Thursday, August 19

Pakistan's role, and America's, in the Sinhalese genocide against Sri Lanka's Tamils

I have not followed the news about Sri Lanka for many years; that's because I don't like to rake up recollections of my time in the country. So I was blindsided the other night when I scrolled through the comment section of a Guardian editorial by Delwar Hussain titled Pakistan's leaders should heed the lesson of Bangladesh.

He laid out unsettling parallels between the flooding and social unrest in today's Pakistan and the conditions 40 years ago that led to the genocide launched by Pakistan's military against Bengalis, the war between east and west Pakistan, and the creation of Bangladesh.

The central government's ruthless indifference to east Pakistan's victims of the flooding from Cyclone Bhola, one of the 20th Century's worst natural disasters, was the tipping point in the unrest that had been building for years in east Pakistan.

Some of Hussain's readers were upset that he pulled skeletons from Pakistan's closet at a time when the nation was on its knees. As invariably happens when such articles are published, a few Indian and Pakistani readers began rumbling with each other in the comment section. This led to what was for me a startling revelation: Pakistan had become a large supplier of weapons to the Sri Lankan government. A commenter quoted from a May 2009 article at Chowk, a 'liberal' website showcasing the views of Indian and Pakistani intellectuals:
...According to The News quoting reliable sources in Pakistan, military cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan has grown significantly in recent years as Islamabad, unlike New Delhi, has had no problems supplying Sri Lanka's army state-of-the-art weaponry to accelerate its counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE which finally ended with the killing of the most wanted Tamil guerrilla fighter Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

The sources say it was exactly a year ago in the first week of May 2008 that Sri Lankan Army Chief General Fonseka came to Pakistan with his shopping list of high tech arms for the Lankan armed forces, who were engaged in an intense battle with the Tamil Tiger rebels at the time.

After Fonseca's visit, Pakistan sold 22 Al-Khalid tanks to Sri Lanka in a deal worth over US$100 million. Sri Lanka also purchased Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System (MBRLS), cluster bombs, deep penetration bombs and rockets and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from Pakistan, according to various reports. In fact, Sri Lanka, along with some Middle Eastern nations, has now become one of the largest buyers of Pakistani arms in the last few years.

On Jan 19, 2009, in a meeting between Pakistani Defense Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Syed Athar Ali and his visiting Lankan counterpart Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the brother of Sri Lankan president, in Rawalpindi, an agreement was reached to enhance cooperation in military training, exercises and intelligence sharing regarding terrorism.

The agreement came amidst Sri Lankan media reports that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilots had participated in several successful air strikes against LTTE military bases in August 2008. These reports further claimed that a highly trained group of the Pakistani armed forces officers is posted in Colombo to guide the Sri Lankan security forces in their counter-insurgency operations against the Tamil Tigers. ...
Cluster bombs

A March 2009 report at the Pakistani blog, Haq's Musings, discussed the Pakistani arms business in much greater detail than the Chowk piece and mentioned in passing:
Lately, Pakistan has come under severe criticism by human rights groups for being a leading manufacturer and exporter of land-mines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions.
The worldwide ban on cluster bombs went into effect on August 1st of this year; however:
... The Convention on Cluster Munitions -- banning the stockpiling, use and transfer of virtually all cluster bombs -- took effect six months after 30 countries ratified the treaty, which was signed in 2008 by 107 countries.

The agreement outlaws munitions that scatter multiple smaller devices over a large area and that have become notorious for maiming civilians and children.

The treaty's rejection by the United States [which announced it will stop using the devices in 2018], Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan -- countries widely thought to possess and manufacture the bulk of the weapons -- may dilute its practical impact. ...
So, the Sri Lankan government, and the government of the United States and its client state Pakistan were all very much aware at the time the Sinhalese bought the cluster bombs from Islamabad that the devices were being outlawed.

Sri Lanka's ongoing genocide, and the names Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka surface again

After a few more moments on the internet I found a report charging that the Sri Lankan regime's genocidal campaign against the country's Tamils had continued. The February 2009 report for the Boston Globe, titled Genocide in Sri Lanka, was written by Bruce Fein. Fein, the former associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan is a specialist in the areas of international and constitutional law and civil liberties. He was counsel for Tamils Against Genocide (a Maryland-based nonprofit) when he wrote the report, which reads in part:
The barrage of media reporting on the grim conflict in Sri Lanka has captured popular imagination, but has overlooked the grisly Sinhalese Buddhist genocide of innocent Hindu or Christian Tamil civilians by a US dual citizen and US green card holder. The two should be investigated and prosecuted in the United States.

Acting on behalf of Tamils Against Genocide I recently delivered to US Attorney General Eric H. Holder a three-volume, 1,000 page model 12-count genocide indictment against Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka charging violations of the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007. Derived from affidavits, court documents, and contemporaneous media reporting, the indictment chronicles a grisly 61-year tale of Sinhalese Buddhists attempting to make Sri Lanka "Tamil free."

Rajapaksa and Fonseka assumed their current offices in December 2005. They exercise command responsibility over Sri Lanka's mono-ethnic Sinhalese security forces. On their watch, they have attempted to physically destroy Tamils in whole or in substantial part through more than 3,800 extrajudicial killings or disappearances; the infliction of serious bodily injury on tens of thousands; the creation of punishing conditions of life, including starvation, withholding medicines and hospital care, humanitarian aid embargoes, bombing and artillery shelling of schools, hospitals, churches, temples; and the displacements of more than 1.3 million civilians into camps, which were then bombed and shelled.

This degree of mayhem inflicted on the Tamil civilian population because of ethnicity or religion ranks with the atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo that occasioned genocide indictments against Serbs by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

During the past month, a virtual reenactment of the Bosnian Srebrenica genocide of more than 7,000 Muslims has unfolded. Sri Lanka's armed forces employed indiscriminate bombing and shelling to herd 350,000 Tamil civilians into a government-prescribed "safety zone," a euphemism for Tamil killing fields. There, more than 1,000 have been slaughtered and more than 2,500 have been injured by continued bombing and shelling.

As a preliminary to the horror, roads and medical aid were blocked, and humanitarian workers and all media were expelled. During a BBC radio interview on Feb. 2, Rajapaksa declared that outside the "safety zone" nothing should "exist." Accordingly, a hospital has been repeatedly bombed, killing scores of patients. Rajapaksa further proclaimed that in Sri Lanka, any person not involved in fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] is a terrorist. ...

The predictable defense of counterterrorism will not wash. Not a single Tamil victim identified in the model indictment was involved in the war between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. ...

That's the Sri Lanka I remember, although the number cited for extrajudicial killings is laughably low; I suppose the indictment only included killings that could be directly traced in a court of law to Rajapaksa and Fonseka.

My only other quibble is that it's misleading to term the Sinhalese responsible for the genocide "Buddhists." When I was in the country, many of the self-described Buddhist sanghas had as much to do with Buddhism as the Klu Klux Klan has to do with Christianity. During an earlier era, when the government was still trying to apply a fig leaf to its actions against the Tamils, the sanghas came to be used as a refuge for Sinhalese who murdered Tamils. By taking on the robes of a Buddhist monk the murderers avoided arrest and prosecution. I doubt the situation has changed.

The whooshing sound of war crimes swept under the rug

A couple days ago Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's secretary of defense (the one with the U.S. Green Card), dismissed claims that the military was responsible for large numbers of civilian casualties and complained that the United Nations was responsible for failing to halt the LTTE's use of civilians as human shields. That, according to The New York Times.

The other one, Fonseka, the U.S.-Sri Lankan dual citizen, abruptly retired from active duty to run in a political campaign, then was arrested and found guilty this month of engaging in politics while on active service. "He was sentenced by court martial to an honourable discharge and is to be stripped of his rank and medals," according to the BBC's August 13 report.

That's as much as I can stomach talking about the Resplendent Isle. I don't want to know what happened to the model indictment Fein delivered to the Department of Justice because I don't think much will ever come of it.

Monsters' Ball

Yet I would like to know how many more times my government intends to be involved with financing Pakistan's forays into genocide. As I discussed in Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 1, it is an established fact that the U.S. government aided and encouraged the Pakistani military's genocidal campaign in east Pakistan.

(See Wikipedia's article, which terms the campaign "atrocities," and Genocide Bangladesh Organization for more information but be warned the site features graphic photographs.)

I think technically the campaign was a democide but either way you want to split the semantics it was government-conducted mass murder and mass atrocities on a grand scale.

I understand this is an inconvenient time to bring up the issue of U.S. involvement with the east Pakistan genocide but there's never been a convenient time in the USA. That, too, I understand; yet just because the topic is taboo in the United States, once again the American taxpayer is drawn into financing a situation, and a social system, that is frankly monstrous.

And just as with the Sinahelse rulers of Sri Lanka, Pakistan's rulers are horrifically cruel. Some measure of the cruelty can be appreciated from the account of a Pakistani landowner named Hamir Soomro, whose farm supports 3,000 people. His response to the flooding of his 1,500 acres in recent days was to set up relief convoys to help even less fortunate victims of the floods. He told the (U.K.) Independent:

There is no coordination when it comes to either the relief effort or protecting agricultural land.

"The problem is that everyone is trying to save their own lands," says Mr Soomro. "The politicians in the area are diverting the water away from their lands and onto those of others."

A widespread allegation doing the rounds is that Khurshid Shah, a minister from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, used his clout to get the water diverted towards the populated areas near the town of Sukkur. Traditionally, floods in Sindh have been mitigated by cutting a breach on the left side of the embankment. The water is then supposed to flow towards the desert. On this occasion, the embankment was cut on the right side.

"Even in this tragedy," says Mr Soomro, "people are still playing politics."
The same charge has been made by other Paksitanis, who say that several "feudal" landlords diverted canals, which turned the floodwaters onto entire towns and villages, submerging them.

That's not the half of it. Pakistan has seen heavy flooding before, although it's been more than 80 years since the region has been hit by such heavy rains. However, the British built extensive dams, canals, and embankments in the region while they ruled India; they did this to prevent just the kind of flood catastrophe Pakistan is seeing today. But the flood management structures received little upgrading since 1947, when Pakistan became independent.

Where did the money go for upgrading flood management structures? It went to the same places U.S. tax money earmarked to pay for Pakistan's help in the war on terror went. It went to individual offshore bank accounts in places such as Dubai, to financing the lifestyles of pashas, nuclear proliferation, and preparing for yet more wars of aggression against India.

And it went toward the development of weapons that the Pakistani defense establishment then sold to Sri Lanka's genocidal regime.

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