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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Scores disappear as Pakistan’s government furthers ‘War on Terror’

Suspicion and distrust are at an all-time high in Pakistan as a string of mysterious abductions that date back to 2001 are finally gaining significant media and judicial attention. Fueled by the support of human rights groups such as Amnesty International, the families of the disappeared are mounting momentum in a campaign to unveil the truth about the Pakistani government’s less-than-legitimate detainment practices.

The Pakistani government continues to deny any relation to the disappearances, however, affirming all the while its commitment to the War on Terror.

For the over 30 families who have had a loved one go missing, this has been a shabby pretext for what they believe is the government’s attempt to systematically intimidate or eliminate its perceived opponents.

Amnesty International claims this has all been part of the Pakistani government’s program to take pre-emptive action against potential terrorist strikes, honing in on anyone who appears to possess links to al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

However, the actual level of terrorist scheming that is taking place in Pakistan may be less than the country’s government would like its citizenry to believe.

“It is correct that many of those arrested or detained were connected with al-Qaida or extremist organizations,” said I.A. Rahman, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, to the International Herald Tribune, “but a number of people have been taken into custody whose only crime seems to be that they are nationalists in Baluchistan or Sindh. In Baluchistan, there is no al-Qaida activity.”

More specifically, the missing also include critics of the government, journalists, scientists, researchers, and social and political workers.

With this said, the word “terrorist” has come to take on a distorted connotation in Pakistan.

“To (de facto ruler of Pakistan) Musharraf, a terrorist is any person who disagrees with the state,” says Eric Mortensen, assistant professor of religious studies. “It is also true that the madrasas in the Sindh province are teaching values completely antithetical to the direction that Pakistan’s modern civil society wants to go in.”

Indeed, many of the extra-judicial detainments and killings have taken place within the provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh, largely because of their tribal, nationalist constituents.

Thanks to a recent ruling in the Pakistani Supreme court, however, the missing are gradually beginning to reappear, although there are still a great number unaccounted for.

Where they are reappearing exactly is another matter altogether.

Muhammad Tariq, a 35-year old iron pipe merchant, was fortunate enough to find himself kicked out of a van into an intersection in Islamabad on the night of his release.

Majid Khan, a 26-year old computer engineer who was snatched four years ago from the southern port city of Karachi, now resides in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His family does not know why he was arrested.

The reality of Khan’s situation introduces a completely new level of implications regarding U.S. involvement in the disappearances.

“Scores have become victims of enforced disappearances, some of these have been unlawfully transferred, sometimes in return for money, to the custody of other countries, notably the United States,” said a report from Amnesty International.

The BBC has also claimed that the American embassy in Pakistan has yet to formulate a response to Amnesty’s charges.

Meanwhile, family, friends and victims alike joined in protest in the streets of Rawalpindi to raise awareness of what their government has done, and may continue to do, simply because, as recently released Guantanamo Bay detainee Badr-Uz-Zaman put it; “(the government) didn’t like being criticized.

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