March 7, 2023
By Xari Jalil
United Nations Special Rapporteurs have requested the Government of Pakistan to provide details of its response in connection with a kill list that had been published on a Facebook post by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which had allegedly included Usman Kakar’s name along with journalists Gul Bukhari and Fazal ur Rehman Afridi and former Senator Farhatullah Babar.
It has also questioned Pakistan to provide information about the investigation of Kakar’s death, as well as an explanation as to why no probe was launched into Kakar’s reference to threats from secret services during his last speech in Parliament.
The UN rapporteurs have given the Pakistan government 60 days to respond past which all communications will be made available in a report that will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council.
The message was sent in a communication by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.
The rapporteurs have also urged that all measures must be taken to prevent any irreparable harm to the life and personal integrity of Fazal-ur Rehman Afridi and Gul Bukhari, as well as former Senator Farhatullah Babar.
CALL FOR INVESTIGATION
The Rapporteurs have urged Pakistan to investigate the alleged existence of a ‘kill list’, a list of 10 persons, which was published in a Facebook post on August 12, 2022, by the former spokesperson of the TTP. At the time the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights had expressed concern about this list and had asked the Interior Secretary to meet with those individuals who had complained to the Committee, including Farhatullah Babar.
On 21 June 2021, a former militant and member of TTP who had surrendered to the authorities in April 2017 claimed in a media interview to have been released from prison after an agreement with security services. He revealed that the “kill list” was maintained by Pakistani security agencies and that he had been requested to lead a “death squad” to eliminate “some individuals”.
The former militant referred to two brigadiers by name, and said they had made these remarks and had told him that eliminating these individuals was the only way to secure his release.
The issue of the kill list was raised by the rapporteurs with the Pakistani government in May 2019, however the government’s reply to this a month later was that there was no such list.
USMAN KAKAR: SUSPICIOUS DEATH
Usman Kakar, who was a Senator at the time of his death, and a regional leader of the nationalist PKMAP, was found in his house in Quetta, on June 17, 2021, with blood flowing from a head injury. He was taken to a private hospital for treatment and later moved to Karachi. However, he succumbed to his wounds and died in the hospital on June 21, 2021. Hospital scans showed that there had been severe brain damage and one of the doctors who had observed the autopsy had indicated that Kakar had died due to a head injury that could not have been caused by a fall. In their communication, the UN rapporteurs highlighted the postmortem report that had stated that there were no signs of violence on Kakar’s body, but there was CCTV footage of the alleged perpetrators in the attack against Kakar.
Following Kakar’s death, the Home Department also sent a letter to the Registrar of the Balochistan High Court, indicating that the provincial Government had decided to set up a two-member judicial inquiry to investigate his death. Two judges were appointed, but this was later disbanded after persons associated with Kakar declined to
appear before them citing their lack of trust and questions about the legality of
the appointment of this judicial inquiry.
No further investigations were carried out after these events, nor were the first information reports on his case registered, despite the efforts of those close to Kakar.
Apparently, Kakar had also previously received death threats.
In 2018, Kakar had been abducted for several hours from the Abbottabad Highway, where a group of unidentified individuals opened fire on him as he arrived at a toll booth.
In 2021, during his election campaign, he was interrogated by 16 members of the Frontier Corps (FC) who refused to admit that they were detaining him. Those associated with Kakar were now being intimidated, stressed the UN special rapporteurs, and ‘have been warned by military intelligence personnel that they should stay silent on the case, or they would face consequences’.
SILENCE BY GOVERNMENT
In 2018, the rapporteurs had asked the Pakistan Government to provide information about threats and intimidation of journalist Gul Bukhari.
Bukhari had been subject to a number of threats, ranging from rape to murder, from sexual harassment to branding her a foreign agent and being anti-state. In June 2018, while on her way to appear on a television show her news vehicle was intercepted by several vehicles on a major road in the Lahore Cantonment, a military-run area. Bukhari was bundled into one of the intercepting cars, blindfolded, and driven away.
To date, however, no arrests were made and there was no prosecution in connection with this abduction. No information was provided to the UN rapporteurs on the subject.
Similarly despite requests by the rapporteurs, the Pakistan government has not provided any information on intimidation, threats of reprisal, and harassment against journalist Fazal Afrid who is known to have repeatedly denounced human rights violations in Pakistan, including enforced disappearances, especially in the Pushtun and Baloch areas.