Pakistan Army accused of extrajudicial killings in Swat. Again.
This video, which has been doing the rounds on the internet for over a week, allegedly depicts the Pakistani Army engaging in an extrajudicial execution of six unidentified men, purportedly in the Swat region. It was reported on blogs and Twitter, but the mainstream media was slow to pick it up, and most interestingly, so was Human Rights Watch.
Since then, it has been picked up by several agencies, and while it was also briefly linked to the Indian Army in Kashmir, most of the discussion seems in favour of declaring it the real Pakistani deal.
But American officials, who did not want to be identified because of the explosive nature of the video, said it appeared to be credible, as did retired American military officers and intelligence analysts who have viewed it.
After viewing the graphic video on Wednesday, an administration official said: “There are things you can fake, and things you can’t fake. You can’t fake this.”
Al Jazeera English has a better report that delves deeper into the video and its authenticity:
An organisation called the International Pashtuns’ Association posted the video on Facebook and says that the incident took place during the military’s crackdown on the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley the summer of 2009.
The uniforms and rifles appear to be consistent with Pakistan’s standard military equipment, and a former Pakistani general told Al Jazeera that while the video could not be verified, the images should be taken seriously.
“We have to take it at face value at the moment, and take it seriously,” said Talat Masood. “My view is that the CIA and ISI are in a much better position to authenticate this.”
“It looks as though they are Pakistani troops, but there are several other aspects that need to be re-checked before we can say that it is authentic.”
Human rights groups say the video fits in with “credible allegations” they have received about the conduct of Pakistani troops. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in June that 282 extra-judicial killings by the army had taken place in the Swat region in the past year.
The AJE report also includes responses from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who also say that the video is consistent with numerous reports in the past of the Pakistani Army engaging in such executions. Indeed, both HRW and the NYT have reported it in the past.
The Pakistani Army has, predictably, denied reports and declared the video fake.
The real question is over what fallout this will cause.
Reuters says that it could threaten US aid to Pakistan and includes a quote from State Department spokesman PJ Crowley: “Human rights and the issue of extra-judicial killings has been a part of our ongoing conversation … with Pakistan.” I’d say that quote pretty much sums up the US response, an “ongoing conversation” is vague enough to indicate some sort of action, but nothing concrete or real.
Scarecrow at Fire Dog Lake sums up the inconsistency in relation to drone attacks:
But then one must ask whether there is some moral or legal distinction between what the Pakistan forces are alleged to be doing, which if true would be an egregious crime and warrant protests from all civilized nations, and what our own military teams are doing when they observe a Pakistani village or group of individuals via drone cameras and then, from targeting rooms that may be located in the US, direct the drones to bomb and kill those individuals. Because I’m having a hard time seeing a meaningful difference.
Indeed, it is difficult to find a meaningful difference. Moreover, there’s the much publicised case of Anwar al-Awlaki, and reportedly three other US citizens, all of which are in line to be assassinated by the US Army. Legal challenges to these assassinations have been blocked by the Obama Administration by invoking the State Secrets doctrine to shield it form judicial review. And, of course, there’s the ongoing protection of those involved in Bush-era torture allegations.
So is the US going to withhold aid from Pakistan or take any real action over these killings? Hell no, there won’t even be a statement of condemnation. Why? Because obviously, the Obama Administration doesn’t care. It will put sanctions on Iranian diplomats for torture, but it’s not going to censure a key strategic ally for the war in Afghanistan. In this case, American exceptionalism must, to some extent, be extended to strategic allies.
So anyone looking for something concrete to come out of this, don’t hold your breath. Instead, just wait for it to blow over, as undoubtedly it will.