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Kayani Office Delays Report on Military Abuse for US Aid

Posted by yourpakistan on March 27, 2011


Afraid of the Leahy Amendment being imposed on the Pakistan military, the office of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is dragging its feet on the release of a committee report regarding video footage showing cold-blooded execution allegedly by Pakistani soldiers.

That Kayani has his heart in the right place was evident when he fulfilled dreams of a young 12-year-old Najma Gul from Mingora, suffering from Thalassemia, and made her a pilot for a day in the aviation wing of the Pakistan Army, after she was inducted as the first woman pilot of 9 Squadron.

However, when it is a matter of the blockage of eagerly sought US dollars as aid to an army hard hit while fighting militancy and terrorism, it is more a matter of the head over the heart.

A ‘Leahy Amendment’ is a provision in an authorization act (such as an annual Foreign Operations Authorization Act, or an annual National Defence Authorization Act) either limiting support to foreign countries or certain elements of a foreign government (such as a particular military unit) for failure to comply with human rights standards. Leahy Amendments are commonly attached to security assistance and defence authorisations.

To ensure compliance with various Leahy Amendments, the State Department conducts ‘human rights vetting’ of governments or units the US is considering providing training, equipment, or other support under authorities covered by a Leahy Amendment, prior to the support being provided.

If the committee report says that Pakistani soldiers were guilty of human right abuse then according to the US Leahy Amendment, ‘no assistance can be provided to a foreign security force unit if there is credible evidence that the unit has committed gross violations of human rights’. In order for the US government to be in compliance with the Leahy Amendment in Pakistan, it must review the human rights record of Pakistani security force units that are potential recipients of US assistance. The Pentagon is not exempted from this requirement.

In a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on March 25, US Defence Secretary Gates publicly stated that he was mindful of the Leahy Amendment yet it was unclear that it was actually being implemented. The request by President Obama for an additional $1.496 billion in security assistance for Pakistan for FY2011 makes thorough vetting of Pakistani military units a priority, says the Refugees International.

Each time ISPR DG General Athar Abbas is approached on the findings of the committee report, he says it is still in process, also admitting that he has no knowledge of how the Leahy Amendment will hit Pakistan if implemented.

Many had lauded the decision of General Kayani when on October 8, 2010, he had sent up a board of inquiry to establish the true identity of uniformed personnel and the veracity of the video footage. The board was to be headed by a major general, a two star officer of Pakistan Army. He was assisted by two/three senior officers with the experience of investigating into such incidents. Necessary technical expertise will be made available to the board.

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani referred back to his Command Directive on the issues of human rights and extrajudicial killings, and stated that such violations of his orders, if true, will not be tolerated. He categorically stated that it is not expected of a professional army to engage in excesses against the people whom it is trying to guard against the scourge of terrorism. Expressing his determination to take strictest possible disciplinary action against the perpetrators, if identified to be soldiers of Pakistan Army, he termed the incident unacceptable under any circumstances. He emphasized that Rules of Engagement (ROE) are sacrosanct.

According to the Refugees International, the US State Department has documented reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings by government agents, including targeted killings of individuals accused of crimes as a result of excessive physical abuse while in custody. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported between 300 and 400 extrajudicial killings by security forces during counterinsurgency operations in 2009, reports of which continue in 2010. In part because of the prevailing insecurity in areas of combat and in part because the military restricts access to journalists and society groups, it is difficult to document human rights violations. A number of activists in Pakistan expressed fear to Refugees International of reporting on military abuses.

It is of the view that the US and other donors desire to support the Pakistani military to perform civilian duties because ‘it can get the job done’ is short-sighted. While the Pakistani Army may have the capacity to implement reconstruction programmes, especially in unstable areas, its dominant role is preventing its civilian counterpart from performing such responsibilities. This is particularly relevant in the Fata, where the US should find ways to strengthen the civilian government and enhance the overall development of this impoverished area, on the basis of communities’ levels of vulnerability and need instead of military expediency.

Military operations in Fata continue to displace thousands of civilians. The role of the Pakistani military in the humanitarian response as well as allegations of human rights abuses in its counterinsurgency operations has yet to be prioritised, particularly by the US government. Simultaneously, US development funding in the Fata is not having its intended impact, while projects that could significantly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are not receiving enough support. While Refugees International recognizes the complexity of the US role in the region, greater oversight of humanitarian and human rights issues should inform the US government’s strategic partnership with Pakistan.

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