Killings of anti-Taleban politicians in Pakistan signal further abuses

A fresh spate of killings of anti-Taleban local leaders in the Swat Valley of Pakistan could signal an escalation in the Pakistani Taleban’s campaign of attacks on tribal leaders, Amnesty International has warned.Five anti-Taleban local political and tribal leaders in Swat have been killed in targeted attacks in the last few weeks, media reports say.“The people of Pakistan’s northwest are caught between the Taleban’s systematic abuses,  and heavy-handed government military operations that have displaced millions, sparked hundreds of covert extrajudicial executions in Swat, and which have ultimately failed to secure human rights for the area’s civilians.” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.  Last year alone, 40 targeted attacks on tribal elders and local political figures hostile to the Taleban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province were publicly reported in the media. Over the last five years, the Taleban have targeted hundreds of tribal leaders and forced hundreds more to flee.The Pakistani government has increasingly relied on tribal militias, known as lashkars, to fight the Taleban. “The lashkars are poorly trained and disciplined. Amnesty International has documented numerous abuses at their hands. Furthermore, the creation of militias increases the danger to civilians and tribal members who can be targeted due to their association with the lashkars,” said Sam Zarifi. “The Pakistani government must ensure that these militias are accountable for their conduct and that civilian tribal members are not targeted by the Taleban because of the activity of militias.”Amnesty International recently condemned the Pakistani Taleban’s escalating attacks on civilians, including on a displaced persons’ camp, as possible war crimes.  The Pakistani military’s Swat Valley offensive of 2009 aimed to clear the area of Taleban control, but was accused of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian areas, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.