Extrajudicial executions highlight insecurity in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

 As President Asif Ali Zardari visits Britain today amid continuing instability at home, Amnesty International highlights one of the major challenges facing his government. The discovery of the remains of more than 160 victims of extrajudicial executions in Pakistan’s Swat valley highlights the ongoing human rights crisis in the country’s northwestern areas. Amnesty International has received credible information about 164 cases of people killed, often shot at close quarters, since mid July, when the Pakistani Army regained control of most of the area from Taleban-affiliated insurgents. The intense fighting displaced more than two million people from their homes. “Many residents of the area blame the army for these deaths,” said Sam Zarifi, Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific programme. “But our research also indicates that in some cases, it is the Taleban engaging in reprisals, while in other cases, it’s local and tribal conflicts playing out in an environment of ongoing chaos and insecurity.” Amnesty International has urged Pakistani authorities to improve policing in the area and establish an immediate and impartial investigation into the killings. The Pakistani military has established control over most of the major towns and major roads of the region, but Amnesty International research suggests that insurgents remain very active in more remote areas. Against this backdrop, the displaced are facing immense pressure to return to their villages in NWFP that are not fully secure. In some cases displaced people are being forced to return to areas that are not secure and that lack electricity, water and transportation infrastructure necessary for basic living and trade. Amnesty International has called on the government to immediately address the urgent needs of the displaced population, including for clean water, food, shelter, health care and education. “The government must ensure safe and suitable conditions for those who have returned to their homes so that returnees can live in safety and dignity, without threats to their security,” Zarifi said.