Pakistan army tied to killings
by Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, Islamabad
Courtesy: Toronto Star, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009
Mingora – Two months after the Pakistani army wrested control of the Swat Valley from Taliban militants, a new campaign for fear has taken hold, with scores, perhaps hundreds, of bodies dumped on the streets in what human rights advocates and local residents say is the work of the military. In some, cases, people may simply have been seeking revenge against the ruthless Taliban, in a society that tends to accept tit-for-tat reprisals, local politicians said.
But the scale of the retaliation, the similarities in the way that many of the victims have been tortured and the systematic nature of the deaths and disappearances in areas that the military firmly controls have raised suspicions. Local residents, human rights workers and some Pakistani officials conclude the millitary has had a role in the campaign. The Pakistani army, which is supported by the United States and in the absence of effective political leadership is running much of Swat with an iron hand, has strenuously denied any involvement with the killings. The army has acknowledged the bodies have turned up, but its spokesmen assert they are the result of civilians setting scores with collaborators. “There are no extrajudicial killings in our system,” said army spokesman Col. Akhtar Abbas. “If something happens, we have a foolproof accountability system.” Neighbours of the victims and Swat residents say there is something more going on than revenge killing by civilians. A senior politician from the region and a former interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, said he was worried about the army’s involvement in the killings. “There have been reports of extrajudicial killings by the military that are of concern,” he said. “This will not help bring peace.” The operation in Swat, begun under public pressure from the United States, has been hailed by Washington as a showcase effort of the army’s newfound resolve to defeat the militants. The American ambassador, Anne patterson, visited Mingora, the biggest town in Swat, last week, becoming the first senior American official to go to Swat since the army took over. Now, concerns over the army’s methods in the area threaten to further taint Washington’s association with the military, cooperation that has been questioned in Congress and has been politically unpopular in Pakistan. The number of killings suggests the military is seeking to silence enthusiasm for the Taliban and to settle accounts for heavy army causalties, said a senior provincial official who declined to be identified for fear of reprimand by the army. – Source – Toronto Star, page – A12, Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009.
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