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West winks at Musharraf

West winks at Musharraf

Author: Wilson John
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 9, 2006

Will the allies of the Pakistani dictator scrutinise the role of Pervez Musharraf in ordering air raids on his own people?

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been a really clever dictator, successfully hiding from the world his regime's gross human rights abuses. While former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death for killing and torturing his own countrymen, the international community seems blind to the atrocities committed by their "staunch ally" in the war on terrorism.

Early last week, Gen Musharraf ordered bombing of a madarsa in Waziristan saying it was training Al Qaeda and Taliban jihadis. Some 80 persons were killed. Gen Musharraf insisted that they were all militants. It was a lie. A majority of the dead were children at the religious school. In any case, spy cameras had caught only students doing calisthenics and other exercises; no weapon was found in the precincts.

Though it is true that Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are regrouping in Waziristan, thanks mainly to Gen Musharraf's truce two months ago, it cannot be anybody's argument that all the tribals, children and women included, are terrorists. Knowing the truth about the death of innocent young students, Gen Musharraf's justifications only betrays his dictatorial tendencies. The bombing was instigated by a wrong US intelligence.

In Balochistan, Gen Musharraf's record is far more grim. He ordered the killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and tried to justify it by saying Bugti posed a serious threat to Pakistan's integrity. Bugti's hide-out was bombed by rockets and mortar shells and he was later executed. For all the bombings, as detailed by the official spokesman, Bugti's spectacles and wrist watch remained unharmed. And, why was Gen Musharraf hell bent on keeping his coffin padlocked and buried without his family being present? Was it to conceal state execution?

Bugti's killing is not the only instance of state killing dissenters in Balochistan. During the year-long stand off between the tribals and the military, several young Balochis were picked up from their homes, never to return. These Balochis had the gumption to criticise or protest the state's demonic oppression. The Balochis want a share in the progress which the military regime led by Gen Musharraf is not willing to accept. A large number of Balochis were charged under false cases and jailed after brutal interrogations. Several of them were either liquidated or died in police custody. These deaths and disappearances could not have taken place without the consent of the establishment headed by Gen Musharraf.

In PoK, Gen Musharraf has managed to keep Kashmiri refugees in virtual bondage. The families of terrorists who had fled the Indian Kashmir to PoK fearing detention by Indian security forces are forced to live in tented camps and other encampments surrounded by deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International has cited gross human rights violations in the area by Pakistani authorities.

In the Northern Areas, Gen Musharraf's regime is playing another diabolical game. The regime is systematically widening the sectarian divide by provoking the Shias by inserting objectionable chapters and sentences in school textbooks and by encouraging Sunnis to settle down in otherwise Shia-dominated area. In fact, it was Gen Musharraf as Brigadier, on the orders of President Zia-ul Haq, who led a mixed contingent of soldiers and tribal fighters to put down a Shia rebellion in the region. The operation witnessed slaying of women and children.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, the oppression is reflected in the way media is bridled. Criticism is rewarded with deportation. Pakistan has no institutional mechanism to reward journalists for courageous or investigative reporting. On the other hand, journalists daring to criticise or investigate are browbeaten and intimidated physically.

Investigative journalist Ghulam Husnain was picked up by ISI and locked up in a secret cell for a few days after he reported Dawood Ibrahim living in Clifton, Karachi, in Herald, an English monthly. His expose appeared when Pakistan had denied all knowledge about Dawood.

Another investigative journalist Kamran Khan was made to tow the line after he wrote articles on the Daniel Pearl murder case in The News, an English daily. In fact, Pearl, the American correspondent for the Asian Wall Street Journal, was killed for probing ISI's links with Al Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Several foreign journalists were intimidated and deported if they asked disturbing questions. Gen Musharraf's dirty tricks department in the ISI has intimidated Indian and American scribes for reporting on jihadi and nuclear issues in particular.

Two years ago, Mr Brad Adams, Executive Director, Asia Division of the Human Rights Watch, aptly summed up Gen Musharraf's despotic regime: "Since the coup, the Pakistani Government has systematically violated the fundamental rights of members of the political opposition and former Government officials. It has harassed, threatened, and arrested them. It has removed independent judges from the higher courts, banned anti-Government public rallies and demonstrations.... in addition, the last four years have also witnessed the rise of extremist political activity and an increase in sectarian killings.''

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