AI report: north-west Pakistan is a ‘rights-free zone’

A recently published report by Amnesty International denounces that nearly four million people in the north-west tribal areas of Pakistan live in a human rights-free zone where they have no legal protection from the government and are subject to abuses by the Taleban. A Pakistani foreign office spokesman rejected Amnesty’s findings, saying his government was “fully committed” to improving human rights in tribal areas.

The 130-page report, ‘As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan’, is based on nearly 300 interviews with residents of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and adjacent areas of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

It says more than a million people have been displaced by fighting between the Pakistani military and the Taliban in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The report also says available information suggests that at least 1,300 people were killed in the conflict during 2009, from a total of more than 8,500 casualties (including combatants).

The report documents systematic abuses carried out by the Taleban as they have established their rule – killing those (such as tribal elders and government officials) who challenge their authority. Amnesty says they have imposed their rule through torture and other ill-treatment, targeting teachers, aid workers and political activists. The Taleban have also attacked women, and schools and health clinics catering to their needs.

Amnesty urged both the Pakistani government and the Taleban to comply with international humanitarian law by taking all measures to prevent loss of civilian life and buildings. It has also called on the USA to clarify its chain of command and rules of engagement for the use of drones and ensure proper accountability for civilian casualties, as they have generated considerable resentment inside Pakistan.

But the Pakistani minister for human rights, Mumtaz Alam Gilani, has rejected the Amnesty report calling it “unfortunate and incorrect.”  Pakistani security forces have made significant gains against Taliban militants and have uprooted their bases in most parts of FATA, said Gilani.


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