Taxis displaying Free Karachi banners in the USA capital Washington D.C.
Pakistani authorities react furiously to the Free Karachi Campaign, but fail to stop human rights abuses in the country
Launched in the US capital, Washington, DC, the Free Karachi Campaign has created headlines in most inter-national and regional newspapers and electronic media outlets. As expected, Pakistani authorities have reacted furiously to this campaign. Mr. Aizaz Chaudhry, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, expressed his anger and frustration on more than one occasion against a peaceful and democratic campaign that falls well within the parameters of the freedom of expression, the bedrock of every democratic society. Like most other Pakistani diplomats posted overseas, Mr. Chaudhry is a Punjabi-speaking Pakistani who has no idea of the scale of the injustices and human rights abuses the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs have been facing in Pakistan for the last few decades.
It is sad that the same Pakistani authorities and diplomats who show absolute indifference to the enforced “disappearances”, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, growing unemployment, and other blatant in-justices in Karachi and other cities of Sindh Province. They also fail to explain to the world who is sponsor-ing and financing religious extremists and who is responsible for providing sanctuary on Pakistani soil to the world’s most wanted terrorists, like Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and the deadly operatives of the notorious Haqqani Network, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US, NATO, and Afghan soldiers and hundreds of thou-sands of civilians in the region.
In the last few years, Pakistan’s “deep state’”has been actively curtailing political space for the country’s an-ti-religious-extremism political parties, groups, and individuals. The social media activists and bloggers who use social media to point out Pakistani military establishment’s growing support for religious radicals and the perils posed to the society by the rapidly in-creasing grip of these radical forces are routinely ab-ducted by Pakistani security agencies. Many from Punjab were lucky to come back alive but those from other provinces have never been seen again. Targeted assassinations of Urdu-speaking anti radical scholars and activists are common in Karachi. Mr. Khurram Zaki, a prominent proponent of the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, was shot dead in Karachi in May 2016, and famous Sufi singer Amjad Ali Sabri was gunned down in broad daylight in Karachi by religious extremists. Professor Shakil Auj, a professor at Karachi University and a vocal critic of Pakistan’s notorious Jamat-e-Islami’s policy of radicalising young students, was also killed in Karachi in 2012. The al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for his murder, but Pakistani intelligence agencies blatantly shielded the real culprits by arresting innocent young students at Karachi University. All of these victims happened to be Urdu-speaking Mohajirs.
The latest victim of extrajudicial execution in Karachi was Professor Zafar-Hasan Arif, a Harvard-educated PhD scholar and the head of philosophy department at Karachi University until his retirement. Prof. Arif was the deputy convener of MQM, a secular Mohajir political party. He had joined the party in 2016 when the Pakistani military establishment had intensified its crackdown against the party in Karachi, and was arrested in October when he was about to hold a press conference at Karachi Press Club. He was released after being kept in prison for months without being charged. He was again kidnapped by the ISI on December 8, 2017, tortured overnight and was pushed to quit his political activities. Prof. Arif refused to give up his cause and was eventually killed on January 13, 2018. His body, bearing visible signs of physical torture, was found in an outskirt of Karachi.
This policy of “kill and dump” is nothing new in Pakistan: thousands of ethnic Mohajirs and Balochs have been killed by Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated security forces in the last few years in a similar manner. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and In-voluntary Disappearances (WGEID) in its last 13 quarterly reports has documented hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances in Karachi and Balochistan.
While Mohajirs, Balochs and other anti-extremist groups and individuals are facing near-genocide, terrorists, including those designated by the United States and the United Nations as the “most wanted,” are freely roaming in Pakistan. The poster below is just one example.
It will be much better for Pakistani diplomats and other officials to persuade the Pakistani military authorities to stop committing barbaric human rights violations instead of defending Pakistan’s dismal human rights record.