Italy does it again. Selling weapons to countries like Pakistan or Saudia Arabia, I mean. Reading the latest version of the Annual Report on Exports and Imports of Armament Materials in, fact, it is quite interesting or, if you like, conflicting.
The Report clearly shows how in 2021, a year largely marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, Italian military companies worked at full capacity, exporting armaments to the world for a countervalue that constitutes a historical record: nearly 4.8 billion euros. But also showing that the largest buyers of Italian military systems include, for almost half of the licenses, authoritarian and often repressive regimes.
In fact, the top buyer is Qatar (813.5 million) and then we find Pakistan (203.7 million), the Philippines (98.7 million), Brazil (72, 9 million), the United Arab Emirates (56 million), Saudi Arabia (47,2 million). Turkey stays at 41,5 million, increasing the expenditure from the 34,6 million of 2020. In brief, and not for the first time, among the main recipients there are belligerent nations, regimes that do not respect human rights, and strongly repressive governments.
The case of Pakistan is emblematic, given the poor human rights track record of the country, the regular protests issued by Italy and the Vatican for the treatment of religious minorities and the military policy of Pakistan which specifically goes against Article 11 of the Constitution of Italy: “Italy rejects war as a resolution of conflicts” and deems it as against the laws of the country.
Bilateral Military Trade Continues To Flourish
Law 185 of 9 July 1990 prohibits the export and transit of weapons and armed materials to countries in conflict unless they have been attacked by other countries as established by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, to countries whose policy contradicts Article 11 of the Constitution and countries whose governments are responsible for serious violations of international conventions on human rights, as ascertained by United Nations(UN) , European Union(EU) or Council of Europe.
Despite this, the sales of arms to Pakistan in 2018 were roughly four times larger than those booked in 2017, which stood at €174.1 million Euro, and reached a handsome 203,7 million in 2021. Somebody should maybe provide the Italian Parliament with the latest Human Rights Watch Report:
In 2021, the Pakistan government intensified its efforts to control the media and curtail dissent. Authorities harassed, and at times detained, journalists and other members of the civil society for criticising government officials and policies. Violent attacks on members of the media also continued.
The authorities expanded their use of draconian sedition and counterterrorism laws to stifle dissent, and strictly regulated civil society groups critical of government actions or policies. They also cracked down on members and supporters of opposition political parties. Women, religious minorities, and transgender people continue to face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account.
Why the West Goes Easy on Pak Despite Crackdowns
The Pakistan government continues to do little to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for torture and other serious abuses. The country's law enforcement agencies were responsible for numerous human rights violations, including detention without charge and extra judicial killings. It has still not enacted a law criminalising torture despite its obligation to do so under the 'UN Convention against Torture.'
But although Pakistan's political-military establishment has maintained ambiguous relations with pro Al-Qaeda Islamic fundamentalist organisations and with all the other assorted terrorists groups including the Taliban regime, Pakistan is still considered a key Western ally in South Asia, not only by Italy but by the whole European Union.
In November 2021, a delegation of the Pakistani General Staff was a guest at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summits in Brussels to "strengthen" mutual military ties.
"Pakistan is a strategic partner in the war on terror as terrorism continues to threaten the security of our populations and international stability," NATO's Director General of the International Military Staff, Hans-Werner Wiermann said at the conclusion of the meeting.
Equally well-established is the diplomatic-military partnership between Rome and Islamabad. In late November 2021, officials from the Defense Ministry's National Armaments Directorate went on a mission to Karachi for the annual face-to-face meeting between the armed forces of Italy and Pakistan.
"For 70 years, the two states have been linked by solid friendship and important bilateral cooperation in many fields that we can further consolidate," hoped Major General Luciano Portolano, Secretary General Of Defence, reiterating the commitment to strengthen cooperation between the respective industrial sectors for the production of weapon systems, materials and equipment. And this year's meeting, that ended days ago in Rome, went even better.
The parts stated that more than 50 percent of the activities put in place were successfully concluded. All thanks to the continuous work and discussion between the working groups of the two countries in recent months and the synergy with the Italian industries in the sector, such as AIAD, Fincantieri, Leonardo, MBDA Italia, Elettronica, Rheinmetall Italia, and Fabbrica d'Armi Beretta.
What’s the Future for Rome-Islamabad Defense Deal?
In particular, topics regarding the upkeep of equipment supplied to the Pakistani Defense by Italian industries in the land, air and naval sectors were addressed, and further opportunities for future cooperation in the Defense materials sector were discussed. Some potential industrial cooperation in the field of portable weapons, electronic warfare and shipbuilding was also discussed.
Gen. Portolano also recognised the role Pakistan plays in the complex regional context and in the delicate stabilisation process in Afghanistan, highlighting in particular, the position the Asian country assumes in the international community as a regional player, with a foreign policy open to cooperation with China, while maintaining important relations with the United States and the European Union.
Apparently, Gen. Portolano and the Italian Government are not concerned, like we citizens, with the fact that many of these weapons are used by Pakistan against its own citizens. And, more worrying is the fact that, despite human rights organisations protesting and highlighting that weapons sold to Pakistan or Qatar could and would end up in the hands of State-baked terrorists or of terrorist States by triangulations, the Government of Italy has no intention to stop this bloody but remunerative commerce.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets @francescam63. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his/her reported views.)