on several charges. However, contrary to this figure, the two jails operating in Karachi claim that only they have received 1,500 suspects. The police and Pakistan Rangers, who at the end of every 30 days issue their report on their successes, have not mentioned the whereabouts of the remaining 9120 suspects. The correct figures about the encounters and extra judicial killings were not available but through reports published in the media more than 150 persons were killed in mysterious encounters after their arrests and torture during the interrogation.

Prime Minister Sharif has taken step of commencing the operation in Karachi after the increase in crime, target killings, extortion, sectarian violence and bomb blasts. Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, was designated the operational commander. Despite the operation there has been no reduction in the crime rate during the last three months. Every day in Karachi an average of ten persons become victims of targeted killing and sectarian violence and the so called 'operation' has not yielded any positive results to halt the crimes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is very much concerned about the number of missing persons after their arrest by the law enforcement authorities and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons in encounters. Every day the news is received of the killing of at least one person in custody or in an encounter. In several cases the family members of the arrested erson stated that the victim was arrested from their homes but later it was announced that they were killed in an encounter or died in detention. The authorities have not produced any of these persons before the media for identification.

It is quite clear that the police and Rangers are working with ill-intent as not a single man has been presented in court after arrest during the last three months nor have the family members been told of their whereabouts or have been allowed to meet them.

It is also appalling that despite the large number of missing persons no questions have been raised in parliament.

The relatives are legitimately concerned that the victims would be killed in the illegal detention centers by the torture they are sure to be subjected to or in a fake encounter.

The AHRC terms the ‘targeted operation’ as a gross violation of the constitution and law of the land and believes that its purpose is to make the mockery of the rule of law. If the purpose of the operation was to control the killings and terrorism in Karachi then there would have been a visible reduction in such incidents. However, the law enforcement agencies, including the Rangers and the police are scoring to show their efficiency. There is always a blame game between the police and Rangers for interfering in each other’s affairs and destroying the law and order situation. When the joint operation was started both the law enforcement authorities tried to show their effectiveness by conducting raids at the victim's houses, arresting as many as possible and killing them in so called encounters. In addition to extortion, target killings and sectarian violence the citizens are now facing new kind of state violence in the name of a targeted operation.

It is evident that the operation is being conducted in phases. The first and second parts of the operation have now been completed with the arrest and enforced disappearances of 9,120 persons and the extrajudicial killings of 150 persons. The third phase is likely to be even worse and it is expected that the numbers of disappeared persons, fake encounters and extrajudicial killings will increase. One can expect that many more innocent people will be disappeared.

The dignity and lives of the people means nothing to the government of Pakistan whose only action is a smokescreen to make it look as if they are doing something to fight crime. The people are merely cannon fodder in the name of 'law enforcement'. The authorities have once again proved themselves incapable of maintaining law and order and controlling the terrorism that virtually rules the country.

It is the sole responsibility of the government of Pakistan to either release the arrested persons or reveal their whereabouts. If, indeed, there are viable charges to be laid against them they must be produced in court immediately. It must be asked why the government of a democratic country is arrogantly ignoring the laws of the land and the international norms.

The AHRC urges the government to ensure the recovery of the 9,120 persons who were arrested during the operation, as according to official sources. These people must be immediately brought before a court of law. Furthermore, officers in charge of the Police and Pakistan Rangers must be prosecuted for keeping thousands of arrested persons in illegal custody and extrajudicially killing them in fake encounters.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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