Balochistan: the horror continues

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently released a 132-page report on Balochistan titled, ‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan’. “Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear,’ and in many cases are executed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The issue of the ‘disappeared’ Baloch, more commonly known as ‘missing persons’, is not something unknown. The Supreme Court took up the issue of missing persons but unfortunately the apex court did not pursue it in the manner that was demanded. For the past few years, the number of missing persons has increased alarmingly. Tortured, bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch nationalists are often found dumped randomly in Balochistan. According to HRW’s report, “The inability of law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of disappearances is exacerbated by the continuing failure of Pakistani authorities at the national and provincial level to exert the political will to address the issue of disappearances in Balochistan. The authorities have failed so far to send a strong message to the security forces and intelligence agencies and to implement a set of concrete measures that would put an end to the practice of enforced disappearances.” This is exactly what the Baloch have been saying for years now. No one is willing to take action against the army and its intelligence agencies for the abuses being carried out in the name of ‘national interest’. It is appalling to see the government, the military, the ISI and the Frontier Corps (FC) denying such allegations when independent sources, both internal and external, are pointing towards grave human rights abuses in Balochistan. Their denials are sounding more and more hollow in the face of piling evidence.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP’s) report, ‘Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos’, was released last month. According to the HRCP, “In the cases of enforced disappearance brought before it, the mission found that there were credible allegations of the involvement of state security forces.” Both the HRCP and HRW are well-respected and reliable sources. The situation in Balochistan is getting worse with each passing day. If the state of Pakistan does not end the ongoing military operation in Balochistan, it will become an international issue and Pakistani authorities can be hauled over international courts. Under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP or R2P), endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the international community can “take timely and decisive action to prevent and halt mass atrocities when a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations”. The Baloch can go to the UN if the genocide is not stopped in Balochistan. Not only are Baloch nationalists abducted and killed by our security forces, sectarian outfits unleashed by our intelligence agencies are involved in killing Shia Muslims in the province. Just yesterday, unidentified gunmen killed seven Shia Muslims in Quetta; they were pilgrims going to Iran to visit sacred places.

The military and the government must take stock of the situation in Balochistan and stop harassment of dissident Baloch voices. Extrajudicial killings have become a norm. The state of Pakistan has been warned countless times that it cannot stop the disintegration of our country if some big power gets interested in resource-rich Balochistan because of its geo-strategic position. The government keeps pointing fingers at India for funding Baloch insurgents without an iota of proof. It is not India that is pushing the Baloch towards separation; Pakistan itself is responsible for alienating the Baloch to an extent that they are now asking for azaadi (freedom).

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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