KARACHI: While there have been major successes in the Rangers-led operation in the city that began two years back, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has raised concerns over a rise in extrajudicial killings and lack of transparency in the way the paramilitary force operates.
Speaking to Dawn, HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf said there had been a clear decrease in targeted killings, extortion and kidnapping for ransom in Karachi, but sectarian killings persisted. She recalled the killing of 63 Shia Ismaili persons in May and said every month two to three persons were being killed on sectarian grounds.
At the same time, she said, the HRCP was worried over the rise in extrajudicial killings and lack of transparency about the number of people picked up or later let off.
“When the operation began two years back, there were talks about constituting a monitoring committee, which will keep a check on the workings of the paramilitary forces and to ensure that no innocent person is arrested. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement suggested the name of Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid for the committee but nothing has happened yet,” Yusuf said.
She added that in cases where men had been picked up it was not known if torture was involved during their interrogation. “We just get the tally of the number of people arrested by the Rangers but not whether they have been eventually released and on what grounds. In a few cases where men have been let off after interrogation, there is a palpable sense of fear and hesitation among them to open up to the commission,” she said.
The only updates one got, she added, were in the high-profile case of Dr Asim Hussain, former petroleum minister and a close confidante of former president Asif Ali Zardari. “It would be better to have that kind of openness about other arrests made by them as well,” Yusuf said.
The Rangers-led operation was launched in September 2013 in which the paramilitary force carried out joint search operations with the police. Without specifying the number of phases the operation had, a Rangers spokesperson said the operation was now in yet another phase, in which hitmen and their facilitators belonging to a political, sectarian or criminal group involved in the murders of policemen, lawyers and prosecution witnesses would be arrested.
Around 72 policemen and four Rangers personnel have been shot dead, according to the HRCP’s data collected in the past 10 months. Overall, the number of policemen killed in the line of duty in the last two years is around 265. At the same time, 391 people have been killed in encounters carried out by the police and 116 by the Rangers in the past 10 months.
Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2015