Last weekend, I was visiting my hometown in Tharparkar to attend the Dharmik Quiz Contest. At the event, I urged all Hindu children who participated in the contest from across the country to follow religious and moral teachings, and serve humanity at all costs. It is unfortunate that innocent members of a family travelling in a car were shot dead in Sahiwal on the same day. Ironically, this crime against humanity was committed by none than the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). I was initially unaware about this incident as I had limited access to the internet. While returning to Karachi, I saw a tweet by PM Imran Khan, saying that he was “still shocked at seeing the traumatised children who [had seen] their parents [being] shot”. Later, I watched footage of the barbaric incident on social media. The Sahiwal tragedy raised questions in my mind. How can such acts of barbarism take place in Pakistan, a state that was founded in the name of Islam? The most disturbing fact is that this incident occurred during the tenure of a government that claims to follow the model of a Madina-like welfare state. Islam urges us to take care of travellers. What’s more, the conquest of Makkah was carried out peacefully and everyone, including the Holy Prophet (pbuh)’s worst enemies, was forgiven. Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), the second caliph of the state of Madina, instructed the Muslim army to refrain from killing even a single child, woman or elderly person. Other religions also emphasise the need to follow moral values, even during warfare. “Nobody should attack chariots with cavalry… One should not assault someone in distress, neither to harass nor defeat him…One should not be enraged toward an enemy who is not trying to kill him.” These are some of the teachings found in the Mahabharata. Throughout world history, the law of war focuses on three factors: wars should be limited to achieving goals; wars should be brought to an end as soon as possible; and there should be no unnecessary destruction. The UK has adopted 10 principles of war that are taught to all officers of the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force, and are also used by the armed forces of Commonwealth countries. These war principles include maintaining morale, teamwork and flexibility. Cooperation is essential to ensure joint operations, and share risks and opportunities in every aspect of warfare. The US introduced three new principles of joint operations in 2011 that focus on limiting collateral damage and preventing the unnecessary use of force; introducing a careful and disciplined mechanism to conduct military operations; and ensuring the legality, morality, and rightness of actions. The Geneva Conventions aim to provide special protection for women, children, and civilians. International humanitarian law also highlights the need to distinguish between ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatants’ during conflicts. It also requires an assessment of the anticipated civilian damage or injury. The purpose of highlighting the above mentioned laws and principles of warfare is to understand that Pakistan hastily decided to become a frontline state in the war on terror. Although our armed forces have played a pivotal role in curbing terrorism, the entire nation has also paid a heavy price in terms of civilian causalities. Most recently, the Sahiwal incident indicates how brutally the CTD tried to handle the situation. The unnecessary action and conflicting statements have brought a bad name to the country as a whole. It is universal practice to make efforts to break down the network of terrorists. Any information that is shared by sources is always cross-checked. After it has been confirmed, a decision is taken on whether to arrest the suspects or not. Unfortunately, the Sahiwal incident was carried out without any proper homework and violated all professional practices. Even if the driver was a terrorist, he ought to have been captured alive. At this stage, many political parties are trying to politicise the incident. As a parliamentarian, I believe that instead of simply condemning the incident and engaging in political point-scoring, we must join hands to prepare a national warfare policy. All state institutions must also follow the principles of warfare. At a time when the US is planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and engage in dialogue with the Taliban, we must end the war on terror and create a peaceful environment in our beloved country.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.