[Reader-list] Bodies raise questions in Pakistan's Swat

Kshmendra Kaul kshmendra2005 at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 22 19:15:58 IST 2009

"Bodies raise questions in Pakistan's Swat"
by Lehaz Ali Lehaz Ali – Tue Sep 22
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistani security forces dragged away his brother for questioning, says Saeed Akbar. Three days later, his body was found rotting on a Swat roadside, his nose, ears and tongue slashed.
"My brother was a student and the army officials took him for interrogation for alleged links with Taliban in August but he never came back," the teacher told AFP. "That was on August 8. On August 11, we found his body."
Pakistani officials say 251 corpses have been dumped next to roads, beheaded or strung up in the northwest Swat valley since July when the government declared a massive operation had defeated local Taliban.
They claim the bodies belong to militants who were killed by vengeful residents determined to prevent Islamist militants from again imposing a reign of terror on the beautiful mountain valley in the name of sharia law.
But as the bodies stack up, security forces have courted increased suspicion among residents and rights activists who say that for law and peace to return to the valley, alleged militants should instead face trial.
The military denies any responsibility and says no orders have been issued to execute suspected militants in cold blood.
"We reject the claim that the army is behind the killings in Swat. Most of the bodies found in Swat are of Taliban militants and our information is they are being killed by the local people," said spokesman Colonel Akhtar Abbas.
"We never indulge in extra judicial killings. We maintain a complete record of the people we arrested so far in the Swat operation," said Abbas.
But analysts and human rights activists believe soldiers are exacting revenge after so many of their own were killed and beheaded by the Taliban during their two-year uprising to enforce sharia law.
"This is a typical example of jungle law, as nobody -- whether it is the military or locals -- has the right to kill anyone including Taliban suspects," leading rights activist Farzana Bari told AFP.
"We cannot rule out involvement of security forces in these killings, which is a matter of great concern," said Bari, who heads the gender studies centre at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam university.
The military's job is to arrest criminals and not execute them, she said. Lashkars, or private armies formed by locals to protect communities often with encouragement from the military, might also have been involved, Bari suspected.
A Taliban commander wounded in a military operation in which he was arrested died from his injuries on Sunday while in custody, the army said.
Sher Mohammad Qasab, dubbed "head of the Taliban beheading squad" by media, was one of the most senior commanders on a most-wanted list.
The military says more than 2,100 militants and 177 soldiers have died since April in what was the most sustained assault in three northwestern districts of Swat, Buner and Lower Dir against the Taliban.
Swat had slipped out of government control after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign in which his followers beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought against troops to enforce Islamic sharia law.
But Ziauddin, a tribal elder who runs several colleges for boys and girls in Swat, said the army had lost any moral high ground.
"Army soldiers take Taliban or their supporters during search operations and then dump their bodies along the roads or throw them into the river," Ziauddin said, calling for a proper judicial investigation. 
"Killing criminals should be under a proper judicial system and extra judicial killings are not acceptable," he said. 
Residents in Swat were terrorised by the two-year Taliban uprising, ransacking and destruction of schools and beheading of opponents. 
But one member of the northwest provincial assembly told AFP he supported the killings of Taliban whose adherents beheaded government officials, intimidated locals and destroyed schools during their two-year uprising. 
"The Taliban should hang in public places. If they are let go they will come again and re-start their dirty game," he said on condition of anonymity. 
"In my opinion, these are Taliban's dead bodies and were killed by security forces and frankly security forces are doing the right job," he added.


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