Pakistan Police Tactics Spark Ire ; A RAND Report Released Last Week Accuses Them of Human Rights Abuses and Suggests That the US Suspend Aid

Article excerpt

Amina Masood Janjua recalls the date as if it were her own name: July 30, 2005 - the day intelligence agents took her husband from a Rawalpindi street. She hasn't heard from him since.

Like hundreds of others, Ms. Janjua has taken to protesting on the streets, bringing international attention to what some say is the dark side of Pakistan's lauded counterterrorism efforts: the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of suspects.

"There's no option for me but to protest on the roads. I think in terms of seconds - how long will I be kept from my husband," Janjua says.

As these families wring their hands, developments in Pakistan's court system highlight a different but equally troubling trend. Alleged militants, many considered top Al Qaeda recruits, are being released from jail, their sentences having been overruled - a result, apparently, of Pakistani police resorting to methods of incrimination that don't stand in court.

The two trends show how, a world away from the restive tribal zones where the Taliban hold sway, the war against terrorism may be faltering on another key battleground: within the ranks of the Pakistani police.

"The United States should significantly restructure or even withdraw its assistance to repressive regimes if their internal security agencies fail to improve transparency, human rights practices, and overall effectiveness," reads a RAND Corp. assessment of Pakistani police published last week.

The report's authors, who also evaluated security forces in El Salvador, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, recommend that the US government should "rethink the type and amount of assistance it provides Pakistan's law enforcement agencies."

Such a change would constitute a significant reversal. Buoyed by tens of millions of dollars in US and other foreign assistance, Pakistan has cracked down on Al Qaeda at a significant cost to law- enforcement lives, rendering more terror suspects to the United States than any other counterterrorism partner, as the RAND report points out.

Searching for the disappeared

But recent critiques claim that those efforts have gone too far.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday criticized as insufficient efforts by authorities to trace at least 16 people believed to be held by Pakistani intelligence agencies for suspected links with Islamic militants.

Judge Mian Shakirullah Jan, hearing a case brought by relatives of the missing, accused the government of wasting time. He said the efforts of "concerned authorities" to trace the missing "are not satisfactory" and urged them to "speed up." The judge adjourned the case until Jan. 15.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations estimate that between 1,000 and 2,000 men have been arrested in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Detained on little or no evidence, none have been formally charged, a flagrant violation of Pakistan's constitution, analysts say.

Pakistan's government dismisses claims of arbitrary arrest. "Yes, some of their relatives are not traceable," says Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao. "But that doesn't mean that the intelligence agencies have custody of them. …

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