The situation of Balochistan is no different to that of the former East Pakistan (Bangladesh) when the military carried out operations and killed more than 300,000 people in the guise of protecting ideological boundaries.
The government does not consider extrajudicial killings anything out of the ordinary and one of the reasons for this is that they have lost all control over the military, para-military forces and state intelligence agencies that control the province. These military forces brook no interference into their affairs and use ‘national security’ and the protection of ideological boundaries to justify the killings and disappearances of innocent persons, particularly students.
Not a single day goes by without an extrajudicial killing. In the recent years a new phenomenon has been introduced in the cases of disappearances where the victims are extrajudicially killed in order to destroy any evidence of wrong doing.
The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organization which collects data about the disappearances and extrajudicial killings has compiled a list of 206 persons from July 2010 to date from different districts of Balochistan. The victims were extrajudicially killed and their mutilated bodies which bore marks of torture were found on the roadside. Amongst the 206 corpses 32 of them were not identified as their bodies were too badly decomposed. Many persons were identified by their clothes, shoes and personal effects.
The provincial government and Federal Minister for Interior Affairs claim that the Balochis were agitating against the government and were killed as a result of their ‘illegal’ actions. They do not accept the claim by activists that the deceased were extrajudicial killed. The media has been prevented from covering the incidents of disappearances and killings by the state forces. However, they do produce reports that anti-state activists were killed due to their militancy or in-fighting between militant groups. It has become increasingly dangerous for the people of Balochistan, particularly students to travel outside the province as they are arrested or taken out from the vehicles and kept in incommunicado and after some time their bullet riddled bodies are found.
The month of October 2011 was selected for dumping the bodies of the missing persons in the province as the PM was visiting to the province. This act shows the arrogance of the military forces and intelligence agencies operating in the province that no civil authority should question their power.
To substantiate their arrogance a massive military operation has been launched in the Chamalang areas of Balochistan. The Pakistani Air Force have pounded the villages with heavy bombardments resulting in the deaths of two women and a child besides the destruction of several homes and live stock. Jet fighters, helicopters and heavy artillery have been deployed and they are constantly pounding area indiscriminately. Fear of more deaths and destruction is likely to increase in the affected areas, which is out of bounds to foreign and local media.
If words of students and activists and journalists offend Pakistan’s army or go against the intelligence agencies they face death. In many cases, the abducted persons were not even political activists but were only Baloch civilians.
The people of Balochistan are generally termed as the anti-state elements by the law enforcing agencies and the federal ministry of interior and whenever any citizen of the province talks about their rights he or she has to face the brutal action of the law enforcement agencies who are alien to Balochistan and have no concept of the local culture and traditions. The situation is very much similar to that of former East Pakistan (Bangladesh) where troops from other parts of the Pakistan unleashed terror against the local population and who were totally unaware of the local culture and tradition, which resulted in the killings of more than 300,000 Bengalis and the dismemberment of the country. In Balochistan the local people are treated as agents of India as Bengalis were accused of being so many years ago. The Federal Ministry of the Interior always blames the nationalist as being Indian agents but he rarely visits the province.
Ironically, this same ministry never takes any action against the Jihadis or sectarian militant organizations that kill the people on a daily basis in bomb blasts, terrorist activities or sectarian violence against the religious minority groups. It is said that religious militant groups and Jihadis have the patronage of Pakistani military and the ministry.
In his latest visit to Balochistan, the PM ignored the issues of the Balochi people and allied himself with the army forces.
The Supreme Court and the judicial commission formed to investigate forced disappearances have proved totally impotent and more concerned with appeasing the military than providing justice to the families of the disappeared. In the hearings the judges and conveners made loud pronouncements for the sake of the media but do not have the courage to call the military officers and others identified by the victims and their families to appear.
The entire country of Pakistan is on the brink of a violent movement which may prove more than they can handle. The government has the option of reining in the military and intelligence agencies and providing justice to the victims. However, it would appear that it concerned only with its own survival. What the government must realise is that the people of Balochistan will only be pushed so far before they start pushing back and that will lead to untold horror and bloodshed.
The acceptance of the government of the absence of the rule of law and the ongoing human rights abuses is not going unnoticed by the electorate. The international community is taking notice of this and the government will not be able to sweep this under the carpet by denying knowledge of what is going on.
The government must come to its senses and put a stop to the endless extrajudicial killings of the citizens of Balochistan and order the immediate release of all those who have been forcibly disappearances. Also, it must urgently pass legislation to make forced disappearances a crime under the laws of the country. The military presence in Balochistan must be withdrawn and a tribunal formed to investigate the human rights abuses perpetrated by the military and punish those persons found guilty.