Pakistanis are "very frustrated" with the state of affairs in
their country where violence and abductions are now a way of life,
says the new chief of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
"Absolutely, very frustrated. Frustration is at different levels;
those living in the cities are victims of violence very often,"
Zohra Yusuf, 61, said in an interview.
The chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, until
now led by Asma Jahangir, explained what was happening.
"In Karachi, anyone going out, they don't know whether they will
come home alive. Not just Karachi, there is violence in other
cities as well.
"Lahore has faced a lot of suicide bombings... Peshawar is very
troubled, (in) Quetta, you hear of sabotage activities or dead
bodies being found in Balochistan," Yusuf, now here on a private
visit, told IANS in an interview.
The soft-spoken Yusuf, an activist for 30 long years, was frank
and candid during the nearly hour-long interaction.
"As far as the common person is concerned, the economy (is not
good), unemployment ... inflation, prices are galloping... the
burden is on the common man.
"Infrastructure is not there for the common man, public transport
is extremely poor, railways have practically collapsed, the divide
between the rich and poor is sharpening," she said.
Yusuf was scathing of both the Pakistani military -- often dubbed
the real rulers of the country -- and the civilian leadership.
"I don't think the army and (politicians) are jostling for power
so much because now the army's status as the real administrators
has really been established.
"Political parties believe they have to be on the right side of
the army to be in power. So, there really has been unfortunately
very little resistance from political parties to the encroachment
by the army... They just seem to have accepted that and given in."
She said the civilian leaders could have ripped apart the military
and its intelligence agency over the Osama killing by US
"The (ISI chief) agreed to appear before parliament. But instead
of asking him tough questions... they all sort of caved in,
practically told him it's not your fault, you are doing a good
What is the road ahead for Pakistan?
"I see the greatest threat as militancy. In the long run, economy
can be managed...
"It does seem (there is a) nexus between Al Qaeda and our local
Taliban. It is there. It seems to be they are trying to acquire
state power. That seems to be their ultimate goal."
She recalled how the military had injected Islam in military
"During Zia's time, they started encouraging soldiers and officers
to pray during working hours. This whole religiosity of the army,
the armed forces started at that time. At the higher level it is
still fairly westernised."
Pakistan has witnessed a spate of kidnappings, particularly of
people from minority communities.
"Kidnappings have been mostly of Hindus, a lot of them in Sindh,
and these are primarily better off Hindus, and it has been mainly
for kidnapping for ransom. A lot of them are being kidnapped by
"There certainly has been an increase in these instances," she
(Rahul Dass can
be contacted at email@example.com)