BBC report exposes human rights violations in North Waziristan

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 05, 2019 12:14 hrs

[Pakistan], June 4 (ANI): Pakistan Army and the Taliban have killed tens of thousands of people in North Waziristan and other tribal areas in Pakistan's long battle with militants as part of the post 9/11 "war on terror," exposes a BBC report.

The BBC says it has gained rare access to some of the victims. Nazirullah of Dera Ismail Khan is one amongst those whose house was targeted by the Army in early 2014 and four of his family members were killed.

"Instead of taking out a top militant, Pakistan's military had actually killed the family of a local man, who had his home blown to pieces," the BBC report said.

"It must have been 11 pm or thereabouts," recalls Nazirullah, who was 20-year-old at the time. He had recently married and had the rare privilege of a room to themselves. The rest of their large family slept in the only other room in their house in Khatei Kalay village.

"It was as if the house had exploded. My wife and I were shaken out of our sleep. There was a strong smell of gunpowder in the air. Both of us rushed to the door and stepped out, only to discover that the entire roof of our room had already collapsed, except a corner where our bed was," he said.

The roof of the second room had also collapsed, and a fire was raging across the compound. Nazirullah heard cries from the rubble and, with his wife, frantically tried to help those they could see in the glow of the fire.

Four of Nazirullah's family died, including a three-year-old girl. His niece Sumayya, whose mother was among those killed, was then just a year old and survived with a fractured hip. Another four members of the family were rescued from the rubble. All suffered fractures and other injuries.

According to authorities and independent research groups, militant violence since 2002 has forced more than five million people in Pakistan's north-west to leave their homes to seek refuge either in government-run refugee camps or rented houses in peaceful areas.

There are no official figures of the total death toll of this war but estimates from academics, local authorities and activists put the number of civilians, militants and security forces killed at well over 50,000.

These activists are linked to a prominent new rights campaign called the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM) which emerged early last year and has since been publicising alleged rights abuses in the tribal region that victims had previously been too scared to report.

"It has taken us almost 15 years of suffering and humiliation to gather the courage to speak up, and to spread awareness about how the military trampled our constitutional rights through both direct action and policy of support for the militants," BBC quoted Manzoor Pashteen, the top leader of the PTM.

But the group is under pressure. The PTM says that 13 of its activists were killed on May 26 when the army opened fire on a large group of protesters in North Waziristan. The army said that at least three activists were shot dead after a military checkpoint was attacked. The PTM denies this but two of its leaders, who also serve as MPs, have been arrested.

The BBC report highlights how the Army and militants are creating terror amongst the civilians.

It says that the Taliban embarked on a campaign to eliminate officially recognised tribal elders who were a hurdle in the way of the insurgents' drive to subjugate the tribes. At least 1,000 tribal elders have been killed by militants since 2002 and some estimates from the non-governmental organisations put the figure at nearly 2,000.

On the other hand, more than 8,000 people picked up by the army since 2002 remain unaccounted for, say local activists.

The figures are much higher, but many individuals who have similar stories remain silent.

This conflict on the Afghan border has for years been an information black hole.

When the PTM broke through this chokehold last year, its media coverage was put under a comprehensive ban. Those in the media who have not heeded the ban have faced physical threats and financial pressure, reveals the BBC report.

The treatment being meted out to the activists who are finally, after years of silence, raising the alarm over the abuses of a long and secret war suggests that those who have suffered in the conflict face an uphill battle for justice. (ANI)