Our people are very frustrated with violence: Pakistan rights panel chief (Interview)

August 21st, 2011 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) Pakistanis are “very frustrated” with the state of affairs in their country where violence and abductions are now a way of life, says the new chief of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

“Absolutely, very frustrated. Frustration is at different levels; those living in the cities are victims of violence very often,” Zohra Yusuf, 61, said in an interview.

The chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, until now led by Asma Jahangir, explained what was happening.

“In Karachi, anyone going out, they don’t know whether they will come home alive. Not just Karachi, there is violence in other cities as well.

“Lahore has faced a lot of suicide bombings… Peshawar is very troubled, (in) Quetta, you hear of sabotage activities or dead bodies being found in Balochistan,” Yusuf, now here on a private visit, told IANS in an interview.

The soft-spoken Yusuf, an activist for 30 long years, was frank and candid during the nearly hour-long interaction.

“As far as the common person is concerned, the economy (is not good), unemployment … inflation, prices are galloping… the burden is on the common man.

“Infrastructure is not there for the common man, public transport is extremely poor, railways have practically collapsed, the divide between the rich and poor is sharpening,” she said.

Yusuf was scathing of both the Pakistani military — often dubbed the real rulers of the country — and the civilian leadership.

“I don’t think the army and (politicians) are jostling for power so much because now the army’s status as the real administrators has really been established.

“Political parties believe they have to be on the right side of the army to be in power. So, there really has been unfortunately very little resistance from political parties to the encroachment by the army… They just seem to have accepted that and given in.”

She said the civilian leaders could have ripped apart the military and its intelligence agency over the Osama killing by US commandos.

“The (ISI chief) agreed to appear before parliament. But instead of asking him tough questions… they all sort of caved in, practically told him it’s not your fault, you are doing a good job.”

What is the road ahead for Pakistan?

“I see the greatest threat as militancy. In the long run, economy can be managed…

“It does seem (there is a) nexus between Al Qaeda and our local Taliban. It is there. It seems to be they are trying to acquire state power. That seems to be their ultimate goal.”

She recalled how the military had injected Islam in military affairs.

“During Zia’s time, they started encouraging soldiers and officers to pray during working hours. This whole religiosity of the army, the armed forces started at that time. At the higher level it is still fairly westernised.”

Pakistan has witnessed a spate of kidnappings, particularly of people from minority communities.

“Kidnappings have been mostly of Hindus, a lot of them in Sindh, and these are primarily better off Hindus, and it has been mainly for kidnapping for ransom. A lot of them are being kidnapped by the Taliban.

“There certainly has been an increase in these instances,” she said.

(Rahul Dass can be contacted at rahul.d@ians.in)

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