Amnesty International accused the Pakistani military on Thursday of carrying out widespread human rights abuses in the country's northwest tribal region where the army is fighting a domestic Taliban insurgency.
The military has regularly held people without charges and tortured or otherwise mistreated them in custody, the London-based rights group said in a new report. Some detainees do not survive and are returned to their families dead, or their corpses are dumped in remote parts of the tribal region, it said.
"Detainees who are released alive and their families are threatened with dire consequences if they speak publicly about their treatment in detention," said the report, titled "The Hands of Cruelty: Abuses by Armed Forces and Taliban in Pakistan's Tribal Areas."
The military rejected the allegations and in a statement sent to media called the report "a pack of lies" and part of a "sinister propaganda campaign against Pakistan and its armed forces."
Amnesty criticized the Taliban for a range of rights abuses, including the killing of captured soldiers and innocent civilians.
The army and the Taliban have been engaged in a bloody fight in the northwest in the past several years. The militants have carried out scores of attacks around the country that have killed thousands of people.
Amnesty acknowledged the challenge Pakistan is facing in fighting the Taliban along its border with Afghanistan. But it criticized the government and the military for failing to investigate the alleged abuses. It also said a combination of new security laws and colonial-era regulations often provided the military a legal cover for abuse.
The rights group said it was unaware of any serving or retired member of the military, law enforcement authorities or intelligence services being prosecuted for alleged involvement in unlawful detentions, torture or other ill-treatment.
"Without urgent action by the Pakistan government to guarantee respect for human rights in the Tribal Areas, millions will continue to be locked in a perpetual state of lawlessness," said Amnesty.
The report was largely based on over 100 testimonies from victims of human rights violations in detention, witnesses, relatives, lawyers, Pakistani officials and militants.