Balochistan – a human rights free zone

Editor’s Note: Baluchistan. A Province forgotten. Neglected. Baluchistan. A pot brewing. Baluchi “Leaders” failing their people. Rudderless Baluchistan. It needs direction.Support. Empathy.Love. Will the Center fill the gap created by the Provincial Leaders? Read on Baluchistan: http://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/baluchistanthe-waiting-game/

By Malik Siraj Akbar

“Every missing person is my son,” says Abdul Qadeer Baloch, whose son Jalil Reki went missing and was found dead two-and-a-half years later. -File photo

Every year on this momentous day, 60-year old retired bank employee Abdul Qadeer Baloch organises special events in Balochistan capital, Quetta, to mark the international human rights day. He has organised, for instance, hunger strike camps and convened press conferences to raise the voices of the families of the disappeared Baloch political activists, students and professionals.

Qadeer had remained absolutely aloof to such hardcore activism until February 13, 2009, when officials attired in plainclothes whisked away his son Jalil Ahmed Reki, 35, from Quetta. The disappearance of a breadwinning son turned Qadeer’s life upside down. He eventually joined the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organisation representing the families of missing persons, to campaign for the release of his disappeared son.

Jalil Reki, Qadir’s missing son, had regularly operated as the central spokesman for the Baloch Republican Party, a nationalist political group seeking self-rule for the resource-rich Balochistan province. He was articulate, charismatic and well-connected with the local media. Qadeer made every attempt possible to seek the release of his missing child but completely failed to bring him back from the custody of the captors. After his involvement in similar missing persons’ cases, Qadeer realised his was not the only family which had a loved one listed as ‘missing’.

“Every missing person is my son,” Qadeer assured as he was recently promoted as the vice president of the VBMP. With more organisational responsibility came more pressure. In October, two secret agents reached out to Qadeer in Quetta warning him to immediately and unconditionally end the demand for the release of the disappeared activists.

“They warned if I wanted my son alive then I should end the hunger strike camp,” Qadir shared his insecurity with the media soon after being warned in person and also on telephone.

Qadeer would have routinely snubbed this warning if he had been contacted two years ago. In the past one year, the situation in Balochistan has dramatically changed. The bullet-riddled dead bodies of at least 220 missing persons have been found from different parts of the province in the past eight months.

Thus, Qadeer and his friends were totally cognizant of what he bills as the “nasty capabilities” of the captors of their loved ones. He took the threats seriously but it was no longer practically possible to abandon an organisation which funnelled hope to the relatives of hundreds of other missing persons.

“Quitting wasn’t simply an option” said Qadeer. Those who had warned him stood by their words. On November 24, the tortured and bullet-infested dead body of Qadeer’s disappeared son was found in Turbat district.

This year brings a totally different international human rights day for Qadeer. He says his young son’s killing has not undermined his resolve but given him a reason to stand beside those who still await the return of their loved ones.

‘Moral Crisis’

There is increasing international concern about human rights violations in Balochistan. Official denial of access to international media, human rights groups and researchers and increased role of agencies further make it difficult to independently analyse the crisis in Balochistan.

On November 16, the deputy spokesman of the US Department of State, Mark Toner, expressed concern over the situation in Balochistan.

Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher Mustafa Qadri terms Balochistan as one of Pakistan’s “greatest moral crises”. The province, he says, has fast become a “human rights-free zone” with security forces and armed groups acting with total impunity.

Qadri, whose London-based global human rights watchdog has actively sought an end to killings and disappearances in Balochistan, says there are no excuses for the government to continue “such policies” in Balochistan.

“The failure of the state to protect its citizens’ right to life has left all of Balochistan’s diverse communities living in constant fear of abductions, torture, and targeted killings. The state continues to suppress the Baloch community’s right to freedom of expression whether with respect to nationalist politics or calls for justice for victims of enforced disappearance,” he claims.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has decided to dedicate this year’s international human rights day to the people of Balochistan in order to urge Islamabad to “make vigorous efforts to ensure respect for the rights of the people in the long suffering province.”

Zohra Yusuf, HRCP’s chairperson, says at least 107 new cases of enforced disappearance have been reported in Balochistan in 2011, and the ‘missing persons’ are increasingly turning up dead.

“Bodies of at least 225 ‘missing persons’ have been recovered from various parts of the province since July 2010,” she reveals, “It is scandalous that not a single person has been held accountable for these disappearances and killings.”

Alarming Trends

With numerous existing indicators, there are valid reasons to paint a murky future scenario for Balochistan vis-à-vis the state of human rights.

Firstly, defenders of democracy, champions of human rights and the advocates of press freedom are all being forcefully dragged into the ongoing conflict. At least two HRCP coordinators, eight journalists and one campaigner for the IDP (internally displaced persons) rights have been tortured and killed in less than a year.

In addition, the so-called ‘kill and dump operations’ provide a glimpse into the prevalent and sophisticated network of illegal torture cells maintained inside Balochistan. For example, when activists, such as Qadeer’s son, disappear from Quetta and are found dead 856 kilometres away in Kech district, it gives a clear idea about the extraordinary operational and logistical capabilities of people involved in such regular and untraceable operations.

Meanwhile, an underground armed group calling itself as the Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem (Baloch Armed Defence Organisation) recently issued a hit-list of four journalists in Khuzdar district warning to kill them all if they reported the activities of Baloch nationalists. At least two former presidents and two members, of the same district press club have been murdered in recent past, highlighting the threats faced by journalists working in Khuzdar.

Amidst the crises, the governments at the centre and the province do not currently have an engagement policy in Balochistan to give an idea where it stands on the issue of disappearances, killings and warnings to defenders of human rights. It demonstrates absolute official indifference toward the issue while the attacks on defenders of democracy and human rights are taking place with flagrant impunity showing a total absence of an accountability-driven system.

The number of unknown, shadowy armed groups is increasing day by day. Emboldened over lack of official action against them, these groups have become less reclusive, more assertive and more selective while singing out their targets.

Turning a blind eye, the provincial and central governments and the executive and the judicial branches of the government continue to throw the issue of human rights into each other’s court. Additionally, the government has not either completed or initiated investigations into killings for which it has been blamed, such as the murder of Professor Saba Dashtiyari of the University of Balochistan, to assure its commitment to independently probe blatant attacks on educators and free-thinkers.

The government has also not fulfilled the promise it made unveiling the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-Balochistan Package that all missing Baloch persons would be released.

Decades of unabated attacks on dissenters have eroded Balochistan’s political landscape to such an extent that violence has knocked out an ambiance of political dialogue.

Malik Siraj Akbar is a freelance journalist based in Washington DC.

This is a cross post. Original publishing link: http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/10/balochistan-%E2%80%93-a-human-rights-free-zone.html

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  • URL  On December 11, 2011 at 6:24 am

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  • Khan Zia  On December 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    There is no doubt that Baluchistan is in an awful mess and has been so for better part of two decades. In situations such as it exists in the province there are invariably two sides to the story. When the media depicts only one side of it to the total exclusion of the other, one has to question its motives.

    Violence is just one of the many things that are horribly wrong in Baluchistan. There is also the deplorable state of the educational institutions, health care, agriculture, distribution of resources and above all law and order. It is for consideration that as per the constitution all of these are the responsibility of the provincial government.

    Why do the media not hold the province responsible and instead make it appear as if what is taking place in Baluchistan is somehow part of a conspiracy by the ‘Punjabis’ in particular to deprive the Baluchi people of their rights and privileges. Why are such spurious allegations accepted without questioning and before establishing if there is any truth to these? Why would Punjabis go out of their way to harm Baluchis or anyone else in Pakistan?

    Much is made of the lack of development in the province. It has to be understood that there are certain per-requisites that need to be met before any development can take place. Including among these are such essentials as capital investment, infrastructure like transportation, power, etc; trained manpower, availability of raw materials, facilities and amenities to support communities, etc. These continue to remain in extremely short supply. Worst of all, Baluchistan generally is very short of water without which it is hard to support life.

    We have to ask, who is going to invest any capital in a place where power lines, gas pipes, trains and buses are blown up with regular monotony? Where is the trained manpower going to come from when investors, foreign workers, school teachers, doctors and teachers are murdered, euphemistically dubbed as ‘targeted killings’, in the name of Baluchi nationalism. An estimated 20,000 doctors, teachers and trained workers have been evicted from the province. Why the media assiduously omit to mention all of this and only harp on alleged disappearances of individuals and this too without proper verification to establish culpability?

    Sadly, the responsibility for what is taking place in Baluchistan lies squarely not with Punjabis or the army but with a very small section of Baluchis who have chosen the path of insurrection and violence at the behest or in collusion with powers inimical to Pakistan. It is treason against Pakistan and also against Baluchistan itself, like it or not. When the media choose to ignore this fact consistently the inference cannot be sanguine.

    The e-mail appended below was received last year from a highly knowledgeable and respected Baluchi resident in Quetta that illustrates the points made here:

    “Sent: Sun, August 15, 2010 3:59:56 AM
    Subject: Duck Shooting in Baluchistan on Independence Day or Fruits of Dysfunctional Democracy

    “Target killings of Punjabi settlers, sometimes of Hazaras in Baluchistan, as if Duck Shooting, has been going on with impunity ever since PPP made a government in province thro a remarkable horse-trading although it had won only 6 seats. JUI and PML Q with 18 seats each and smaller/independents. all but one having blood-feud with Aslam Raisani, joined government leaving opposition benches totally empty.

    “With the target killing’s score risen to over 1500, PM visiting Quetta in July 10 was asked by media why was the target killings going on and no one held accountable? He readily replied, ‘It is a provincial subject and if the CM asks our help we can consider.” In the dubious 18th Amendment, 28 more departments/subjects have been removed from the concurrent list; hopefully the provinces, at least Baluchistan, will handle them as efficiently as security of lives and property is being ensured.

    “A special Duck Shooting spree took place to celebrate Independence Day in Baluchistan which though lukewarmly reported in media, merits mentioning.

    “13 August : – 3 Policemen patrolling Sariab Road in Quetta were gunned down. No arrests made but CM was
    quick to order investigation and arrests of the murderers.
    – A Punjabi worker was killed in Khuzdar. CM’s response not known.
    – 3 rockets with big bang were lobbed from south exploding in Quetta City, 4 persons were
    wounded, a car damaged. CM did not comment.

    “14 August : – 10 Punjabi passengers travelling from Lahore to Quetta, after their ID cards were duly examined
    to ensure Punjab addresses, were gunned down near Mach some 60 km south of Quetta. CM or
    for that matter, no one has ordered usual enquiry or even condemned it. The so called BLA has
    claimed the Duck Shooting.
    – 6 Punjabi laborers working in Khilji Colony, Quetta, were gunned down in the evening, BLA
    claimed the shooting. No response or condemnation from CM or anyone.
    – A 5 year old Punjabi boy in south of city was CLUBBED to death. No response from CM or
    anyone.

    “Brahmdagh Bugti, head of BLA and some other terrorist organisations who also periodically claim killings of Punjabis in Baluchistan lives a km away from Hamid Karzai’s palace under the protection of US, Afghanistan and duly guided by RAW. This is no secret. CM and PM are apparently conniving to ensure Ethnic Cleansing in Baluchistan with obvious implications.

    “There are some 14 provincial political parties in this province of 7 millions or so. JUI, PKMAP, ANP are religious/ethnic parties. Then the national level parties, PML , PML N and TIP also make occasional statements to show their existence, but NONE has ever condemned killings of Punjabis in Baluchistan.

    “Honorable High Court and Supreme Courts are quick to take suo-motto notice if a high profile Baluch ‘leader’ is killed. They have yet to NOTICE the Duck Shooting going on.

    “Do we need this dysfunctional democracy? Who should/can hold the PM and CM and his entire cabinet accountable? How long such disgracefully dysfuntional democaratic government will be allowed to exist?”

    • Agha Gul  On December 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      You are absolutely right. I wish to add some more which I have been observing from very close.

      Balochistan is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, wrongly named province. It was made thro amalgamation of Sindh, British Balochistan (snatched from Afghanistan by the British in 1896 after Durand Line was made a border) and the Kalat States Union called, Balochistan. In the backwardness of Baluchistan, Pashtuns have also started contributing now due to Dysfunctional Democracy, no checks and balance and a VERY weak federal government. It has become like a Rajwara in just about 4 years, where CM and his all -MPAs cabinet are enjoying full freedom and ruining it. The fruits of 18th Amdt!

      Two days ago, I drove to Qilla Saifullah, some 200 km NE of Quetta. This is Pashtun area, no insurgency has ever taken place here. However, the locals showed me and told me interesting stories pertaining to Senior Minister, Maulana Wasay who is MPA from here. Briefly:

      * A multi-storey Madras is being made with 16 crores near Muslim Bagh. Its funding is contributed by MPAs of JUI. Each MPA in Baluchistan yearly gets 24 crores for “DEVELOPMENT”. Much of it is eaten away. CM was moaning in a gathering that he is blamed for eating away the public money, but Maulana has amassed 6 Arab ( Rs. 6,000,000,000) . There are 18 MPAs of JUI. The outer wall of Madrasa itself is a monstrosity, it is not an ordinary wall. It looks at least 5-6 times more expensive than an ordinary wall. This is Public Money which has been allowed to be looted by the CM in the name of development.

      * Farm-to-Market Roads have been made from individuals homes to main roads. These are metaed strips which were not needed at all but they are there

      * Dozens of tube wells are running in every influential’s locality. The influential’s, MPAs etc, sell a board with their name on it to place next to tube well so that WAPDA cannot dare touch it.

      * South of Quetta, in Baluch area, in any case No one now pays for Gas or electricity. They also gulp yearly a subsidy on tube wells now amounting to over 30 Billions, without ever mentioning it. Even the govt never talks of it. Baluchistan’s annual revenue is less than $ 4 billion, budget is 120 Billion.

      * Maulana has managed appointments of DC, DPO, Tehsildar and every district level officer of his own choice. So he is now the true Sardar similar to Baloch sardars. Except, that his writ comes from the government rather than the submission of the people of the area.

      Now, back to insurgency:

      In the aftermath of so called killings by Agencies ( Agencies say the Handlers of erstwhile-Murderers are busy eliminating them now!), killings of punjabis have greatly reduced for the past 4 months or so. It is said that the CIA and RAW have pulled back the financing. The anti-Pak wall-chalking is also not visible anymore. However, as the provincial government has continued abdicating its responsibility to ensue security of life and property, crime has become the biggest industry.

      The CM often wonders, ” why do they loot buses, trucks and snatch cars mostly in my area ( Mastung-Mangocher)?”. He is very naive. He thinks people are also naive like him and can be fooled.

      However, CIA and MI5 are looking after Hair Biyar Marri and Suleman khan-of-kalat in London while Brahmdagh Bugti has been given political asylum in Switzerland. Another son of Marri is now representing the “persecuted-nation” of Baloch in UN Human Rights wing in Geneva! Who says US and UK are not trustworthy?

      The main road between Karachi-Quetta has become the Highway-men’s domain. The other southern artery Quetta-Sukkur is also under the attention of thieves.

      Happily now, the Pashtuns, mostly from Afghanistan are also carrying out sporadic looting on roads Quetta-DI Khan and Quetta-DG Khan. Quetta city is bustling but regular kidnappings of minorities and affluent people is in progress. Just yesterday, a kidnapped Hindu trader was found dead as his family could not pay the huge ransom demanded.

      During 2005, under Pres Mussaraf, the Prov. Assy had converted all of the province from B to A area, meaning instead of Levies provided by sardars, Police would ensure law and order. This Prov Assy, under DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP decided to revert back to B area in 2010.

      The British B area meant that the sardar who would provide Levies, would also be responsible for ensuring law and order, failing which he would be simply hanged. No Honorable Courts, which simply let go all criminals because they never SEE enough EVIDENCE.

      So, to cut the sad story short, Full blame lies on PM, who says, “law and order is a prov. subject” , then the entire cabinet ( which is all the MPAs, 63 of Prov. Assy) and to a lesser degree on CIA, Mossad, RAW and MI5.

      Who will do the accountability? The Parliament which is supreme? Or NAB? Or SC whose injunctions are regularly ridiculed and trashed? ………Or must we wait for Imran Khan? And go deeper in the Rajwara?
      G.

  • Naveed Tajammul  On December 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Malik siraj akbar,now rests at his leisure,in the Cosy,Washington D.C,and his mentors,not only got him a fellowship in the ‘Hubert Humphrey fellowship in the Arizona State University,but a few weeks back granted him a special Political Asylum in USA too.
    So the Parrot, now, sits on a solid American backed, branch.
    Though Earlier he would spew venom,from the,forum of a newspaper Run by his Pakistani mentor,Najam sethi,when he ran the show in Daily Times.
    So his outbursts are nothing new.
    Unfortunately what the public at large is unaware,off is,that the very geographic entity of Balluchistan,is but a creation of British Imperialistic forward policies,that too in the post
    1876/1877 time period.When they laid the foundations of a cantonment,and renamed Shal-kot as ‘Quetta’.
    Perhaps,what siraj should ask for,being a nationalist his original balluchi,abode from
    karazia,of Kabul,who gives refuge,to the BLA lot,as earlier Zahir Shah did in the 1950’s.
    and continued till his exit.
    As goes, the historical geography,the region now called ‘Kandahar’ was known as ‘Bal-yus’
    and if,you, bother to study the ‘Etymological’ meaning of the term ‘Balluchi’.
    it is as under;
    Bal= the region.
    Lu= in Turkish means the ‘people’
    Chi= in Turkish means.’of the’.
    hence Balluchi means,”people of the Bal’.
    Yes in our sindh regions upper area’s we have had their influx in the last 500 years,or so, but they are now called and termed as Punjabi,as goes this term too, which is also a British,created geographic entity.post 1849.
    Now should this lot in the Punjab be induceded to go back i.e balluchistan,they number in millions,Malik siraj akbar’s lot, would need to move out quicker.as they are but new immigrants.
    in any case The old Multan suba extended till Sharl-Kot and Dukie as well the western reaches of Dera Ismail khan.The administrative boundaries were readjusted with the invasion of Nadir Shah and emergence of Nizamate of Barrohi Kalat.
    Incidentally the Barrohi,is not a balluchi by any definition.

  • Tariq Haider  On December 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Why Baluchistan is still a festering wound on the body of Pakistan? When the party who always claimed as the
    champion of Baluch people, whose head is Baluch, who is an all powerful President of Pakistan, who talk very loudly for
    the rights of Baluch people and had given a package to uplift the status of Baluch people. Is that all an eye wash?
    Honestly speaking the much ridiculed dictator had given much more in his dictatorship than any so called democratic
    governments. It is an established fact that the so called Nawabs, Sardars are the responsible for the plight of the
    people of Baluchistan. When they are in power, they are only interested to line their pockets. For an example
    Bughti was paid by the federal government 140 millions every year, which was going to his pocket. His every employee
    was paid by Sui Gas Company and all medical facilities. His family was traveling all over courtesy SGC, he was
    a major culprit of never doing anything for Baluch people. What is stopping now AAZ to implement his so called
    Baluch people right package? When he flouting each and every court order, which effect his position. It the failure
    of Federal government to let this all happen. The government of Pakistan should have abrogated all these positions of
    privilege and have gone directly to the people of Baluchistan and helped them.
    But again people of Pakistan are not better than Baluch people, there the government have succeeded with out any doubt.

    TMH

    • Shahbaz  On December 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      It is not that easy Col SANDEMAN had written over 150 years ago you want to control the Baluchs control their SARDARS and the Puktuns through their mullas and money?

      Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal

  • Rauf  On December 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Before giving any comments on the article, I would suggest to
    check on Malik Siraj Akbars back ground. He has
    applied for political asylum in the USA. I am sure he will be
    granted that. Cheers.
    Rauf

  • Faisal Imam  On December 12, 2011 at 9:20 am

    genocide;reminds one of the days of Stalin, the Gulag.
    give the people of Pakistan the freedom to rule themseves;through the mandate of the vote.
    Do not usurp that right,do not enslave the people,do not impose a govt corrupt to the core.
    Pakistani people are good people . they will act in accordance with their own welfare.

    • Shaheen  On December 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

      The rise above…just being a blogger…’the people’ have no internet….only 1 % of the population have access to it !

  • SEO Software  On December 14, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Apparently Bahrain has now advanced as far as the English Middle Ages, burning women for witchcraft. Oddly despite the alacrity with which Britain and America usually leap to the assistance of peoples when their human rights are ignored by some despot, where the good folk of Bahrain are concerned, The UK and USA won’t lift a finger to help them. They’re on their own. Could this be because of the deal that was struck to save the dollar from extinction, when Nixon declared Bahrain could maim and torture whomsoever it wanted so long as it sold its oil in dollars, creating the petrodollar and making it the world’s reserve currency?

  • Elisha Bouyea  On January 7, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Very interesting subject, thank you for putting up.

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  • By Isabella Shewmaker on December 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Isabella Shewmaker…

    Thanks so much for the blog article.Thanks Again. Want more….

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