The newly elected government of Pakistan has constituted two committees for Balochistan province, one for missing persons and the other for internally-displaced persons. Of all of the country’s provinces, Balochistan suffered was the worst hit by the violence perpetrated by the armed forces including the army and Air Force. Since 2001 hundreds of people have been killed in aerial bombardments which allegedly utilised American made and supplied F16 fighter/bombers. At the same time the land forces displaced thousands of people in order to construct their cantonments and for the land of Gwader Port project. The political and nationalist forces are claiming that at least 4000 persons are missing after arrests and 200,000 persons have been displaced due to military action. (Please see AHRC-STM-085-2008, AS-204-2006, AS-199-2006 and several other urgent appeals and statements on the conditions of Balochistan province at our website http://www.ahrchk.net/ )
According to the Senator Baber Awan of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and secretary of its “reconciliatory Committee on Balochistan”, the government has set up two committees to investigate cases of missing persons and internally displaced people. The Senator, on behalf of ruling party, has announced the names of committee regarding internally displaced persons due to military operation but has yet to announce the names of committee members investigating missing persons. His announcement of the setting up of the committees came just two days after the visit of the Prime Minister to Balochistan. The Prime Minister, Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani, during his visit on May 2, 2007, announced that it has been decided that no army action will be carried out in the province until a strategy is formulated in consultation with representatives of the provincial government to deal with the issue of law and order in the province. The prime minister also ordered the release and withdrawal of cases against all political leaders of the province including Mr. Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the former chief minister of the Balochistan.
However, the nationalists and political groups are claiming that the announcements by the newly elected government is nothing more than a lip service as no cases have yet been withdrawn, no one has yet been released and the names of the members of the committee on missing persons have not yet been announced. The prime minister also announced plans to replace 6000 army personnel with the Frontier Constabulary (FC), but army is there with its full strength.
The current situation is very much the reverse of what the prime minister and other people from ruling parties are announcing. The disappearances still continue and in a recent event on April 28, just four days before the visit of the prime minister to Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, military personnel attacked and raided different houses and hostels of Khuzdar Degree College at the city of Khuzdar and arrested more than 200 persons. Among them ten persons are missing. On April 29, army officials raided the house of comrade Ghaffar, the district president of the Jamhoori Watan Party, a nationalist group, since then his whereabouts are unknown. The attack on the civilians was carried out after the killing of two persons from military intelligence. A separatist organization, the Balochistan Liberation Army, claimed responsibility for the killings but in retaliation army attacked the whole city. The prime minister announced the withdrawal of the armed forces but the army has made no moves to leave the province.
On May 2, when the prime minister was visiting Balochistan five persons were kidnapped by the law enforcement agencies and their charred bodies were later found in the center of market place of Dera Bugti city. These persons, namely, Mr. Nazar Mohammad Bugti, Rustam Bugti and Jeo Bugti (the names of other two were not available), were arrested before witnesses, by military personnel on charges of having links with the Balochistan Liberation Army.
The number of disappearances after arrests during the first four months of this year has reached 49 persons in the country. Forced disappearances have continued despite the change in government and even after the announcements of the prime minister to halt military operations in the province and release the political leaders including the former chief minister. The announcements from the newly elected governments, at provincial and federal levels, are no more than lip service to raise their popularity.
The government of Mr. Yousaf Gillani should come out with clear announcements of practical steps about the relief of Balochistan people who have suffered the brunt of military operations since 2001. The government should immediately announce the names of those persons who remain incommunicado in military torture camps and investigate the claims of those persons who testified before the courts that they themselves saw people in different army camps.
Without meaningful dialogue and constitution-based guarantees to the people of Blochistan the issues of forced disappearances and displacement will never be solved. The solution through legal and constitutional methods is best, rather than appeasing the tyrants and dodging the people through false announcements.