EU Commission on HR pressurising Pakistan
S M Hali


Desperate times, desperate measures, etc!

European Union (EU), which is itself in shambles owing to various issues like the messy divorce of Britain from the Union, the refusal of various EU states to accept refugees from Syria and the harsh crackdown on foreign nationals in the name of security, finds time to breathe fire and brimstone on Pakistan raising several matters.

Pakistan has been caught in the web of terror attacks after the Occident found it opportune to attack Afghanistan in 2001. The invasion wreaked havoc on the already war-stricken country, resulting in the Taliban resorting to guerrilla warfare tactics, which shook the western forces who failed to subdue them. More than 150,000 NATO forces equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, massive airpower, aerial surveillance and intelligence resources, were unable to defeat the Taliban. Frustrated by the impending defeat and its personnel suffering from trauma, the NATO forces decided to drawdown from Afghanistan. Apart from 14,000 Special Forces and military trainers, all western forces were withdrawn.

Neighbouring Pakistan, which had sided with the Occident, providing its bases for the allied operations, sharing intelligence and permitting its territory for maintaining logistic lines of communication to support NATO forces in Afghanistan, became a target for a new group of miscreants, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They perceived Pakistani armed forces as an ally of the West and thus were deemed fit for attack. In the carnage that followed, besides military targets, civilian educational institutions, hospitals, markets, mosques and homes were also assaulted. Resultantly over seventy thousand Pakistanis have been martyred while the country has borne severe economic losses.

The state of Pakistan retaliated by launching military operations like “Zarb-e-Azb”, targeting the safe havens, training grounds, arsenals and caches of weapons used by the TTP. The miscreants, in a well-orchestrated riposte, targeted the Army Public School at Peshawar, in which in one of the most heinous attacks, over 140 children were brutally slaughtered. The state of Pakistan, shaken badly, got its act together and evolved the National Action Plan (NAP). One of the major articles of NAP was the restoration of the death penalty and the formulation of the military courts to impart swift justice to the terrorists.

EU would be better served to sympathise with Pakistan and provide it moral support to eradicate terrorism

In the past, the trials of the apprehended terrorists used to drag on for years, key eye witnesses were coerced to withdraw their statements while the judges were terrorised to let the culprits go free and continue terror attacks with impunity. The military courts were not only swift in deciding the fate of the hardened criminals, but the rapid trials reduced the level of attacks.

EU is desirous of pressurising Pakistan to abolish the military courts for the trial of civilians. It has also demanded that the cases tried by military courts be made public. EU forgets that after the 9/11 attacks, Homeland Security was given sweeping powers to ensure that such a dastardly attack was never repeated. Similarly, after terror attacks shook London, Paris, Berlin and numerous other world capitals, the security agencies of these countries took requisite punitive action to safeguard their citizens as well as property. None of the attacks were as severe as those faced by Pakistan yet the EU finds fault with Pakistan and wants its military courts to be suspended and the death sentence being meted out be discontinued. Such demands smack of double standards.

Military court trials in Pakistan are held behind closed doors. The reason for this is not travesty of justice but to protect the lives of those involved in the judicial process. Pakistan army has a judge advocate branch, which comprises personnel duly qualified in the judicial process. Adequate opportunity is provided to the accused for their defence. Only the guilty are sentenced to death while those against whom acceptable evidence condemning them is not available, are set free. Once a trial is completed, the results are made public while the guilty are sent to the gallows only after the army chief endorses the findings and guilty verdict. Another demand of the EU is that there should be no secret detention of suspects. It must be remembered that military courts address only terrorism related cases and if trials are held openly, security of the Judges and the suspects as well, might get compromised.

The standards of ethics in the west have deteriorated to the extent that moral turpitude cases are on the rise. Instead of checking its own deteriorating moral standards, EU is insisting that lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) individuals should get greater protection in Pakistan. The West wants that the government of Pakistan should provide cover to such inhuman activities which is against the religious and social norms of Pakistan and cannot be allowed in our society. The religion of Islam is very clear regarding unnatural offences and Pakistani society needs to be insulated against the indulgence of such moral degradation rather than providing it state patronage.

The west finds that Pakistan still stands among the world’s top executioners. EU should remember that these are desperate times which necessitate the adoption of desperate measures. If these steps are reducing the scourge of terrorism, we should welcome them rather than condemn Pakistan.

Pakistan also finds itself the butt of criticism regarding the freedom of expression. The fact is that there is a free and fair media in Pakistan, which leaves no stone unturned in taking the government to task for any omissions and commissions.

Another stigma being attached to Pakistan is the persecution of the minorities. It is being propagated that the rights of minorities as well as the women are under suppression in the country. It is true that in the rural society, women have been suppressed but various human rights organisations and NGOs have taken up the cudgel for ensuring the rights of women and today the plight of women in Pakistan is much better than before.

As far as the criticism regarding minorities is concerned, Pakistan has a far better track record than India. Recently the government laid the foundation stone for establishing the Kartarpur corridor enabling Sikhs to visit the religious site without visa. Plans are afoot to also facilitate Hindu pilgrims to visit their holy sites in Pakistan without hindrances. Religious sites of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Parsis have been preserved while Ahmadis have faced some difficulty, but the government is taking steps to protect them too.

EU would be better served to sympathise with Pakistan and provide it moral support to eradicate terrorism rather than target Pakistan for criticism.