Pakistani Military Holding Thousands of Detainees

Claims Civilian Courts Can't Be Trusted

Pakistani officials and human rights advocates are expressing concern today about the large number of “suspects” being held in extralegal detention by Pakistan’s military in the tribal areas.

According to reports, most of the thousands of detainees have been held for nearly a year and been given no access to lawyers or family. They have not been charged with anything but are being held indefinitely on the belief that they might be members of one militant faction or another.

Pakistani Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas confirmed the detentions, which have no legal basis under Pakistani law, but insisted that the military was concerned the civilian government would release them if they were ever given access to the legal system.

Pakistan’s civilian court systems, particularly in the tribal areas, are a model of inefficiency, which is in no small part why the various Taliban factions are so successful in the area: in many cases they offer an alternative dispute resolution system under sharia law.

Still, given the Pakistani military’s recent history of shrugging off civilians as “suspects” the disappearance of thousands of people into what looks to be a legal black hole as the nearly endless wars continue to unfold seems far from a long term solution, and just underscores the Pakistani civilian government’s own lack of oversight on military activities.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of