PESHAWAR: A fact-finding mission from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) to Swat has found considerable improvement in the law and order situation, but also noted some illegal practices by the security forces including arbitrary detentions, forced displacement of families of suspected militants, denial of basic rights and freedoms and loss of livelihood opportunities.

Based on the preliminary report of the mission to Swat, a statement by HRCP Chairperson Asma Jahangir on Thursday said the prevailing situation in Swat presented cause for both optimism and concern.

“The HRCP welcomes the restoration of peace in the Swat region. No incidents of public flogging or patrolling by Taliban anywhere in Swat were reported to HRCP. Before the April 2009 military operation, militants had established parallel courts in Swat. That is no longer the case. Though reluctance of elected representatives from Swat to visit their hometowns points to their continued lack of confidence in the security situation, people are not as fearful of speaking out against the Taliban,” Asma Jahangir said.

According to the HRCP, the security forces must be given credit for that. However, the commission expressed serious concerns over reports of forced displacement (Ilaqa Badri) of at least 30 families of suspected militants from Kabal and Matta tehsils of Swat district on May 21.

The families had been warned by the authorities that they would be expelled from Swat unless they surrendered their relatives, suspected of involvement in militancy/terrorism, by May 20. She said the militants had destroyed or damaged 401 schools in Swat region. The fact-finding team found that most of the schools are presently housed in tents. Two hundred and two of the 226 partially damaged schools have been repaired and six of the 175 destroyed schools reconstructed.

All this work has been done by the army.

“HRCP is of the opinion that army should only be deployed in the area for the minimum period required to stabilise the situation and hand over policing responsibilities to civilian forces. Army should also focus in its area of specialisation and should not be involved in reconstruction of civilian structures,” she said.

“According to official figures, there had been 801 civilian casualties in Swat until April 2009 before the launch of Operation Rah-i-Rast.

There have been another 750 civilian casualties in the region since June 2009,” she said.

The HRCP chairperson cautioned the government that use of illegal and heavy-handed tactics by the security forces would prove counterproductive. “Terrorism must not be resorted to defeat terrorism. The focus of the government must be on bringing terrorists to justice through legal means, with guarantees of fair trials and due process. The HRCP implores the government to ensure that the actions of security forces in the region be consistent with human rights standards.”

“Anyone suspected of any wrongdoing must not be detained without charge. Anyone detained must be promptly produced before a court of law and must get a fair trial. Though 2,800 cases have been registered against suspected militants since May 2009, only 57 cases have been decided so far. There have been convictions in only three cases. The deplorably slow disposal of cases is not surprising-there is only one Anti-Terrorism Court judge for the seven districts of Malakand Division.”

Source: The News – 28.05.2010

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