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A sorry tale

Two features of the national scene depict a sorry tale. One hundreds of citizens have disappeared allegedly at the hands of security agencies while state institutions including parliament and the judiciary appear helpless.

The government has recently told the Sindh High Court that while the intelligence agencies are under the administrative control of the defence ministry their operations are not under its control, thus declaring that the agencies are a state within the state.

This also happened in Chile in the early 1970s under the dictator Pinochet. Thousands of citizens disappeared, many of them were tortured and killed, and state institutions were unable to do anything.

Two, strong-arm tactics by men in authority to browbeat, harass and intimidate opponents, as was witnessed in the by-lections held last week in Jamshoro and Karachi. Armed men attacked a woman MNA (also a sister-in-law of a former Prime Ministr) and a former chief minister of Sindh.

They would have been killed if they had not been travelling in a bullet-proof car. The victim could not even file an FIR without court intervention. A sitting minister and his bodyguards have been named as as­sailants but no one has been arrested.

In Karachi, on the same day, activists of the ruling coalition beat the candidate of their rival party with impunity. Three days later a woman parliamentarian who was protesting against it was hit in the neck with a blunt weapon and was almost paralysed.

Ordinary citizens have written letters to newspapers saying how the elections were manipulated. But people in authority have dismissed the complaints as political propaganda and the Election Commission has been rendered helpless.

Last week, six political activists including three brothers were gunned down in Attock. Two years ago, in the same constituency, three political activists were killed but the killers are still at large. Some important political figures were accused of involvement in the attack, but no action has been taken.

Disappearances, murder squads and gangs of goons also marked Pinochet’s regime in Chile in the 70s. Pinochet ruled the roost and appeared to get away with almost everything as long as he enjoyed unbridled support of the west. But times change. That one-time darling of the west died a discredited man, under house arrest and in perpet­ual fear of imprisonment. Pinochet has become a name that no one would like to be associated with. There are lessons to be learnt.

Farhatullah Babar.

Ex-senator, lslamabad

Source: The News

Date:2/20/2007

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