Human right groups are alarmed at the spate of deaths of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers in the custody of para-military force in Karachi. The MQM has called these brutal deaths as extra-judicial killings.
On September 30, Syed Abdul Naveed, a MQM worker who was killed in the custody of para-military force. According to MQM sources, Naveed was brutally and inhumanly tortured to death while in custody and his dead body was dumped by the para-military rangers in rural Sindh, area called “Ounger” in the District of Thatta.
24News-HD TV reported, on August 28, that a MQM worker was killed in police custody. Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Provincial Assembly MQM’s Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan called this terrorism by the government agencies.
In August, another MQM Worker Waheed Shiekh died in custody due to torture and ill treatment. According to details Rangers arrested Waheed Shaikh on March 17, 2016 during a raid at MQM office in Shah Faisal Colony Karachi.
After badly torturing Waheed Shaikh for days during illegal detention, Rangers transferred him to Central Jail, Karachi. Shaikh, a diabetic patient with various health issues, never recovered from torture and his health condition kept deteriorating in prison. During his routine visit to Central Jail hospital, the prison magistrate noticed seriousness of Shaikh’s medical condition and ordered jail authorities to transfer him to Jinnah Hospital. He was eventually transferred to Jinnah Hospital two weeks ago but could ever recover as it was too little too late.
The MQM said: “We believe that Shaikh’s death is extrajudicial murder of an innocent person who was subjected to illegal and inhuman treatment by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies, including Rangers and prison authorities. We believe Sindh’s biased and racist anti-Mohajir government is equally responsible for Mr. Shaikh’s untimely and unwarranted death in custody as it has consistently failed to provide justice to MQM and its workers.”
Earlier in March, the MQM leader, Dr. Farooq Sattar, reported that some forty MQM workers were beaten up in Central Prison in Karachi by para-military force in order to extract ‘favorable’ statements from them.
Not surprisingly in May, Director General (DG) Rangers, Major General Bilal Akber, accepted that a deceased MQM worker, Aftab Ahmed, was tortured by Rangers in custody for 90 days. General’s statement came after pictures and videos were seen doing rounds on the social media, showing the corpse of the deceased MQM worker having major torture marks across his body.
In June, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) worker Waseem mysteriously died in custody at the Aziz Bhatti police station in Karachi. Waseem had been arrested by the police a few days back for allegedly possessing illegal firearms. According to DIG Police East Munir Sheikh, an FIR was filed in light of the findings of the post mortem report and all the concerned police officials have been taken into custody.
Tellingly, in August, the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights rejected a report submitted by Sindh para-military Rangers regarding the human rights violations in Karachi Operation, declaring it “fake and phony”. In the report, prepared by an unknown human rights organization called “Human Rights Commission on South Asia”, Sindh Rangers were given a clean chit. Sindh Rangers has obtained a false report by a dubious NGO in a bid to convince the parliamentary body that “it [Rangers] is not involved in human rights violations while conducting operation in Karachi”, Senator Farhatullah Babar said during the senate panel meeting.
Rangers, commanded by Army Officers, are deployed in Karachi under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which provides broad powers to the Rangers and other state security forces that have facilitated serious human rights violations, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Soldiers are permitted to “shoot to kill” after giving a warning, but are not bound by human rights standards that permit the use of lethal force only in self-defense or to protect the lives of others. They can conduct arrests and searches of property without a warrant.
The Rangers are a border security federal force under the Ministry of Interior, but operate under the command of the Pakistan Army. Military control over the Rangers effectively transfers key law enforcement duties in Karachi to the armed forces, which has a long record of committing human rights violations with impunity, the Human Rights Watch said.
The Rangers have been implicated in serious human rights abuses, including torture and other ill-treatment of criminal suspects, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances. The Rangers have been implicated in abuses across the political spectrum, Human Rights Watch said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a nongovernmental human rights organization, has also criticized the Rangers for enforced disappearances and other violations of due process rights, and stressed “the need for transparency in security operations.”
The Human Rights Watch in its annual report pointed out that under pressure from the military leadership, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ceded significant constitutional and decision-making authority to the armed forces in 2015, particularly in the areas of national security, foreign policy, and human rights. “The military muzzled dissenting and critical voices in nongovernmental organizations and media. The Rangers, a paramilitary force, were given complete control over law enforcement in the city of Karachi, where there were reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.”
Shafi Burfat, exiled chairman of a nationalist group, Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), in a statement published on his website criticized the operation against the MQM. He says:
“Sindh is a permanent colony of Punjabi imperialism and Punjabi Army will savagely, brutally execute every Sindhi conscious person who stands against the occupation, oppression and aggression of Punjabi military establishment. We strongly condemn harassment, arrests, abductions, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of MQM activists…..All the bloodshed, plunder, torture, law enforcement violations are state created phenomenon created by Pakistani military,(the intelligence agency) ISI and its local stooges to exploit the resources of Sindh.”
About 90 percent of Pakistan army belongs to Punjab province.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) came in direct conflict with Army on August 22, when its London-based self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain criticized the army and government officials of systematically targeting his workers.
Arif Jamal, a US-based journalist and author of several books on Pakistan, told Deutsche Welle that one of the key objectives of the Pakistani military is to weaken mainstream political parties to increase their control on government and civilian institutions. He said that Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif is being systematically projected by the pro-army media as a “messiah.”
“There is ample evidence that the Pakistani military is selectively targeting the MQM. It is now also targeting the Pakistan Peoples Party or PPP. The current army-led campaign is nationwide and in reality aimed at weakening all the major political parties in the country.”
It looks abundantly clear that Pakistan’s Rangers, the police, and other security agencies are taking direct orders from the army, Arif amal said adding: Because of the active military interference in political matters and conspiracies, no civilian government has been able to perform and show results since 1988, when military dictator General Ziaul Haq was killed in an aircrash.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com