Home Blog Page 3

Is ISPR hiding information on Mianwali terror attack? And is there a relationship between the uptick in terrorism and the upcoming elections? South Asia Press investigates

0

Nine terrorists were killed in a clearance operation after a terrorist attack on the Mianwali Training Air Base of the Pakistan Air Force in the early hours of Saturday, the military’s media wing ISPR said.

The ISPR further said that no damage had been done to any of the PAF’s functional operational assets, while only some damage was done to three already phased-out non-operational aircraft during the attack.

However, as per insider reports, the Pakistan Airforce and ISPR are hiding information and the actual loss is 14 aircraft and 35 military men.

The development comes on the heels of a series of incidents that left at least 17 soldiers killed in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

They include a militant attack in Gwadar, a remote-controlled bomb explosion in Dera Ismail Khan and a security operation in KP’s Lakki Marwat. A fourth incident, another remote-controlled blast in Dl Khan, had left five people dead and at least 24 injured, including police officials.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan.

Last month, on October 31, a policeman was killed after unknown militants opened fire on a police camp in Dera Ismail Khan. That same day, two soldiers were killed in an IED blast in South Waziristan district.

In July, as many as 12 soldiers of the Pakistan Army killed in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan.

That was the military’s highest single-day death toll from terrorist attacks reported this year. Before this, 10 personnel were killed in a ‘fire raid’ in Balochistan’s Kech district in February 2022.

Recent data compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) said the number of militant attacks in August was the highest tally for monthly strikes in almost nine years.

The Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), an affiliate of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack on the military airbase.

The latest attack is an indicator that the problem of terrorism had just been swept under the carpet. Because terror elements swung right back into action at the first opportunity, as per an editorial by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a well-known Pakistani scholar on military affairs.

”A far bigger problem though is Pakistan’s approach of separating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. This results in the continued penetration of these extremist-militants into both state institutions and society. During my discussion with several sources in Pakistan, I was reminded of the space that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had given to the TTP, especially under the leadership of Lt. General Faiz Hameed and then-Prime Minister Imran Khan. After 2018, the Khan government embarked upon an ambitious project of accommodating the angry Taliban under the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) formula. This was conceptualised by the ISI around 2014/16, when Lt General Rizwan Akhtar was its chief. Akhtar had proposed the ambitious, though controversial, plan of DDR instead of arresting, punishing or eliminating militants,” writes Siddiqa, in her recent editorial.

Since a decade and a half, the TTP and its various components have attacked both soft and hard targets in Pakistan, including the Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in 2009, the Mehran naval airbase in 2011, the Minhas air base in 2012, and the Badaber non-flying airbase in 2015.

Some in Pakistan also feel that the recent uptick in terrorism maybe linked to the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 2024.

In the past, terror groups with linkages to the Pakistani security establishment have been allegedly unleashed against leading Pakistani politicians to stop them from campaigning openly and hence controlling the outcome of the elections. Is this a repeat of the same?

As the date for the vote draws near, Pakistan may witness another bloodbath which raises serious questions about the willingness of the Pakistani military to fight terrorism, and as Siddiqa in her editorial points out: the military must divert attention back to security matters rather than managing the politics and the economy.

 

The tale of two Kashmirs: A comparative analysis of human development and rights in the divided valley

0

The territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been an issue of serious contestation between India and Pakistan since 1947. Both the countries have travelled a long way in the past 76 years of their independence, so have the territories of Jammu and Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir into Pakistan and India. Analysing commitment of both the countries towards this territory, the respective actions taken by the two governments and their energies channelised for the welfare as well as treatment of inhabitants of both the respective lands are the prerequisites for making an assessment to map the path that both the countries have travelled in this region of conflict.

Earlier, several mapping exercises on human rights conditions in both parts have been carried out by various international organisations – at least twice by the OHCHR – in 2018 and 2019. Besides, there are several Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs), filed by numerous human rights defenders. However, most of the mapping exercises carried out to date, claiming to be human rights centric, have hardly emphasised on human development and growth – intrinsic and integral components of human rights. Moreover, these mapping exercises often exclude comparative analysis of the situations existing in the two states: the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir which is also called Azad Kashmir or AJK by Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).

A research report, recently published, and obtained by South Asia Press attempts at mapping the human development and human rights conditions existing in J&K and AJK along with G-B, followed by a comparative analysis of development components under various categories. To ensure empiricism, the report has given preference to the documents of United Nations agencies, followed by the data resources of international organisations based in third countries – other than India and Pakistan.

Human and Economic Development
The AJK government allocated PKR (Pakistani Rupee) 12,156 crore or US$773 million for its 2019-20 budget. On the other hand, J&K spent INR (Indian National Rupees) 88,911 crore or US$12.4 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20. Comparative analysis of the budget of both states reflects that India spends at least 16 times more on J&K as compared to the amount spent by Pakistan on AJK.

Education and Literacy

The civil society reports an alarming situation of education and literacy in AJK and G-B region. According to a Pakistani non-profit organisation Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad (PIPS), G-B region has an extremely low literacy rate. In the area, 14 per cent of men are educated, while education among women is even worse at 3.5 per cent. The condition is a little better in AJK which has literacy rate of 60 per cent.

The exceptionally low education rate is coupled by inefficiency of Pakistani government to tackle terrorism in the region. 12 schools were set on fire and burnt down by terrorists in G-B region in recent times. Most of the schools that were set ablaze were girls’ schools.

India, on the other hand, has been able to establish an infrastructural set-up of education system in J&K and is performing much better than AJK and G-B territories. Besides, the literacy rate in the state is 67.16 per cent.

The Government of India has made significant investments in higher education sector in J&K. As of now, there are ten major State Universities and two major Central Universities in J&K: one Central University in each part of the state – Central University of Jammu and Central University of Kashmir. In addition, there are four premier Institutes of National Importance including Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jammu, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Jammu, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Srinagar.

There are currently six small and big universities in AJK. Except for the University of Azad Kashmir, all other universities were founded in the 21st century and are yet to be fully developed. Besides, there are two small universities in G-B region with small numbers of student enrolments. The Karakoram International University has a comparatively higher number of enrolments than the Baltistan University – which was founded recently in 2017.

The spending on education by AJK government in the fiscal year 2019-20 was PKR 2,716 crore or US$ 173 million. Whereas, the spending on education by J&K government was INR 11,105 crore or US$1.55 billion during the year 2019. In addition, a separate allocation was made for the medical and higher education sectors. It implies that J&K government spends nearly nine times more on education than by AJK government.

In addition to poor educational infrastructure and low literacy, the AJK and G-B regions are also struggling with severe unemployment conditions. Due to acute underdevelopment, there are no private jobs and educated youth are left with extremely limited options. There is no other scope for them besides joining either government services or Pakistan Army’s battalion Northern Light Infantry. They also have to face discrimination in the pay structure. The natives, who join civil services, are paid 25 per cent less than those on deputation from Punjab.

Health and Well-Being
The budget of AJK government for health in the fiscal year 2019-20 was PKR 969 crore or US$62 million. Whereas, J&K government allocated INR 4,447 crore or US$618 million for health in year 2019. The comparison of relative health expenditures of both the governments reflects a similar trend observed in education expenditure, as the budget allocated by J&K government is approximately 11 times more than that by AJK government.

The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Pakistan is 62 per thousand infants – one of the worst in the world. The Pakistani government did not include AJK and G-B while measuring the IMR. The numbers for these two most underdeveloped territories are expected to be the worst. Available statistics suggest that G-B’s maternal mortality ratio hovers between 250 and 600 per 100,000 live births – among the highest in Pakistan.

There are just 33 hospitals with 986 beds in the entire G-B region. The doctor’s coverage to population is expected to be roughly around one doctor per six thousand people.

With such a small number of hospitals/doctors, it is nearly impossible to ensure proper healthcare services to the inhabitants. Health is a rare and costly affair in G-B, available only to the upper and elite classes. District Headquarters hospitals, designated for maternity healthcare in G-B, suffer from lack of power and water supplies. Another facility is the Combined Military Hospital, where patient access is limited due to high costs.

The condition of healthcare is not any better in AJK. There are only 73 hospitals and health centres in AJK (24 hospitals and 49 health centres). There are 4,916 people covered by each doctor in the state much lower than the recommended doctor-population ratio of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

At present, there are at least 5,534 health institutions (4,433 government and 1,101 private) in J&K. However, the doctor-patient ratio in the state is one doctor per 1,658 people as against WHO’s recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 population.

The IMR in J&K is 23 – three times less than that of the AJK. A year ago, J&K was ranked number one in the country for reduction in IMR by eight points in a single year. The government plans to bring the rate further down to single digit by 2022.

According to the latest data available, unemployment rate in AJK is higher than the national average of Pakistan, measuring 10.3 per cent. Whereas it stands at 5.3 per cent in J&K, measuring lower than the national average.

G-B No More Peaceful?

According to the last census held in 1998, population of G-B is around 870,000. G-B is one of the most multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-linguist regions of the world. The sparsely populated region consists of a conglomeration of multiple ethnic groups and tribes. According to the available data, population of the region is now approximately 1.5 million, with around 39 per cent Shia, 27 per cent Sunni, 18 per cent Ismaili and 16 per cent Nurbakhshi. Earlier, the region was dominantly inhabited by Shia population with a share of 80 per cent.

Generally, people of G-B have been peace-loving and liberal as compared to other parts of Pakistan. There are reports of numerous inter-ethnic and inter-tribal marriages in the region. Interestingly and strikingly, sectarian identities were seemingly not very dominant in the region until early 1990s, as ethnic and tribal loyalties conventionally surpassed sectarian identities. However, Pakistan has long been making attempts to radicalise the region and induce strong sectarian identities amongst the people. Post 1980s, the G-B people started to gradually divide along sectarian lines – an outcome of Pakistan’s continuous efforts. Today, the region has been converted into one of the most divisive regions in the world. There are bloody clashes and bloodbaths on small and petty issues. Sectarian clashes have also led to downfall of the tourism industry – the only revenue-generating industry in the region.

To worsen the situation, the international political dynamics such as Iranian revolution and Afghanistan war worked as catalysts to further the sectarian violence in the late 1980s and 1990s. Increased activities of religious extremists in the wake of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghan war, coupled with the freedom given to religious groups, vitiated the atmosphere in this Shia-majority region. Pakistan’s manipulation of religious groups for internal and external policy objectives is a major reason for the current sectarian situation in G-B and across the country.

The most severe damage to the culture and ethnicity of the region occurred in 1988, when militants supported by Pakistani military launched attacks in G-B and killed hundreds of people. The unfortunate incident is known as ‘The Gilgit Massacre’ and lasted for 16 days with continuous bloodshed. It led to burning of more than 14 villages and abuse of local women. People were burnt alive in their homes – not for their fault, but for their faith.

A report of the International Human Rights Observer’s (IHRO) G-B chapter, released in 2013, stated that around 3,000 people have been killed in sectarian violence since 1988.

One of the heinous examples of ‘targeted genocide’ of Shia Muslims in G-B is the unfortunate incident of 16th August 2012, in which over a dozen gunmen forced 19 passengers, mostly Shias, off four buses and shot them at point-blank range. It was the third such incident in six months, only to be followed by many more similar incidents.

In a similar incidence, eighteen Shia pilgrims were openly killed on the Karakoram Highway in Kohistan district while returning from Iran on 28th February 2012. Another brutal attack massacred twenty people at Chilas on 3rd April that year.

The Shias, in general, have been subjects of attack across Pakistan. Shias of the G-B region are targeted and killed across the country. In the aftermath of violence that occurred in Gilgit and Chilas, two Shias from G-B were shot dead in Quetta on 3rd April and another was killed in Karachi on 6th April 2012. In another incident, Ahmer Abbas – a Shia student from Gilgit – was shot dead in Karachi on 6th April 2012.

Besides numerous violent attempts of ethnic cleansing in these regions, Pakistan government and military, under the leadership of Zia-ul-Haq, made several continuous attempts to alter the ethnic demography of the region. Post 1980s, Sunni Muslims from hegemonic Pakistani provinces like Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started to make an influx through business routes and started to gradually settle in the region. In this regard, researcher and activist Samuel Baid argues, “the influx of outsiders has created two problems, depletion of employment opportunities for the locals and brutalisation of sectarian tension. Along with this, there has come along a gun culture and gradual replacement of spiritual values by class materialism of the new middle class. The outsiders grab land and government jobs. It is not only the jobs that the outsiders grab, but they also plunder upon forest and natural resources in the region. The funds allocated for the development of G-B are spent on the Army deployed there.”

Terror camps that were being run here openly with the active support of the Pakistani Army have bred hundreds of Sunni Jihadis of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), who are now operating all across G-B, killing Shia Muslims.

Inhabitants of Gilgit region, for several years, have been voicing their concern that their region is under Islamist attack from the Western region and being used as safe havens for Jihadis, supported by the Islamist elements in the Pakistan Army.

Human Rights Abuse in GB

At the 13th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Abdul Hamid Khan of the Balwaristan National Front said, “human rights abuses are widespread and common in G-B for many decades but the absence of local media and independent judiciary have helped Islamabad to hide its illicit practices.”

The abolishment of the State Subject Rule in G-B in 1974 and introduction of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-governance Order in 2009 snatched land rights from G-B locals and opened the door for Pakistani settlements in the region. The Pakistani elites, including several Corporate, Army Generals and politicians have acquired land and built sprawling residences in G-B. The list includes Prime Minister Imran Khan, ex-President Parvez Musharraf, Senator Talha Mahmood and Hamid Gul, as well as many others.

Given the fact that G-B is the hotspot of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is pertinent to note that many Chinese citizens, who initially came to work on CPEC, have now settled all across G-B. A 2010 Stratfor report estimated the figures and claimed that 7,000 to 11,000 PLA soldiers guard CPEC projects. The number is expected to multiply manifold in the coming decades. Several radical Pakistani musclemen, including ex-Army officers are being roped-in to work on projects of CPEC. These workers, mostly of Sunni faith, permanently settle in G-B, further radicalising the region and wiping out the Shia majority.

Religious tolerance was imbibed across communities in the region until Pakistan initiated a number of divisive measures to create a wedge between various social denominations after 1974.

In one such divisive measure, Islamabad banned the annual Muharram procession in Gilgit in 1974, expecting sectarian clashes and a resultant divide.69 Clashes did occur, and were the beginning of a repeated cycle of sectarian violence in the region. Still, the people of the region are highly tolerant, as the majority lives in a rural economy, where interdependence of community members leads to strong ties, cooperation, and mutual survival.

Besides targeted attacks on Shias of the G-B, Pakistan government has also been making continuous efforts to ensure ethnic cleansing of Shia Muslims in AJK. According to a database compiled and maintained by media organisation LUBP, there have been around half-a-dozen organised attacks on the Shia community in AJK, leading to innumerable casualties. These attacks were precisely targeted at Shia areas and in a couple of incidents, on Shia processions and most of them were carried out collectively by large groups of Sunni Muslims.

Altering the Demography

The Federal government of Pakistan has also been working to alter the demography of AJK, since as early as 1971. In an article written in 1971, titled “Azad Kashmir: A Colony of Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, Convenor of United Kashmir Liberation Front, United Kingdom-based M. Bashir Asef presented details on the attempts made by Pakistan to colonise AJK. It highlighted that through institutional; and non- institutional moves, the Pakistani government was easily facilitating the settlement of non-Kashmiris in AJK since before.

Pakistani government prefers to award contracts of projects in AJK to Army officers, who marginalise the local work force and later settle in the region. The labourers are deprived of labour rights, as they are barred from making labour unions. The obvious reason behind facilitating settlement of Army personnel in AJK is to ensure a dominating position along the Line of Control (LoC) in case of confrontation with India.

At the time of partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, AJK was a region dominated by Hindus and Sikhs. According to reports, Kotli town in AJK was earlier dominated by Hindu and Sikh inhabitants. There were about 4,000 Hindus and thousands of Sikhs residing there. Subsequently, the Hindu and Sikh population was forced to flee to get shelter on the Indian side of the LoC.

But even international boundaries could not act as a barrier in Pakistan’s attempts of ethnic cleansing of the ‘United Jammu and Kashmir’ region. Pakistani terrorists, along with Pakistan-supported terrorists based in India, carried out one of the most sorrowful mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley of J&K. In 1989-1990, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims rose against the Indian state, instigated by Pakistan to create an Islamic state of Jammu and Kashmir; a valley homogenous in its Sunni Islamist character. The Hindu Pandits of Kashmir became the first target of the insurgency. They were viewed as living symbols of Kashmir being an integral part of India. In order to spread fear among the Pandit community and oust them from Kashmir, the militants started targeting prominent Kashmiri Pandits in 1989.

Pakistan’s cries over the Jammu and Kashmir issue is not for democracy or human rights, rather, it is entirely based on the over-broad desire of creating an Islamic state of Jammu and Kashmir, exclusively inhabited by its Sunni population.

HUMAN RIGHTS CONDITIONS

Restrictions on the Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in its two reports released in 2018 and 2019 titled, ‘Reports on the Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018 and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan’ (OHCHR 2018 Report) and ‘Update of the Situation of Human-Rights in India administered Kashmir and Pakistan Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019’ (OHCHR 2019 Report), along with multiple Universal Periodic Reviews (UPRs) have highlighted the ongoing human rights crisis in AJK and G-B territories.

In the June 2018 report, OHCHR drew attention to the provision in AJK’s Interim Constitution, which in similarity with Pakistan’s Constitution, defines who may be considered to be a ‘Muslim’ and uses this definition to discriminate against the minority Ahmadiyya community. The amended Interim Constitution of 2018 has made no changes to this discriminatory provision and declared the Ahmadiyya to be non-Muslims.

Human rights defenders and non-profit organisations informed OHCHR that Pakistan’s blasphemy provisions continue to be in force in AJK and G-B. These provisions have been criticised by several United Nations bodies and Special Procedures mandate holders for violating a range of international human rights principles and emboldening instigation of violence against religious minorities.

Business, Human Rights and the Road to China

Being the gateway to China, G-B constitutes a major part of the CPEC. However, it has led to a sheer disappointment for the inhabitants of the region. Unlike other regions and provinces of Pakistan, G-B was not even once consulted on the CPEC. Similarly, no Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been allocated to G-B that could lead to its development.

According to an International Crisis Group (ICG) report, the people of G-B are resentful because they feel CPEC projects were designed and implemented without their input and will be of little benefit to them. The report further said that it “could also affect G-B’s delicate Sunni-Shia demographic balance.” The ICG concluded, “the State’s response to local dissent and alienation has been an overbearing security presence, marked by Army checkpoints, intimidation and harassment of local residents and crackdowns on anti-CPEC protests.”

Talking about the possible environmental disaster caused by the CPEC project, Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum President Mian Zahid Hussain said that with around 7,000 large trucks using the corridor daily, it is estimated to produce 36.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per annum and such ecological degradation would harm environment, agriculture, tourism, water system and general health in the G-B region.

The OHCHR, in its 2019 Report, observed that the fashion in which the CPEC projects are being implemented raises issues in relation to the enjoyment of rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, to which Pakistan is a party.

Since AJK and G-B do not have any direct autonomy in governance and are directly controlled by the federal government, the local communities in both these areas do not have control over natural resources found in these mineral-abundant territories. Political leaders and activists from both the regions argue and emphasise that natural resources are exploited for the benefit of Pakistan while the people of AJK and G-B continue to remain largely impoverished.

Several communities in G-B have been raising concerns about the impact of CPEC on their lives. HRCP was informed that G-B authorities had forcibly evicted locals, while the Chief Secretary of G-B had allocated the same land to State authorities for the CPEC. The displaced people had claimed that they had not received compensation for relocation from the authorities.

Enforced/Involuntary Disappearances and Arbitrary Detentions

There are several credible media reports and information on enforced disappearances of people from AJK, including those who were held in secret detention and those whose fate and whereabouts continue to remain unknown. The people of AJK including journalists, activists and politicians have been subjected to enforced or involuntary disappearances. Some cases of alleged enforced disappearances have also been reported from areas close to the LoC that are under the administration of Pakistani armed forces.

The detention centers are constructed by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) – a subset of the Pakistan Army dedicated to infrastructure development. The organisation constructs multiple detention centres along the International Borders, where activists, politicians, and those not in tandem with the Army are kept for indefinite periods and tortured mercilessly.

According to different estimates, as many as 8,000 cases of missing persons have been reported since the start of the war on terror from different parts of Pakistan and its occupied territories. In AJK, numerous disappearances are also being reported, notably carried out by the state intelligence agencies, which arrest persons, and they disappear forever without a trace.

The United Kashmir People’s National Party (“UKPNP”) organised a number of protests throughout Pakistan against kidnappings and disappearances of nationalist politicians and activists in AJK and G-B. Their demand was to stop abductions and enforced disappearances from AJK and G-B.

Speaking at the 32nd Session of the UNHRC General Assembly, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri of UKPNP, urged upon UNHRC to put pressure on Pakistan to stop the victimisation of nationalist leaders of AJK and G-B, and put an end to enforced disappearances.

Right to life that is considered as the most primary and important human right has been severely violated and infringed upon by Pakistan and its armed forces. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) highlighted that enforced disappearances constitute unique and integrated series of acts that represented continuing violation of various rights recognised in the Covenant, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture and cruel/inhuman/degrading treatment or punishment. The Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 gives broad and sweeping powers to Pakistani authorities to label any dissenting voice not conforming with the Pakistani regime, as a terrorist and detain them.

In April 2017, the Committee against Torture expressed concern at “very broad powers given to the Army to detain people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities without charge or judicial supervision in internment centres under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 (Articles 2 and 15).” The Committee recommended that Pakistan should repeal or amend the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 to ensure that no one is held in secret or incommunicado detention anywhere in the territory of the state party to the Convention, as detaining individuals in such conditions constitutes per se a violation of the Convention.

The Human Rights Committee has also expressed apprehensions against these internment centres and the “allegedly high number of persons held in secret detention under the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011.” On working of Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, the Committee expressed concerns about “the insufficient power and resources allocated to the Commission; the non-compliance with the Commission’s orders by the relevant authorities; and the high number of cases brought before the Commission that remain unresolved, with no criminal proceedings brought against perpetrators.”

In May 2018, the Government of Pakistan informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan that 1,330 people were being held in various internment camps and that it required more time to furnish the Court with details of the legal proceedings against them.

OHCHR has been informed that there are likely several other cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances in AJK but they do not get reported like in the rest of Pakistan due to the lack of independent media or independent human rights groups working in the region.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has received at least one case of a Pakistani national disappearing from AJK and a permanent resident of G-B disappearing from Pakistan.

Impact of Counterterrorism on Human Rights in G-B and AJK

The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 (“ATA”) provides broad and sweeping powers to Pakistani authorities to use the law for targeting political activists, human rights defenders, and journalists in G-B and AJK. As noted in the June 2018 OHCHR report, the ATA is a Pakistani law misused by G-B authorities especially after introduction of Pakistan’s National Action Plan for countering terrorism and extremism in December 2014. The report also indicated concerns raised by the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture.

The Pakistani government used the ATA to arrest prominent political and liberal activist Baba Jan of G-B and 11 other protesters for their environmental activism in September 2011. He is serving a life imprisonment sentence and is now left with limited legal recourse available to challenge false charges against him. Same is the case with other detainees as well. Since then, inhabitants of G-B have held several protests demanding immediate release of Baba Jan and other activists. An international petition for demanding Baba Jan’s release has been signed by eminent scholars and activists, including the likes of Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and David Graeber, besides others.

Besides the ATA, Pakistan government is also using the cybercrimes law to curb the anti-CPEC dissent in G-B. The OHCHR highlighted that anyone who protests or criticises CPEC is termed as “anti-national and anti-people”. Moreover, Pakistani authorities often accuse critics of being Indian spies to delegitimise their concerns and protests.

On 17th March 2018, JKLF leader Naeem Butt was shot dead by the police at a rally organised by JKLF in Muzaffarabad. People across AJK have been organising several protests to demand punishment and arrest of those responsible for killing Naeem Butt and push for constitution of a Judicial Commission to probe the killing.

India, for long, has resorted to and preferred the method of short-term house arrest of separatists and extremists, posing a threat to law & order situations and national security of the country. Without resorting to involuntary disappearing of extremists or arresting them, the Indian government tries to confine them to their homes to ensure tranquility in the region. Such house arrests are short lived and can vary from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

Restrictions on the Rights to Freedom of Expression and Association

The AJK Interim Constitution (13th Amendment) Act, 2018 entitles the Pakistani government to authoritatively suppress dissenting voices. It states, “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the state’s accession to Pakistan.”

The OHCHR, in its June 2018 Report, highlighted that the Interim Constitution of AJK places several restrictions on anyone criticising the region’s accession to Pakistan, in contravention of Pakistan’s commitments to uphold the rights to freedom of expression & opinion, assembly and association. It recommended Pakistani government to bring this law (along with associated laws) into compliance with international human rights standards. However, the amended Interim Constitution of 2018 has retained the clauses that directly contravene international human rights law.

Pakistan puts blanket restrictions on individuals who do not conform to the government’s views and wish to contest elections. AJK’s electoral law has not been amended, and it continues to disqualify anyone running for elected office who does not sign a declaration that says, “I have consented to the above nomination and that I am not subject to any disqualification for being, or being elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly and in particular I solemnly declare that I believe in the Ideology of Pakistan, the Ideology of State’s Accession to Pakistan and the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.”

Post-2018, the G-B Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 (“2009 Order”) imposes similar restrictions on freedom of expression and association of people under its jurisdiction. Article 9(2), under the fundamental rights section, states, “No person or political party in the area comprising G-B shall propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of Pakistan.”

Similar to AJK, authorities in G-B also failed to amend provisions in the region’s governance rules that restrict the rights to freedom of expression & opinion, assembly, and association. The Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Reforms, 2019 (“Reforms Order 2019”), which is identical to Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 (“Order 2018”) and states verbatim as in Article 9(2), under the fundamental rights section.

Pakistan has been facing strong opposition at home against the G-B Order 2018. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) criticised the G-B Order 2018 for failing to protect the fundamental freedoms of the people of G-B. It said, “In claiming to grant the people of G-B their fundamental freedoms, the G-B Order has clipped their rights to freedom of association and expression. It has denied any G-B resident the right to become a chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court or to have any say in internal security. Above all, it has disregarded people’s needs despite continual public pressure in G-B to address their problems fairly and in accordance with local aspirations.”

Members of nationalist and pro-independence political parties claim that they regularly face threats, intimidation, and even arrests by local authorities or intelligence agencies, for their political activities. They said that threats are also directed at their family members including children. Such intense pressure has reportedly forced many to either flee Pakistan, and continue their political activities in exile, or stop them completely.

In November 2018, 19 activists of the JKLF were charged with “treason” for organising a rally in Kotli area of AJK. Thirty members of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (“JKNSF”) were arbitrarily detained by Pakistani law enforcement agencies while demanding independence from Pakistan at the Rawalpindi Press Club in Rawalpindi on 15th March 2019. They were later released on 20th March 2019 after court intervention. The JKNSF alleged that authorities did not release their former president, Sardar Talah, who was also detained at the same venue on 15th March 2019.

Pakistan is practising an absolute form of censorship in the AJK territory. According to a report of the United States State Department, media managers and media owners in the region still have to obtain permission to publish, from the Kashmir Council and the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs.

Human rights groups report that publishers of books or periodicals are also required to make a declaration of loyalty to accession to Pakistan. Several books supporting Kashmiri independence were also reportedly banned by a government order in 2016.

Besides practicing direct censorship, Pakistan is also implementing indirect ways to censor news content. To avoid harassment from armed forces and not losing government advertisements, the media organisations resort to censor dissenting news and non-conformist views that go against the Pakistani government. A number of journalists in AJK and G-B confess that media houses continue to practice self-censorship as a means to obtain government advertisements, the main source of revenue. Journalists claim local administrators use the advertising revenue as a “carrot and stick” policy with media owners in order to get favourable news published, reduce coverage of their political opponents, and censor any criticism of Pakistan by political groups or civil society members.

Journalists in AJK are continuously threatened and harassed in the course of carrying out their professional duties. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an anti-terrorism court in G-B sentenced journalist Shabbir Siham in absentia to 22 years in prison and fined him PKR 500,000 (US$4,300) on charges of defamation, criminal intimidation, committing acts of terrorism and absconding from court proceedings. Siham was accused of “fabrication” and extorting a regional minister in violation of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act after he wrote an article for the ‘Daily Times’ newspaper alleging G-B legislators of having involvements in human trafficking and prostitution. Shabbir Siham told CPJ that he did not appear before the court due to security concerns.

In another incident, authorities in G-B arrested journalist Daulat Jan Mathal in 2016 on anti-terrorism charges because the publications he edited supported national autonomy for G-B. He was then charged with the allegation of “damaging the solidarity and integrity of Pakistan” by publishing material supporting the Balawaristan National Front, a local nationalist party.

In 2018, G-B authorities arrested journalist Muhammad Qasim Qasimi after he engaged in verbal argument with a local police officer. The newspaper that he worked for reported that he may have been arrested to prevent the publication of his story on a corruption scandal in the local government. According to CPJ, Qasimi has been charged with “criminal intimidation, intentional insult to provoke breach of peace, defamation, threat of injury to public servant and obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions.”

According to a Muzaffarabad-based senior journalist, there were no newspapers in AJK until the late 1990s. Currently, 32 local newspapers operate in AJK. All the newspapers are published in the Urdu Language, and not in the majority’s language – Kashmiri. All the newspapers in the state have to follow a different procedure of title registration than the mainland Pakistani newspapers. The registration requests/application forms have to be necessarily filed before the local Deputy Commissioner, but final approval is given by the Kashmir Council based in Islamabad and not by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Through this process, Pakistan practices a direct form of press censorship in AJK.

A growing body of findings and resolutions holds that there have been intentional disruptions to the internet, violating international law. The UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly have passed, by consensus, multiple resolutions that unambiguously condemn internet shutdowns and similar restrictions on freedom of expression online. For example, the UN Human Rights Council in Resolution A/HRC/RES/32/13: “Condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.”

Pakistan shuts down the internet in AJK for petty issues. At times, it shuts down the internet based on the developments taking place in India. In recent years, it shut down the internet in the region as soon as India revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

 

LAWS AND LEGISLATION LEADING TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

The AJK and G-B are not mentioned in the Article 1 of the Pakistani constitution, which defines and mentions Pakistani territories. It implies that neither AJK nor G-B have been mentioned as Pakistani territories under its constitution. However, Article 1(2)(d) states that Pakistan’s territories include “such States and territories as are or may be included in Pakistan whether by accession or otherwise.”

The Pakistani government, under the Karachi Agreement with the AJK government, divided the natural resources-rich and fertile G-B from AJK and renamed it as Northern Areas. Since then, Pakistan has been directly ruling G-B through provisional orders/ordinances, where every new order replaces the previous one. Unlike AJK, it does not have an interim or permanent constitution.

The State Subject Rules of 1927 – the land ownership act entitling land rights to the locals – was annulled by the Pakistani government in 1974, which opened the door for the influx, settlement and subsequently dominance of the Pakistani community in G-B.

Until 2009, no legislative body existed in G-B. The Pakistan government promulgated the G-B Order 2009 to entitle the inhabitants of the territory a certain amount of control over governance. G-B Assembly and G-B Council were also set up under the provisions of the Order. However, in 2018, the Pakistan government introduced the G-B Order 2018 to replace the Order 2009, which was not received warmly by the local populace. It gave sweeping and broad powers to the Federal government to directly control the territory. Along with G-B Assembly, the Prime Minister of Pakistan was empowered with direct legislative powers to make laws on G-B as well as directly imposing the laws from Pakistan. The powers of the G-B Council were thus taken away and entrusted to the Pakistani Prime Minister, limiting the Council’s role to act as an advisory body. The Order 2018 was met by intense protests in G-B including by the political parties, pro-independence groups, and civil society organisations. The activists demanded full democratic rights, representation, and revocation of the Order 2018.

The Order 2018 has infringed upon the financial autonomy of G-B. In order to establish control over the economy of G-B, the federal government also took over the accounts, audits, and taxation departments of the region.

On 20th June 2018, the Supreme Appellate Court of G-B suspended the Order 2018. However, it was restored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 17th January 2019. Besides restoring the Order 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan warned the federal government to not change the status quo of G-B, until and unless a referendum was conducted and extended its own powers over the region. It ordered the federal government to come up with a new policy – G-B Governance Reforms, 2019.

Pakistan has been changing goalposts in introducing and implementing the 2019 Reforms in G-B. Despite the Pakistani Supreme Court’s mandate to the federal government to come up with G-B Governance Reforms 2019, the government has failed to do so. Under pressure from the Supreme Court judgment, Pakistan government, through its Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and G-B, came up with the G-B Reforms Order 2019, which was a combination of Order 2009 and Order 2018 and has induced most of the provision from the Order 2018. Observers say the repeated changes and shifting of goalposts might be a delaying tactic under the garb of indecisiveness on whether to table the Bill in the G-B legislature or the Pakistani parliament.

Currently, the Order 2018 is in force in G-B where the Pakistani Prime Minister, who is a part of the national executive, enjoys exclusive authority to legislate on 68 subjects, pertaining to matters of executive, legislature, and judiciary in G-B. The people of G-B have not yet been entitled to all the fundamental rights of the Pakistani Constitution and the Principles of Policy (similar to Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian constitution) do not apply to G-B. Besides, G-B has not yet been entitled to any representation in constitutional bodies of Pakistan.

As far as AJK is concerned, the Article 257 of Pakistani constitution authorises the people of the region to take a decision on its accession/merger within the Pakistani territory. Article 257 states: “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.”

The AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974 provided for an interim constitution of AJK for long. After passage of the 13th Amendment Act on 2nd June 2018, the Legislative Assembly of AJK declared it as a full constitution and endorsed sovereignty of AJK.

The amendment limited the powers of Kashmir Council and reduced its role to an advisory one. The amendment made AJK parliament began to form laws without the knowledge of Pakistan government and bypassing the Federal Cabinet. The AJK Legislative Assembly also acquired powers to approve or disapprove emergency in times of war or conflict.

Yes the AJK Constitution prohibits the expression of any idea that is not in conformation with those of Pakistan. Section 4(7)(3) of the Act states: “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.”

Lawfare by Pakistan and India in the Kashmir Valley

Pakistan’s ATA authorises the security forces in AJK and G-B to infringe the freedom of expression in the name of dealing with terrorism. Sections 8 and 9 of the Act bring activities like ‘threatening’, ‘abusing’ and ‘insulting’ under the category of terrorism. The offenders are charged and treated like terrorists. As explained earlier, in a number of cases, accused persons have been forcibly disappeared. It is noteworthy that according to Articles 41(2) and 91(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, as well as the Articles 5(4)(a) and 13(2) of the AJK Interim Constitution Act, 1974, the respective Presidents and Prime Ministers have to be Muslims.

On the Indian side, Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution provided a number of powers to the J&K state legislature. The Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, 1950 was introduced through Presidential Order, contemporaneously with the Indian Constitution. Besides, the Union was authorised to have powers on 38 subjects from the Union List. Under such an arrangement (as per Article 370) 235 Articles of the Indian Constitution were inapplicable to J&K. The 1950 Order was superseded by the Presidential Order of 1954.

However, Article 370 was prohibiting the state to grow and develop full-fledged, at par with other states of India, besides depriving the citizens of a number of fundamental rights. For example, AJK, G-B and entire Pakistan have criminalised homosexuality, infringing the basic human rights of its citizens. Pakistan and India, being commonly ruled by the Britishers as undivided India, had the draconian laws of penalising homosexuality. The Indian Supreme Court struck down the colonial law and decriminalised homosexuality. However, with J&K having a separate constitution, the law was not applicable there. When Article 370 was abrogated, the LGBTQ community of Kashmir welcomed the step.

The Constitution of India, in its very Preamble, declares India to be a ‘secular’ state. Further, Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution provide numerous freedoms to all individuals of the country and lays the extremely basic foundation of equality. Right to Freedom of Religion is a Fundamental Right in India. In addition, Article 51(A)(e) of the Constitution, under Directive Principles of State Policy, asks the state, “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.”

Article 19 provides for a number of freedoms related to speech, expression or association and protects them. Neither this Article nor any other Article or provision of the Indian Constitution compels its citizens to conform with the ideas of the Indian state or with those of the majority. The Freedom of Speech and Expression is also a fundamental right entitled by the Indian Constitution to all Indians.

As far as election and voting rights of citizens are concerned, the Citizenship Act, 1955, entitles the right of voting to every Indian citizen above the age of 18 years. Besides, the Representation of People’s Act provides equal opportunity to contest elections to every Indian citizen, regardless of their class, caste and religious identities. It also reserves seats for the backward communities in elections. With Article 370 prevailing, this provision was not applicable in J&K, depriving backward classes of their rights in the region.

CONCLUSION

The comparative assessment infers that J&K seems to perform relatively better in terms of human development and growth. At the economic and budgetary fronts, J&K is multiple times ahead of AJK and G-B. In terms of health and education – the two foundational pillars of the HDI – J&K has allocated a budget that is equal to the worth of multiples of the budget of AJK & G-B combined. Besides, the infrastructural set-up of J&K in these two areas has also been noteworthy. This research suggests that India is comparatively performing better in terms of objectives as well as the infrastructure in health and education sectors, besides other components of the HDI in J&K.

States and Constitutional set-ups have major roles to play in ensuring human rights of its citizens. Numerous cases of human rights violation on religious and sectarian grounds suggest that there has been an institutional sanction and validity of differentiation, discrimination and marginalisation by Pakistani as well as AJK Constitutions and local laws. Differentiating others from the dominant Pakistani Sunni sect has been provided for and validated by Pakistani Constitution.

On the other hand, India has, in most of the cases, ensured equal fundamental rights and has prevented the forms of discrimination across its diversely religious and multi-ethnic demography.

Families of missing persons block main trade route from Karachi to Quetta to demand recovery of their loved ones

0

Residents of Manguchar organized a large protest to demand the recovery of their loved ones, who are victims of enforced disappearance orchestrated by Pakistan’s infamour spy agency, the ISI.

Several relatives of Baloch missing persons staged a dharna in Manguchar Bazaar area of ​​Kalat district of Balochistan and blocked the Quetta-Karachi main highway in protest where hundreds of vehicles and thousands of passengers were stuck on both sides.

The protesters demanded the recovery of missing persons Shahan Baloch, Naveed Baloch, Muhammad Hasan Lango, Mehrullah Lango, Kifayatullah Nechari, Gaddafi Nechari among many others.

The participants of the sit-in said on this occasion that all our missing persons should be recovered and presented before the courts if they have done anything illegal.

It should be remembered that even earlier the same relatives of the missing Baloch had protested at Manguchar for recovery of their loved ones. They were assured last time by the government authorities that the missing persons will be produced but they failed to deliver on that promise.

The protesters managed to blocked the highway in protest until late night, and vowed to continue doing so, until those allegedly kidnapped by the Pakistani military could be returned to them.

Will the US sanction Pakistan next? Concerns rise as Washington sanctions three Chinese companies for supplying nuclear tech to Pakistan.

0

The United States is imposing sanctions on three China-based companies that it said on Friday have worked to supply missile‐applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program.

A U.S. State Department statement identified the firms as General Technology Limited, Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development Co Ltd, and Changzhou Utek Composite Company Ltd.

It said General Technology had worked to supply brazing materials used to join components in ballistic missile rocket engines and in the production of combustion chambers; Beijing Luo Luo had worked to supply mandrels and other machinery, which can be used in the production of solid-propellant rocket motors, the U.S. said.

The third firm, Changzhou Utek Composite, had worked since 2019 to supply D-glass fiber, quartz fabric, and high silica cloth, all of which have applications in missile systems, the statement said.

“Today’s actions demonstrate that the United States will continue to act against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and associated procurement activities of concern, wherever they occur,” the statement said.

The sanctions come days after Pakistan conducted the launch of the Ababeel ballistic missile system.

How Pakistani mainstream political parties with Islamist links are glorifying terrorism by Hamas and spreading hate speech against the Jewish people

0

In the digital age, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have transformed the way we communicate, share information, and express our opinions. While these platforms have opened up new avenues for global dialogue and understanding, they have also exposed a darker side – the proliferation of hate speech, discrimination, and prejudiced content. In Pakistan, like in many other parts of the Muslim world, these issues have found an alarming manifestation in the form of anti-Semitic posts and hate speech against Jews in the wake of recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has seen an increase in anti-Semitic posts on social media. These posts often contain offensive stereotypes, conspiracy theories, and derogatory remarks about Jewish individuals and communities. The anonymity and ease of sharing on these platforms have given a voice to those who espouse such views, contributing to the amplification of hateful content. Most such accounts openly affiliate themselves with Islamist political groups and include praises of Pakistani military in their bio, which hints at linkages these accounts may have to Pakistani state-backed troll armies run by the Pakistani military media wing – the ISPR, as exposed in a recent investigation.

The sources of anti-Semitic content on social media in Pakistan can also be traced to a complex web of historical, political, and ideological factors. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a long-standing and deeply emotive issue in the region, has often been a catalyst for the expression of anti-Semitic sentiments.

In the last few days, there have been also many posts from politicians, including former parliamentarians and current senators belonging to Jamat e Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamist organization, which are openly celebrating the attack by Hamas and glorifying the terorrist organization.

 

Certainly, therefore, the influence of social media in Pakistan extends beyond the propagation of anti-Semitic content to include the glorification of organizations like Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries. Some segments of Pakistani social media platforms have been observed glorifying Hamas, portraying it as a symbol of resistance against injustices by the Israeli government.

Moreover, the proliferation of other Islamist political groups in mainstream politics of Pakistan adds another layer to this issue. Some of these groups have been known to propagate anti-Semitic propaganda as part of their ideological agenda, like the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam.

This inclusion of anti-Semitic rhetoric within mainstream politics can normalize and legitimize such beliefs, making it even more challenging to address the problem effectively.

Additionally, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, often rooted in misinformation and falsehoods, find fertile ground on social media. These theories tend to exploit existing grievances and fears, misleading users and fostering an environment conducive to the spread of hateful content.

Further exacerbating the problem is the use of social media as a tool for propaganda and radicalization by extremist groups within the country. These groups leverage the anonymity and reach of these platforms to radicalize individuals and promote hate-filled ideologies, including anti-Semitism.

In this complex landscape, addressing the proliferation of anti-Semitic content on social media in Pakistan requires a multi-faceted approach that considers historical, political, and ideological influences. It also necessitates efforts to counter the radicalization of individuals and to promote fact-based information, tolerance, and coexistence.

Due to the fear of persecution, the Jewish community in Pakistan left during the partition or went underground and today it is almost non-existent. But it puts the safety and security of Jewish individuals at risk in countries where Pakistani diaspora lives, especially if they continue to believe in such anti-Semitic ideologies from their country of origin.

Addressing this issue is a complex challenge. Balancing the right to free speech with the need to curb hate speech is a difficult task for social media platforms. Content moderation is often reactive, and despite their efforts, platforms sometimes struggle to effectively control the spread of hate speech. The most effective way is to bring a societal change.

Some other hate speech posts are displayed below:

By promoting education, encouraging reporting, and taking a proactive stance, we can work towards a more inclusive and tolerant online environment. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that social media remains a platform for dialogue, not division.

The Rise of Pakistan’s Drones: How They Are Changing the Game in Kashmir, India and the South Asian region

0

India witnessed a significant drone attack at the Air Force Station in Jammu on June 27, 2021. The airbase, which is 14 km away from the India-Pakistan border, was attacked by lowflying drones that dropped two improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One IED exploded on the roof of the building, and the other in an open area.

Reports suggest that the drone incursions across the border have intensified since then. Drone sightings have increased manifold along the India–Pakistan international border and along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir.

India’s Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the international border on the Indian side, reported more than 268 drone sightings in 2022, compared to 109 in 2021 and 49 in 2020.

The rapid growth in drone sightings suggests that drones have emerged as a new strategic tool used by Pakistan to gain an advantage in the border conflict with India. Drones are also increasingly a tool of choice for transborder terrorist organizations and Pakistan-backed proxies in India.

Pakistan has been developing and deploying these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones for various purposes, including military operations, intelligence gathering, and cross-border smuggling. Pakistan claims to have the fourth-largest drone arsenal in the world, after the US, UK, and Israel.

The Origins of Pakistan’s Drone Program

Pakistan’s drone program can be traced back to 2009, when it created its first indigenous drone, the Burraq. The Burraq was designed to carry a 50 kg payload and had a range of 200 km. Pakistan aims to used the Burraq for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. In 2015, Pakistan became the fourth country in the world to successfully deploy an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) in an active operation. The UCAV was called the Bayraktar-1 TBK and was developed by Turkey. The Bayraktar-1 TBK had a range of 300 km and could carry a 500 kg payload. It could also perform precision strikes on ground targets with a laser-guided weapon system. Pakistan has since upgraded its Bayraktar-1 TBK with new features such as improved avionics, navigation systems, and weapons. Pakistan has also deployed several UCAVs for combat operations against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan’s Shawal Valley.

The Current Status of Pakistan’s Drone Program

Pakistan has been investing significantly in UAVs for both military and civilian purposes. According to a senior researcher associated with the Rawalpindi Based Online Strategic Think Tank, Global Defense Insight, both the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Navy have been benefiting from this. The Pakistan Navy is already operating several UAVs for surveillance such as the Scan Eagle and Uqab.

Reports suggest Pakistan has also set up six drone centres across the border to smuggle arms and drugs into India through Punjab province. These drone centres are allegedly operated by Pakistani Rangers in collaboration with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Pakistani Drones Cross-border Terrorism and Smuggling

Drones flown out of Pakistan have also been used to target Indian military installations and civilians in Kashmir. In June 2021, a drone attack on an Indian Air Force station in Jammu was claimed by Pakistani non-state actors as retaliation for India’s surgical strikes on terrorist camps across the Line of Control (LOC) in February 2019. This was the first instance of drones being used to target military installations in India.

Pakistan’s drone smuggling is not only a way of providing arms and drugs to its proxies in India, but also a way of destabilizing India and undermining its security. Pakistan wants to create chaos and violence in India by fueling the insurgency in Kashmir and Punjab, where it has been supporting various militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, and others. Pakistan also wants to weaken India’s economy and society by spreading narcotics and weapons among the youth, who are then recruited or coerced into joining terrorist organizations. Pakistan’s drone smuggling is also a sign of its desperation and frustration in the face of India’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Pakistan has also been facing international pressure and sanctions for its role in sponsoring terrorism so Islamabad’s drone smuggling is therefore a desperate attempt to regain some leverage and influence over India by using its proxy war tactics.

The Implications and Future of Pakistan’s Drone Program

Pakistan’s drone program poses a serious threat to South Asia’s regional security. Drones can be used for both kinetic operations – attacks in military and civilian spaces – and non-kinetic operations – smuggling of counterfeit currency, drugs, small arms, and ammunition across the border. Drones can also be used for long-range precision strikes that reduce close combat on the battlefield and avoid human losses.

Pakistan’s drone program is a growing threat that requires constant international vigilance. Drones are not only a tool of war but also a tool of terror that can cause immense damage to lives and property. Pakistan needs to cooperate with its neighbors to prevent escalation of violence in South Asia.

Pakistan’s drone program is likely to continue growing as the country is reportedly planning to acquire more advanced drones from China such as Wing Loong-II Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which have long-range strike capability with a satellite link. Pakistan is also reportedly planning to co-produce Anka combat drones with Turkey which are considered Turkey’s most advanced drones to date.

 

DARK SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN PAKISTAN: PRESSING CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

0

Pakistan is grappling with a mounting surge of digital hate and extremism, primarily manifesting on social media platforms. In response, the Violent Extremism Prevention Unit (VEPU) of Islamabad Police has identified more than 700 accounts responsible for propagating religious and terrorism-related content on various social media platforms in the last six months. VEPU has been established in 2023 to combat this menace and has intensified its efforts under the leadership of Dr. Akbar Nasir Khan, Islamabad Capital City Police Officer. Their crackdown targets religious, sectarian, and linguistic hatred in collaboration with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has blocked more than 200 accounts. It’s shocking to observe that online hate speech in Pakistan has increased 400-fold, involving racism, xenophobia, gender-based hatred, and religious intolerance, often conveyed through memes, text, images, and videos. Pakistani social media is marred by faith-based hate, particularly targeting Sikhs, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias, and others. A June 2023 survey found that 92% encountered online hate content, with victims reaching 51%. Hate speech primarily targets Jews, Americans, Indians, Afghans, women (56%), Shias (70%), and Ahmadis (61%). Shockingly, instances of hate-driven violence persist. Pakistan now faces a fresh wave of digital hate following the removal of Imran Khan, yet lacks a comprehensive strategy to counter misinformation and polarization. This underscores the crucial role of social media in shaping political narratives and highlights the urgent need to address and mitigate the pervasive online hate, which poses a significant threat to Pakistan’s social harmony and political stability.

The Violent Extremism Prevention Unit (VEPU) of Islamabad Police has identified more than 700 accounts on X (Twitter), Facebook and other social media platforms spreading religious, terrorism-related material in the last six months. VEPU was established this year (2023) to act against hate propagation on social media. On the directions of Islamabad Capital City Police Officer (ICCPO) Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, the unit has intensified its crackdown on social media platforms to combat the spread of religious, sectarian, linguistic hatred and propaganda against institutions, a police spokesperson said. Moreover, the unit has written to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take steps for closure of the accounts among which more than 200 have been blocked. According to leading international human rights organization, Minority Rights Group, there has been a 400-fold increase in the use of hate terms online in Pakistan between 2011 and 2021.

Digital/Online hate refers to any form of hate speech or discriminatory behaviour that takes place on online platforms, including messaging apps, social media, and online forums. Digital technologies are purported to propagate bigotry, hate speech, and intolerance for some specific purposes. It takes different forms, including racism, xenophobia, gender hatred, sexism, sectarian and religious intolerance. Digital hate can be expressed in various ways, such as memes, text, images, and videos. Unfortunately, Pakistani social media is filled with faith-based hate and dangerous messages directed towards Sikhs, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias and other faiths.

In addition, Pakistani Twitter (now, X) space is full of spiteful and dangerous words like Murtad, Fitna, Wajib-ul-Qatal (deserving to be killed), Kafir (infidel) etc. targeting religious minorities. Among the provinces, Punjab tops the list of hate speech, Rawalpindi with significant prominence, followed by Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, and Quetta.

When it comes to online spaces where more and more people are joining diverse social media platforms to express their views and share their opinions (or those of others whom they support), these above mentioned labels, titles and stereotypes get enormously amplified, appealing widespread attention across whole communities. Furthermore, as reported in the month of June, 2023, the online hate speech report survey in Pakistan found that 92 per cent of respondents have come across such content online, and 51 per cent have been the target of it. Much of the hate speech identified by the report is religiously and culturally motivated, with 57 per cent of respondents saying they had come across hate speech directed at Jews; 51 per cent witnessing hate speech directed at Americans and 51 per cent against Indians; 38 per cent against Pakistanis especially minorities and marginalized and 24 per cent against “other westerners” with Afghans close behind at 20 per cent.

Religious minorities, women, politicians and members of the media were also in the firing line. In particular, 56 per cent of people had come across hate speech directed at women. 70 per cent saw Shias become targets on social media, and 61 per cent witnessed Ahmadis take the brunt. Few instances are as followed: In October, 2022, a handicapped man was set on fire in Ghotki, Pakistan. When the victim jumped into a nearby pond to extinguish fire, the attacker, apparently a student of a religious seminary, followed him, strangling him to death. The reason, according to media reports, were accusations of blasphemy. The video of the killing went viral online. In May 2020, rumours circulated that an Ahmadi representative was to be included in the National Minority Commission by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, however the then government denied this report after a widespread public and political outrage, including from senior government officials, who publicly expressed hate against the Ahmadi community on Tweeter, and Facebook. In July 2020, Tahir Ahmed Naseem, member of a religious minority, was fatally shot at his own trial in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by a teenager, when a video of him declaring himself to be a prophet was circulated on social media. During March- April 2020, in the first five weeks of lockdown alone, there were at least 12 anti-Ahmadi trending hashtags on Pakistani Twitter. In a single day in August 2020, there were nearly 200,000 hate-filled tweets against Ahmadis.

Earlier, in 2018, Pakistan launched a smartphone application that allowed its citizens to anonymously report extremist, radical or sectarian-based hate content to the relevant authorities. The app named Chaukas (vigilant) was created by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), for devising counterterrorism strategies, and was made available on both Android and iOS systems. Chaukas was developed under NACTA’s larger Tat’heer (to sanitize) online portal and aimed at combating cyberextremism and hate content in Pakistan. However, as reported on February 17, 2022, at least 62 people have been imprisoned in cases pertaining to hate speech on social media since 2015, as per a report submitted to the Supreme Court by the Punjab government on minorities’ rights. The law enforcement agencies had registered 99 cases regarding hate speech over the past seven years, in which 101 arrests were made. At least 11 people were acquitted while 62 were convicted in these cases, it added. In Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is known for its notorious use of various social media platform to gather huge and violent mass for political protests and rallies. The TLP has tactically employed YouTube for political and religious outreach, to stay linked and reach out to its base to join ranks during protests, frequently taking a vicious course. Beyond YouTube, the TLP has also trusted on Twitter and Facebook. During the violent protests in October 2021 it created trending content over Twitter, often amplified with aid from trolls, without much action from platforms to remove such content.

In past few months, Pakistan is also facing a new wave of digital hate after the removal of former Prime Minister Iman Khan. However, Pakistan lacks an institutional mechanism to watch, study and counter this digital assault, misinformation, and polarisation endeavours by centrifugal forces within the country. Earlier, in 2018 elections of Pakistan, social media tools were used as a primary source of political campaign by the parties and their supporters. For instance, PML-N raised the slogans of “Mujhay Kion Nikala” “Khalai Makhlooq” and “Vote Ko Izzat Do” on Facebook and Twitter. Implicitly, these slogans were labeled as expressions of resistance against the military establishment and as a narrative supporting the claim that the former prime minister’s removal was orchestrated, purportedly involving the military. In contrast, PTI championed the slogan of “change,” captivating Pakistan’s youthful populace, who are adept in the realm of social media. This proficiency in digital platforms enabled PTI to amass substantial support. It is an undeniable reality that both PML-N and PTI engaged vigorously in steering trends and disseminating viral video clips, either in their favor or to discredit their political adversaries. Unfortunately, Pakistani society and politics have harnessed the formidable power of social media as a tool to promote their own agendas and propagate hatred against political rivals, as well as individuals of different religions, sects, or ideologies.

In conclusion, Pakistan confronts a significant challenge through the rise of digital hate and extremism, largely propagated via social media. This divisive trend undermines social cohesion and political stability, necessitating a robust response. The Violent Extremism Prevention Unit (VEPU) is a vital step in countering this menace. However, a comprehensive strategy is needed to address the deep-rooted issue of online hatred. It is imperative for stakeholders to collaboratively work towards shaping a positive digital discourse for Pakistan’s future, fostering an environment that promotes tolerance, diversity, and constructive dialogue that will ensure unity, harmony, and progress in the society and political arena for lasting peace and prosperity.

Originally published here.

“Perils of Hope: Unraveling Pakistan’s Human Trafficking Web and Its Deadly Consequences”

0

On 14 June 2023, an Italy-bound rusty, aging, overloaded fishing trawler smuggling migrants sank in international waters in the part of the Mediterranean known as the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Pylos, Messenia, Greece. The boat, which had a capacity of 400 people carried an estimated 400 to 750 migrants, mostly from Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and some from Afghanistan.
According to testimonies told by survivors, Pakistanis were allegedly forced below deck, with other nationalities allowed on the top deck, where they had a far greater chance of surviving a capsize. Pakistan’s then Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, said that there were at least 350 Pakistani victims on the overloaded vessel.
Human trafficking is a grave issue that plagues many nations across the globe, with Pakistan being no exception. This illicit trade in human lives not only robs individuals of their basic rights and dignity but also exposes them to unimaginable risks and dangers.
In Pakistan, the unholy alliance between human traffickers and corrupt government officers has allowed this menace to persist, causing widespread suffering and loss of life.

The Corrupt Nexus
At the heart of Pakistan’s human trafficking problem lies a distressing and intricate nexus between human traffickers and certain officials within government agencies, most notably the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). This collusion not only allows the human trafficking network to thrive but also undermines the very institutions that are supposed to protect citizens.

The Federal Investigation Agency, entrusted with maintaining law and order, combating transnational crime, and safeguarding national security, has, in some instances, been compromised by corruption. Within its ranks, some individuals have allegedly formed alliances with human traffickers, either through accepting bribes or actively participating in trafficking operations. These rogue elements exploit their positions to facilitate the movement of victims, providing cover and information to traffickers to avoid detection.

It is believed that these compromised FIA officials aid traffickers by tipping them off about impending raids or investigations, allowing traffickers to evade capture and continue their illegal activities. This not only erodes public trust in law enforcement but also perpetuates a culture of impunity, emboldening traffickers to operate with little fear of consequences.

Moreover, the connection between corrupt officials and human traffickers has far-reaching consequences, as it extends beyond individual acts of bribery. These officials often protect and shield traffickers from prosecution, creating an environment where the criminal networks can operate without fear of being brought to justice. This further exacerbates the suffering of victims who are left vulnerable and unsupported, unable to escape the clutches of their exploiters.

Tragedy on the High Seas
One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of the human trafficking issue in Pakistan is the perilous journey many Pakistanis undertake to cross the sea into Europe. Driven by desperation and the hope for a better life, they board overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels, often at the mercy of human traffickers who care more about profit than human lives. Tragedies have struck far too frequently, with boats capsizing and lives lost. The media has documented several instances of such accidents, serving as a painful reminder of the risks involved.

Other recent instances of Pakistani migrants losing their lives
– In 2014, a boat carrying over 500 migrants, mostly Pakistanis, capsized off the coast of Malta, resulting in the deaths of more than 300 people. This incident highlighted the severity of the problem and the need for concerted action.
– Another tragic event occurred in 2020 when a boat carrying migrants from Pakistan and other countries capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Survivors recounted tales of horror and despair, shedding light on the desperation that drives people to undertake such treacherous journeys.

Violations of International Laws
Pakistan’s failure to effectively combat human trafficking also raises concerns about its compliance with international laws and agreements. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, to which Pakistan is a signatory, calls for measures to prevent and combat trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute traffickers. By allowing human trafficking to persist, Pakistan is in breach of its international obligations and exposes its citizens to grave risks.

Conclusion
The issue of human trafficking in Pakistan is a multi-faceted problem that requires immediate and sustained action. Tackling this crisis demands a comprehensive approach that involves not only law enforcement efforts but also initiatives to address the root causes of trafficking, such as poverty and lack of opportunities. The corruption within government ranks must be addressed to sever the ties that sustain this illicit trade. The urgent need to root out corruption within law enforcement agencies and sever their ties with criminal networks cannot be overstated. Addressing this issue is pivotal in breaking the chains of human trafficking and creating a safer future for the citizens of Pakistan. Furthermore, international cooperation is essential to hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to uphold its obligations under international law. Only through such concerted efforts can the lives of countless Pakistanis be safeguarded from the clutches of human traffickers and their dangerous journeys to Europe come to an end.

Why is Gilgit Baltistan protesting against Pakistan’s independence day?

0

Gilgit Baltistan has been rocked by new protests on this independence day of Pakistan this year to mark a black day as the people of Gilgit Baltistan call Pakistan an occupying force in the region. The issue of protests in Gilgit Baltistan against Pakistani occupation is complex and rooted in historical, political, and cultural factors. Here are some key factors that have contributed to protests in Gilgit Baltistan against what some consider as Pakistani occupation:

1. Historical Background: Gilgit Baltistan has a unique history. The region was historically part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. When British colonial rule ended in 1947, the princely states were given the choice to join either India or Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan’s status remained uncertain, and its local leaders at the time sought to accede to Pakistan. But Pakistan forced it to accede to the country, and this decision has been contested, as some argue that the region’s predominantly Muslim population should have had the right to self-determination.

2. Lack of Political Representation: One of the main grievances expressed by protesters is the limited political representation and autonomy for the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Despite being governed by Pakistan, the region does not have full provincial status within Pakistan and does not have representation in the national parliament. This lack of representation has fueled demands for greater political rights.

3. Resource Exploitation: Gilgit Baltistan is rich in natural resources, including minerals, water resources, and hydroelectric potential. Some locals feel that the region’s resources are being exploited for the benefit of Pakistan without adequate benefits trickling down to the local population. This economic disparity has led to resentment and protests. There are also accusations of allowing China to exploit the region’s resources, without any reinvestments for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

4. Human Rights Concerns: Human rights issues, such as alleged military presence, enforced disappearances, and limitations on freedom of expression, have also fueled protests. Some locals feel that their rights are being curtailed under Pakistani control.

5. Cultural Identity: The region has a distinct cultural identity, with its own languages, traditions, and way of life. Some protesters argue that their cultural identity is being undermined by the Pakistani government’s policies, and they seek greater recognition and preservation of their cultural heritage.

6. Geostrategic Importance: Gilgit Baltistan’s strategic location is of significance due to its proximity to China and its role in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major infrastructure project aimed at connecting Gwadar Port in Pakistan to China’s Xinjiang region. Some protesters are concerned about the environmental and social impact of such projects on their region.

 

Pakistan violates FATF conditions. Is it liable to be sanctioned again?

0

Pakistan has failed to stop terrorist organisations from using their Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) to raise and transfer funds for keeping them operational despite promises to the global anti-terrorist financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), last year. The Paris-based organization FATF had removed Pakistan from its greylist on the basis of several promises made by the state in checking the financial network of various militant groups.

The most glaring instance is that of global terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), its parent body, Jamaat-ud Dawa and various outfits allied to the group. For instance, the political front of the group, Pakistan Markazi Muslim League (PMML), is active with rallies and events in different parts of Pakistan despite the ban on its parent organisation. On May 28, the group held a massive rally at Nishan-e-Pakistan monument to observe Youm-e-Takbir, celebrated as a national day in Pakistan in commemoration of the 1998 nuclear tests. In August, various units of the party held public demonstrations in Karachi and Lahore against rise in petrol prices. These events show how the affiliated groups of the proscribed terrorist organisation, JuD, continues to operate quite freely in Pakistan.

A gaping hole in the new federal budget provisions has also raised serious concerns about Pakistan’s actions to contain terrorist financing. The budget contains a new tax amnesty scheme allowing foreign currency up to US$ 100,000/- to be brought back into Pakistan without any source or proof of income to be presented. This provision was introduced to shore up the declining forex reserves of the country. But it also offers unscrupulous elements, terror organisations and financiers an easy route to bring in funds for terror purposes and launder them into white money. This is a clear and fundamental violation of the Immediate Outcome-10 of the FATF.

Some of these findings form part of National Residual Risk Assessment (NRRA) 2022 completed by the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) of Pakistan. The investigation identified deficiencies in the implementation of UNSCR 1267 sanctions regime in Pakistan.

A key finding of the report is the absence of adequate federal oversight on the implementation of Targeted Financial Sanctions (TFS) against domestically proscribed entities or individuals and legal gaps related to dual- listed persons/entities, who are listed under both UNSCR 1267 and UNSCR 1373 regimes.

The investigation found that there was no inspection or verification mechanism regime at the provincial level with respect to seizure of assets. There are legislative gaps regarding transfer of legal titles of seized assets from proscribed entities and as a result original owners can legally claim the seized assets on the basis of their legal ownership of these assets once they are delisted. There were serious lacunae in implementing travel bans on designated persons with dual-residence status. These are persons on the UN Designated Persons (UNDP) on the Taliban (UNSC 1988) Sanctions List. The Ministry of Interior, a key agency of the federal government to list or delist entities on the First Schedule of the Anti-Terror Act, 1997, lacks any oversight mechanism on the listed entities. The Ministry has rarely investigated any systematic or regular review of the oversight regime except some piecemeal actions.

The report also highlights questions raised by the higher judiciary on the integrity and transparency of domestic proscription criteria by the District Level Committees and Home Departments.

In light of these glaring violations, will the FATF sanction Pakistan again?