December 19th, 2012
10:50 AM ET

Amnesty: Pakistan armed forces acting with impunity

By Polly Truscott, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director for Amnesty International. The views expressed are her own.

The Taliban’s brazen assassination attempt on brave teenage human rights activist Malala Yousafzai grabbed the world’s attention, shining a rare light on the ongoing cycle of violence in Pakistan’s insurgency-hit northwest Tribal Areas.

Malala miraculously survived the October shooting, but the incident is but one of many in a region locked in a climate of lawlessness where perpetrators of human rights abuses act with impunity.

In an extensively researched report released last week by Amnesty International, a disturbing pattern of violations by Pakistani forces – from torture and other ill-treatment to enforced disappearance without access to family, lawyers, the courts and with no information about their fate and whereabouts – reveals the failure of Pakistani authorities to address the fundamental lawlessness of the Tribal Areas.

The Armed Forces themselves stand accused of committing a range of violations against thousands of men and boys arbitrarily detained in the northwest, emboldened by new and old security laws that give their personnel sweeping powers and allow them to violate human rights without any fear of prosecution.

The report also documents Taliban abuses, including indiscriminate attacks and the deliberate targeting of civilians, as well as the brutal executions of captured soldiers and those they accuse of spying.

A rugged and remote area bordering Afghanistan, and home to more than 20 million people, the Tribal Areas are one of the least developed parts of Pakistan. Reports indicate that sixty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, while literacy rates and per capita incomes are less than half the national average.

In 2009, the Pakistani Armed Forces launched their most decisive operations into areas where armed groups like the Taliban had effectively taken control.

Although the Armed Forces were successful in retaking much of the territory, the conflict took a huge toll on the civilian population – millions were displaced and thousands killed, as Amnesty International documented in a 2010 report.

But despite a relative lull in direct fighting between the army and Taliban, there has been no let-up for the people in the region. With the military granted broad powers to arrest and detain, security forces have picked up and detained thousands of men and boys for long periods with little or no access to due process safeguards.

Many have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody. Some don’t survive – almost every week, bodies of those detained are returned to their families, or simply found dumped across the Tribal Areas.

Gulzar Jan, a 40-year-old farmer, had in April 2010 voluntarily reported to an Army contingent after being accused of Taliban ties by a neighbor.

In August 2012, his father Farooq was notified that Gulzar Jan’s dead body had been brought to a local hospital – it was the first he had heard of his son’s whereabouts in two years. The police said he died of “illness,” but there was no autopsy or investigation into the circumstances surrounding Gulzar’s death by the authorities, even though it is required under international law.

“When I surrendered my son to [the Army] he was a healthy man, he weighed about 85 kilograms. When they handed his body back it was about one-third of his previous size. We bathed him before burial. I noticed his back was covered in lashes that looked like whipping marks,” said Farooq.

Gulzar Jan’s case is emblematic of the enforced disappearance and alleged treatment of detainees at the hands of the Armed Forces, and of the failure of Pakistani authorities to investigate these cases effectively.

No investigation of any kind has been conducted into any of the other multitude of cases we have documented.

At the same time, deadly attacks by armed groups like the Taliban continue, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians in the last three years alone.

People we spoke to in the region feel trapped in the middle – by threats from the Taliban on the one hand, and from the risk of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance on the other. Many who hoped the situation would improve after the state started to push out the Taliban from 2009 onwards are disillusioned.

At the heart of the crisis is a legal system that excludes the enforcement of human rights protections by the courts and allows the armed forces to operate with impunity.

The Tribal Areas are still being governed under the draconian colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation, while acts of parliament ordinarily do not apply to parts of the region. A new set of laws introduced in 2011, the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations (AACPR), granted the army even broader powers to arrest and detain in a manner that violates international law.

Neither Pakistan’s high courts nor parliaments have any jurisdiction in the Tribal Areas. Although the courts have nevertheless heard cases challenging the lawfulness of some detentions, there have been no prosecutions of Armed Forces personnel for alleged torture, enforced disappearance or deaths in custody.

Until the Pakistani government addresses the deeply flawed legal system in the region, the Armed Forces will be able to commit human rights violations with impunity. The AACPR has to be repealed and the jurisdiction of the courts and parliament extended to the Tribal Areas.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan faces major challenges in the region in confronting persistent violence by armed groups, re-establishing civil authority and infrastructure after years of conflict, and addressing a continuing humanitarian crisis. But without urgent steps to make the Armed Forces accountable before the law and protect the human rights of all people in the Tribal Areas, the region will remain locked in perpetual lawlessness.

Post by:
Topics: Human Rights • Pakistan

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Ted

    Pakistan's Armed Forces are the real terrorists. OBL was hiding next to a military base. No wonder they support terrorists like OBL and torture anyone who opposes terrorism with impunity. Pakistani Armed Forces are the real terrorists - these so called terrorists just take orders from them.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
    • Frank Thomson

      That is state sponsored terrorism.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Reply
      • ShahNawaz Ansari

        My own country Pakistan has become a cancer for this world. A source of financing and inspiration for all terrorists in the region the likes of which have attacked not only Malala but several other poor kids. A place where these extremists seek refuge after attacking neighboring countries and NATO forces and American troops. Pakistan  is a Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of India, defined by China, and punctuated by Terror Organizations such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar E Taibba, Jesh E Muhammad, Jamaad Ud Dawa
        find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it
        stand up? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek
        redemption for double crossing USA in Afghanistan and Iraq.For be fooling entire world in the name of war on terror and OBL, hiding it and making sure to loot billions from US taxpayers money.
        Split Pakistan, give the tribal and ungoverned part to Afghanistan and give other half to India. This will make it governable and manageable and this will generate
        tremendous economic demand for western nations, be democratically more efficient and easy to manage,
        My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • ShahNawaz Ansari

        The world now need to focus on my country Pakistan. The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront  of the irrelevance of Pakistan as a nation. 
        Their soldiers  continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans from within the country  occupied entire SWAT and areas near Islamabad for months on end showing how useless Pakistan is and how coward its army and its peoples are. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as sewer and gutter of Asia.
        I continue to read with interest the thesis presented on CNN that "less is more" in a political context as applied to Pakistan.
          Empowering subjugated minorities in Pakistan by splitting it into smaller states would trigger uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial andtechnology aid to Pakistan with no return to show for the investment and only backstabbing and covert terrorist operations by Pakistan against them. Balochistan is an excellent idea to achieve this.
         I concur with this approach and with an economic background find the premise to be on solid footing. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach.
        My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        Pakistan, my country is a two face serpent. A source of financing and inspiration for all terrorists in the world the likes of which have attack thousand of innocents everyday
        across the world. A place where these extremists seek refuge after attacking
        neighboring countries. Pakistan is a Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty
        dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding
        it together. Living in the shadows of China, defined by India, haunted by
        Bangladesh and Balochistan and punctuated by zillion Terror Organizations,
        Pakistan is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it stand up? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek
        redemption for double crossing USA in Afghanistan.
        My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

        December 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        The world now need to focus on my country Pakistan. The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront  of the irrelevance of Pakistan as a nation. 
        Their soldiers  continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans from within the country  occupied entire SWAT and areas near Islamabad for months on end showing how useless Pakistan is and how coward its army and its peoples are. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as sewer and gutter of Asia.
        I continue to read with interest the thesis presented on CNN that "less is more" in a political context as applied to Pakistan.
          Empowering subjugated minorities in Pakistan by splitting it into smaller states would trigger uber economic demand for western nations who have given so much financial andtechnology aid to Pakistan with no return to show for the investment and only backstabbing and covert terrorist operations by Pakistan against them. Balochistan is an excellent idea to achieve this.
         I concur with this approach and with an economic background find the premise to be on solid footing. Central Asian States (CAS) are a case in point on this successful approach.
        My name is ShahNawaz and I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I want to convert to Christianity as soon as possible and leave this doomed land.

        December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        Let me show the mirror to my Pakistani carpetbeggar brothers so they can understand how others perceive them. First off, let us not insult religions by putting Islam in that category.
        Islam is nothing but a cult invented by the pedophile named Muhammed.
        .The religion was based on pedophile practices of Arab slaves that the Muslim invaders travelled with in ancient times.
        Second, and that brings us to who Muslims really are..... an offshoot of illegitimate children born out of these Arab slaves. The dark skin and body odor of Pakistanis today are indicative of the DNA of these slaves. Nothing personal...it is all science.
        Recall, how the Pakistan was conquered 4 times by Indians. The mindset of Pakistani are so much set in hatred they they cant pull themselves of their poverty quagmire and inferiority complex that they developed over time.
        The problem is these Pakistanis are dragging themselves and the neighbors down socio economically while simultaneously nurturing terrorism inside their own country. We must change this equation. The way to do it is to break Pakistan into pieces so that we are able to change the mindset that is so mired in slavery.

        December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        PAK is the world's cesspit
        even arabs throw them nothing but spit
        US drone is pak's national bird
        pak is a failure that is now called the planet's turd..

        December 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        The bottom line is that the only way to have peace in the region, eliminate terrorism  and lessen regional tension is split Pakistan into pieces.
        Give Balochistan to the Baloch's, tribal part to Afghanistan to govern and give the rest back to India. It has become too irrelevant to govern or create any value for western countries or even for its own population. We have invested a lot of resources in PAKISTAN over the past 6 decades and given a lot of aid to prop it up. There has been no return on this investment. Instead Pakistan has squandered all the
        resources in building nuclear weapons while poverty remains rampant in the
        country. We need to revisit our relationship with Pakistan. American taxpayers
        will not tolerate this anymore. We need to take care of our own populace going
        forward. We cannot be accepting terrorism and extremism from Pakistan and giving financial or
        technical handouts.
        The thesis is that irrelevant nation need to be taken care of and that will generate tremendous economic demand for western nations in the countries where its parts will be joined and the world will have no worries to manage it.

        December 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
      • krm1007 © ™

        “I see smoke of suicidal bombers…..blowing kids
        For me and for you ….. I see em doom
        And I think to myself…what a pathetic state of my country Pakistan
        But when I look to the east or west… I Indian Hindus growing, ensuing gloom and the west growing
        And in my own country nothing but doom
        And I say to myself what a miserable world I am in….
        But what a wonderful world it could be if my country Pakistan is again sliced, diced and whirled. Earlier it was beautiful Bangladesh and when its going to be the heaven in Balochistan.
        And I say to myself indeed that would be a wonderful world… certainly what a wonderful world !”
        Lyrics Inspired from Louis Armstrong

        December 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Pakistan's armed forces are so powerful, that there had been tensions between the Pakistan People's Party government and the military. A so-called "memogate" scandal revealed that Pakistan's former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani had been accused of asking for US help to restrain the military, which gloated over the government being in a state of "paralysis" because it was trapped between rival powers of the military and judiciary.

        December 20, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • RK Recruit

      Last i checked, terrorist Mulla Fazlulla the taliban attacker of Malala was hiding in New Delhi and so was Bugti another terrorist. Hmmmm........

      December 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
      • RK Recruit

        BTW New Delhi happens to be in India.

        December 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • ahsan7979

      What about the US and Isreali armed forces, and the private US contractors who kill people on the streets in cold blood. What would you like to call them. I can give you 2 choices Terrorists or Murderers.
      The ever famous cases of Baghdad, Kabul and Raymond Davis in Lahore are in front of us and so is Abu-Ghuraib and Gtimo.
      What legal justification does CIA has to kill people using drones who are "innocent until proven guilty."
      Then you portray we are a nation of Laws?

      December 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • ahsan7979

      Last i checked. CIA had an undecleared black budget, out of which several billions are used to fund real terrorists. What does that make US? State sponsor of terrorism?
      It not only about capital either, they have used up every resource in the book to stir up chaos in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria & Pakistan.
      US is an excellent place to live, but has turned into Global Menace as far as their foreign policy is concerned.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • ahsan7979

      ShahNawaz Ansari. you wanted to leave Pakistan and convert to Christianity?
      Are you really a Muslim and a Pakistani? I have never heard someone so frustrated by Pakistan that he even wants to leave Islam. You sure are the kind of 2 faced serpant that KRM1007 is mentioning.
      Its because of weak and self centered people like you who dont know how to fight tyrrany and injustice, & bow in front of the superior powers that My country Pakistan is where it is today. Shame on people like you !!!

      December 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  2. Scott

    Congress just donated $688 miliion more to Pakistan. Pakistanis will just use this charitable money to actually fund more terrorism. Congress needs to stop this charity. It's a scam there in Pakistan – all that money is not going to any good cause.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
    • Frank Thomson

      We are approaching the fiscal cliff in less than 2 weeks. Congress can save almost $700 million instead of doling it out to fund Pakistani armed forces terrorists. They are talking about raising taxes. Why not cut this unjustified and morally wrong spending?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply
      • ahsan7979

        One word Propaganda. Research before you speak!!!

        December 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • ahsan7979

      Donated? hah!

      December 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  3. Ernie

    Pakistanis are shooting polio worker. Pakistani armed forces had promised and guaranteed safety for World Health Organization (WHO) workers. So many polio workers were shot. The UN should investigate if the Pakistani armed forces were involved in these killings.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • ahsan7979

      Where on earth did you get that from? You sound like a typical ignorant 18YO on drugs that doesnt know what he is talking about.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  4. nicholas

    Pakistani Armed Forces are too busy saving their terrorists. They have no time or motivation to save the polio workers.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  5. abcd

    zzzz

    December 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  6. Darius

    Most people who have served in that region believe that there is no clear demarcation between the Pakistani Armed Forces vs. Pakistani terrorists. They serve as law enforcement in the daytime and carry out acts of terrorism in the night. It's all intermixed in Pakistan. The definition between good vs. evil is very fuzzy not only in their Pakistani culture, it is also reflected in their daily acts. Pakistanis may do absolutely terrible things like killing polio workers but in Pakistani public's mind they are convinced that they are doing a good thing. It is not surprising that Pakistani Armed Forces carry out acts of terrorism themselves while the Pakistani people cheer them on.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  7. Gabe

    That is truly disgusting. People working in armed forces are supposed to have honor and honesty. However, Pakistanis are so different.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  8. Quigley

    No surprise here. The Chileans were the same way about state terrorism during the reign of that horrific Augusto Pinochet, the monster we created through the abuse of the C.I.A. Like Chile, we now have a similar in Pakistan where right-wing rulers have absolutely no respect for human rights who too are C.I.A. sponsored. Pro-Western, right-wing dictators know no honor!

    December 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Good posting, Quigley. Thank you.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  9. Hank

    Not only Pakistani armed forces act with impunity, they protect Taliban too. Hence, Taliban can act with impunity.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • Busy_bee

      We see the proof everyday – they disguise themselves as terrorists and shoot polio workers, shoot school girls, carry out bombings, attack Americans, American interests in the region, and get away with it with impunity. Pakistani government and armed forces are in cahoots with the terrorists and are scamming NATO, US and UN.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  10. Bongo Burger, Berkeley

    These Pakistanis are the ultra right wing, religious nuts. Terrorists, armed forces, people, Taliban, government - all work together to suppress human rights, oppress women, and kill minority. These Pakistani people are so conservative that they make even the Tea Baggers look like liberals from Berkeley.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      Pakistanis people kill their daughters for dating - they call it honor killing. Pakistanis are so conservative that they make Archie Bunker look like a son of Sean Penn and Barbra Streisand.

      December 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
      • Harry

        Pakistanis throw acid on their women and disfigure them. You got to see some of those pictures. Those are heart wrenching. Their logic is that nobody should even look at their women. These law enforcement/armed forces people seem to be completely useless - they would never protect anyone from terrorists because they are the terrorists themselves. Pakistanis kill women, children, westerners, infidels and minority with full impunity.

        December 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  11. Jonathan

    Pakistan is mostly Islamic. More than 99% of their population is Islamic. It is safe to assume that the armed forces are mostly Islamic too. This report should surprise no one. This is what Islamic people do.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  12. saurov

    With such "Dark Age" culture still in existence in India how can the world be healthy and the neighbors prosperous. India poses a grave danger to the world and its deities and leaders set a bad example. Mahatma Gandhi, a pedophile, needs to be exposed and tried posthumously for his child molestation crimes just like the Penn State crowd Sandusky et al. Gandhi's statutes need to be knocked down everywhere they have been put in USA. The hindu deities need to be shattered and trashed. Disgusting figurines of ugly and scary looking characters with demonic personalities. How can hindu children grow up mentally stable looking at such atrocious representations of evil in its most heinous form.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  13. Amit-Atlanta-USA.

    “I see trees of green ….. red roses too
    For me and for you ….. I see em bloom
    And I think to myself…what a wonderful world

    But when I look to the east or west… I see cult like Indian Hindus and ensuing gloom
    And in the neighborhood nothing but doom
    And I say to myself what a miserable world….
    But what a wonderful world it could be if India was sliced, diced and whirled.
    And I say to myself indeed that would be a wonderful world… certainly what a wonderful world !”

    December 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  14. ShahNawaz Ansari

    Once upon a Mumbai dreary, while the Indian Army pondered weak and weary.....
    While they nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at their bunker door.
    "'Tis some visiter," they muttered, "tapping at our bunker door —
    Only this and nothing more."

    What say you? Quoth the talibans… What say you?
    It ain’t no visiter….so to speak…’tis…the talibans…2 or 3 but Not More.
    We come in peace and nothing more…only in peace and nothing more...to tickle you to heart’s content.
    To sing you some bhajans and maybe more....so go back to sleep Evermore.
    Quoth the talibans, Evermore".
    And when you wake up we will be long gone…but we will be back____will be back
    This time in New Delhi….we will be back____
    Quoth the talibans…. we are coming back!!!!.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  15. RK Recruit

    I could not disagree with you more ya'll. You are looking at India's problems through the wrong prism. That of Indian government which is on life support system blaming Pakistan for all the ills in Indian society. Let's face it, India is a decadent culture and economy on the verge of collapse. India has become a dinosaur. A Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even USA, NATO and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of Pakistan, defined by China, haunted by Kashmir and punctuated by Terror Organizations such as Shiv Sena, India is struggling to find a meaning for its existence (besides a call center) and a place in the new world order.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  16. James C. Long

    The Pakistani and American people and congress recognize the symbolism and goodwill that Malala has created and desire to recognize her with a medal besides all the support they can garner. Malala's legacy has just begun. It is singular people like Malala who stand up to and bring down terrorism, hate and malice and bring changes to the world for the good. To our Indian brethren we say seize the opportunity and learn from it and change for the better. It is never too late. Shed your fabric of hate and negativity and medievalism and inculcate in yourselves the very essence of Islam and other religions of god that Malala stands for. Adopt a posture of positivity and non interference with your neighbors. Move forward with this changing world and pull your people out of poverty and struggle for existence quagmire that your people are stuck in. Let us help you help yourself. For starters, let's start making some intelligent comments on these forums that pass the laugh test.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  17. DIOSDADO SASIL

    There is so much gross hypocrisy on this issue.

    December 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  18. Charlie

    There is no way OBL (or UBL?) could hide near Pakistani military base without the help of their armed forces. Of course the Pakistani armed forces are supporting terrorists with impunity. This is a great article confirming what everyone has always suspected.

    December 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  19. muhammad waqas

    People like shah nawaz are the traitors. He might be carrying Pakistan passport but his heart with India always. This kind of ass hole should be kicked out from Pakistan.

    December 20, 2012 at 4:04 am | Reply

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