Washington: The holding of thousands of suspected militants by the Pakistan Army for an indefinite period could not only sway public sentiment towards their movement, but also impact US military and financial aid to Pakistan, officials have revealed.
The extremists are being held captive by the military on the plea that Pakistan’s civilian justice system does not have the power and is too weak to prosecute the large number of alleged militants, and that they cold walk free if handed over to the civilian set-up.
Pakistan Army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, stressed that the military is “extremely concerned” that the detainees will be allowed to go free if they are turned over to the civilian government.
“More than 300 suspected militants who had been detained in the military`s 2007 operation in the Swat Valley were later released under a peace deal. Many returned to the Taliban, making the Army`s task harder when it again rolled into Swat last spring,” Abbas said.
However, U.S. officials said they are worried that the arrests could further inflame local sentiment thereby creating sympathy for the militants.
“They`re treating the local population with a heavy hand, and they`re alienating them,” The Washington Post quoted a US official, as saying.
“As a result, it`s sort of a classic case going back to Vietnam; it risks actually creating more sympathy for the extremists,” the official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said.
U.S. officials are also concerned that by holding thousands of people without trial, Pakistan risks violating the Leahy Amendment, which requires recipients of U.S. military assistance to abide by international human rights laws and standards, the newspaper said.
“Obviously, you don`t want the Pakistanis to do anything to complicate a relationship that requires support from Congress,” another Obama Administration official said.
It is worth mentioning that Washington has provided Islamabad with nearly 18 billion dollars in military and development aid since 2002.