The recent killing of a human rights campaigner in the volatile Khyber Agency is bound to aggravate miserable human rights conditions in the region, rights activists fear.
Zarteef Khan Afridi, coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) for Khyber Agency, was shot dead by gunmen earlier this week. The Abdullah Azaam Brigade, a Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) affiliated militant outfit in the Jamrud area of Khyber Agency, claimed responsibility for the killing. An area still governed by draconian laws and the victim of widespread militancy, its human rights record is extremely poor.
Habib Khan Afridi, a close friend of Zarteef and rights activist, told The Express Tribune that “militants say they have no problem with development works, but they will not allow any organisation which actually works for rights amongst the tribal people”.
He added that Zarteef’s murder would only work towards stifling voices in the tribal areas, and creating fear amongst local activists.
HRCP officials also paint a bleak picture of human rights campaigns in the region. An official of the HRCP told The Express Tribune that another one of its activists was recently forced to seek political asylum in the UK, while those from Mohmand, Bajaur, and North and South Waziristan were living outside the tribal areas due to the security situation. The human rights watchdog has only one activist still based inside the tribal region in Kurram.
Idris Khattak, a researcher with rights organisation TALK for Peace International who has extensively worked on human rights issues in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas was of the view that the rights movement had no organised campaign; rather, individuals in their personal capacity were the main motivators behind right-related causes.
HRCP Council Member Malik Jarar added that the climate of fear across the country due to terrorism and militancy was especially exacerbated in the tribal areas. “Standing up for human rights inside tribal areas in the present situation is a difficult fight when you are receiving threats and can’t do anything about it,” he added.
Expressing concern over Zarteef’s murder, Mustafa Qadri, a researcher with Amnesty International, said they were deeply concerned about this killing of a rights activist since information is only available with great difficulty in the conflict zone, and people like Zarteef were invaluable in acting as lone informers to the world about human rights conditions.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011.
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