In many fundamental respects the situation had not changed in Balochistan since HRCP’s last fact-finding mission to the province in 2011. Enforced disappearances continued in Balochistan as did dumping of bodies and impunity for the perpetrators. Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies were generally believed to be involved in enforced disappearance of people. In some cases their involvement had been proved beyond doubt. Failure to punish the perpetrators or to probe that involvement in a meaningful way was aggravating the situation. The law and order situation had worsened and sectarian killings increased in all districts.
However, there were some positive changes, each with a caveat, which offered hope for improvement in Balochistan’s situation. The Supreme Court hearings in Quetta had certainly had a positive impact, although it remained to be seen if the impact would endure. The mission found youth and political activists were more willing to talk and more keen to engage in efforts to resolve the crises politically. Sincerity and reciprocity were needed to avail the opportunity. There was keen awareness that change was vital and a lot of people looked towards the forthcoming elections to deliver that change. If free and fair elections were held progressive elements were expected to participate. Some nationalists might not contest but others would. If the nationalists became part of the government things were generally expected to improve. However, lawlessness made preparation for the elections difficult for nationalist parties, many of which had constituencies in insurgency-hit districts. There were apprehensions that elections might be rigged and demands were made for national and international monitors for the elections. Law and order had prevented many parliamentarians from visiting their constituencies. As of now, the people only got a chance to go to elections once every decade. There was a general feeling that if there was genuine democracy Balochistan’s woes could have been minimised.
There were multiple layers of violence and tension in Balochistan. Law and order was a problem that cast a long shadow on all aspects of life. The crime wave that had engulfed urban Balochistan and the main highways was either a mark of collusion or utter incompetence of the authorities. The government, law enforcement and security agencies had completely failed to deal with militant / insurgent, sectarian and criminal elements.
Kidnappings for ransom had become a profitable enterprise. No perpetrator had been arrested or tried. It was difficult to see how the kidnappers could operate despite heavy security deployment. The conclusion that most people reached in Balochistan was that the criminals had not been arrested because they enjoyed the patronage of the authorities. The provincial home minister had spoken of fellow cabinet members’ involvement in this crime but no action was taken. Questions were raised as to who would give protection to the people, to the Hazaras, non-Muslims and to truck drivers who pooled money to pay ransom.
The problems in Balochistan had long been looked at in the perspective of a Baloch insurgency and Baloch rights. There was a need to have a holistic look at all the problems in Balochistan, including those faced by a substantial Pakhtun population, the Hazaras, non-Muslims and settlers as well as economic and livelihood issues in the province.
There were complaints of the state’s inability or unwillingness to protect the lives of religious minorities as well as members of some Muslim sects. Killings and harassment of the settler population by the insurgents had led to the settlers shifting to Pakhtun-majority areas or to leave the province altogether. Target killings and crime on the basis of religious and ethnic identity of the victims had grown. The continued persecution of Hazaras was as ruthless as it was unprecedented. The people the mission met said that if the authorities had the commitment to stop the killings or punish those responsible the killings could not have expanded in the manner that they had. Questions were raised about absence of ability or willingness on part of the government to protect the people from faith-based violence as well as its lack of priorities. Heightened threats including kidnappings for ransom had forced Hazaras, non-Muslims, settlers and wealthy people to migrate to other parts of the country and even abroad.
Talibanisation was growing in several areas. Unlike the past, religious fanaticism was not merely being exported to the province from elsewhere. It was now being bred in Balochistan. A growing network of madrassas had contributed to aggravation of inter-sect tensions. There were fears that the security forces were patronizing militants and Quetta was being turned into a haven for militants. There were said to be militants’ training camps in the province.
Aspiring irregular migrants from or passing through Balochistan took great risks in their quest for a brighter future and the human smugglers were only too happy to exploit them. Little was being done to address the reasons that forced people to migrate.
Unlike the past, the insurgents had systematically targeted infrastructure and development work.
Despite the government’s oft-voiced desire for a political solution to the crisis in Balochistan no progress had been made on engaging through talks the nationalist elements in Balochistan. Even preparatory steps towards that end remained lacking.
The state abdicating its basic responsibility and NGOs retreating for fear of abduction of their staff had further aggravated the crises. The government and development agencies had abandoned the troubled areas. Healthcare and education were neglected. Many good teachers had migrated. An insurgency in parts of the province did not justify the state ignoring the people’s health, sanitation and other basic needs and infrastructure, which were not affected by the ongoing strife. There were places in the province where the people, irrespective of their ethnicity, survived in conditions that were not far removed from the Stone Age. Alleviating their problems was no one’s priority.
The provincial government was nowhere to be seen in the crises. The chief minister was away from the province for a lot of time and the provincial government held meetings regarding Balochistan outside the province. The provincial government seemed to have earned a lot of discredit in a short span of time. In probably the only example of its kind, all but one member of the provincial assembly was in the cabinet. After the 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission Award, more funds had certainly become available to Balochistan but those did not seem to have trickled down. A general observation was that corruption had spiked by the same margin.
The government had shown little interest in shoring up sagging economic activity and businesses. The industry had collapsed, natural resources had not been tapped nor the requisite expertise created and agriculture that was the mainstay of a large part of the provincial economy was in ruins because of drought-like conditions and lack of irrigation water amid plummeting water table, debilitating electricity shortages and absence of delay-action dams.
The total electricity need of Balochistan was very small compared to the needs of the other provinces. Yet the people in the province faced excessive electricity suspension. The people demanded that the government should accept an Iranian offer to supply 1,000 megawatts of electricity to Pakistan and use the same in Balochistan.
There was a widespread feeling that the national media had abandoned Balochistan and not given as much coverage to the events and incidents as their importance demanded. Even when whole cities were shut down during a strike the media did not report that. Journalists in the field felt threatened from the security forces, militants and insurgents. The people in the districts affected by the insurgency in general and journalists in particular felt like hostages. If they said one thing they were traitors to one side and if they did not they were traitors to the other side. The stories that the journalists did file were often covered only in Balochistan editions of publications by national level media organisations. That prevented the people elsewhere in Pakistan from getting the true picture of the situation in the province.
Members of the mission were shocked at the glut of sophisticated firearms in Balochistan and the people’s easy access to them. It defied belief that huge quantities of weapons could pass through a series of check-posts when the common citizen was stopped even for carrying a knife. Had there been sincere efforts to curtail the free flow of weapons they would certainly have made a difference.
The people generally expressed faith in the Levies force because of it being a local force. Police was not well respected.
All investigations in Balochistan today seemed to end as soon as claims of responsibility were made by one militant or insurgent organisation or the other. It was a free for all and in cases of target killings or even common crime any investigation or prosecution worth the name was gene
The moderate and genuine Baloch demands are listed here:
Military operation must end unconditionally and immediately.
All those Baloch who have been forcibly disappeared by FC and are missing must be released and allowed to re-join with their family
members and law-enforcement officers, including military officers, who broke the law or committed crimes against Baloch citizens must be brought to justice.
Hefty and direct compensation in a transparent mode to the families of all those who got killed, kidnapped and tortured.
Homeless I.D.P.s must be returned to their hearth and home with honor and dignity, rehabilitated and compensated.
The mostly Pashtun-based Frontier Corps, which have intentionally been deployed to create bad blood between the Baloch and Pashtuns, must be removed from all Baloch cities and towns in Balochistan and replaced by local Balochs; all the FC check post should
be dismantled in Balochistan; the Pastun-based Frontier Corps should be deployed along the Afghan border in Pashtun areas.
All Afghan refugees living in Balochistan must be returned back to Afghanistan and their names removed from the voter registration lists.
The historic territorial integrity and demography of Balochistan, land of the Baloch, must not be changed.
Balochistan’s boundaries to be redrawn based on historical, ethnic and linguistic line and all Pashtun areas of Balochistan should be joined with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Gwadar port and Balochistan’s natural resources must be used to uplift the Baloch people.
Baloch secular national identity and culture must be honored, preserved, restored and respected.
Balochi language must be declared Balochistan’s primary language of learning.
Center should only keep defense and currency and all other departments, including foreign relations and foreign trade, should be given to provinces with full provincial autonomy.
Baloch, especially the ordinary middle classes, must be well represented at all the federal level and in foreign services to remove their sense of deprivation and alienation to make them feel counted citizens.
London-based international human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell Calls For Referendum to Ascertain Wishes of Balochi People
London-based international human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
He is today reiterating the “road map for self-determination” that he outlined at the conference on the future of Balochistan, held earlier this year at the Royal Society in London and organised by UNPO, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.
Mr Tatchell reemphasised that the major challenge for the Baloch people is “the absence of a programme to deescalate the conflict, end human rights abuses and secure a negotiated political settlement leading to self-determination for the people of Balochistan.”
“There are many laudable aims from many different sectors of the Baloch national democratic movement. But there is no agreed plan on how to get from where the Baloch people are now to where they want to be in the future.
“A plan and unity are vital for success.
“Without a concrete plan for peace and self-determination it will be much more difficult to secure the support of the international community. They want to see a consensus on how the nationalist movement proposes to solve the conflict.
“The Baloch people can put Pakistan on the spot by offering a negotiated political settlement and setting out the means to achieve it.
“I speak as a friend of Balochistan who is mindful that the future of Balochistan is a matter for the people and national democratic movement of Balochistan. It’s not up to me or any other outsider to make any such decisions. I offer advice, experience and knowledge but the future of Balochistan must be decided by the Baloch people.
“What I’m doing is offering a few ideas for consideration. These ideas are not mine alone. They are the result of discussions I had with a group of Baloch national activists in Geneva in 2010, when we went there to lobby at the United Nations.
“This is our draft road map for peace and self-determination:
“First, there should be a ceasefire and the cessation of military operations by all sides; with Pakistan agreeing to withdraw troops and paramilitaries to barracks, halt the construction of new military outposts and permit independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peacekeepers.
“Second, all political prisoners should be released and the fate of all disappeared persons accounted for.
“Third, there should be unfettered access to Balochistan by news media, aid agencies and human rights organisations.
“Fourth, displaced refugees should be allowed to return, have their properties restored and receive compensation for losses caused by the conflict.
“Fifth, the population transfer of non-Baloch settlers into Balochistan should end.
“Sixth, there should be a UN supervised referendum on self-determination, offering the people of Balochistan the options to remain part of Pakistan, greater regional autonomy and full independence.
“These six ideas are only tentative, draft proposals. They are open for further discussion, refinement and amendment. But they are a starting point for a united front for Baloch emancipation. Surely all Baloch nationalists, whatever their other differences, can agree with them?
“My advice is: concentrate on the issues around which you can unite and then the Baloch movement will be stronger, more effective, and you’ll be taking the first step on the road to a long-delayed, much-deserved freedom,” said Mr Tatchell.
UN Must Send Fact-Finding Mission To Balochistan And Appoint UN Special Rapporteur
By Peter Tatchell
Balochistan was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan in 1948, without any public agreement or consent. It is a colony of Pakistan, in all but name, and remains part of Pakistan by armed force.
The Baloch people have been denied a referendum on self-determination for nearly seven decades.
Pakistan’s human rights abuses in Balochistan include indiscriminate military attacks, kidnappings and forced disappearances – plus detention with trial, torture, assassination and extrajudicial killings by Pakistan’s Military and intelligence services.
Over the decades, many Baloch people have been killed, wounded or displaced. What is happening is often seen by the victims and their loved ones as slow motion genocide.
According to critics, the repression has intensified as Islamabad seeks to impose the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the people there, without consent.
Here I suggest setting out a tentative, provisional eight-point action plan, to pressure Pakistan to end its human rights abuses in Balochistan:
- A halt to western arms sales to Pakistan, which are being diverted from the intended fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban to repress the Baloch population. The weapons include US-supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters. They have been used to bomb Baloch villages, destroying crops and killing civilians and livestock. US arms deals with Pakistan violate the Leahy amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act. It prohibits Washington from providing weapons to foreign armed forces that contravene human rights.
- The UN should appoint a Special Rapporteur on Balochistan, to monitor and report to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on human rights abuses and ethnic discrimination.
- A UN fact-finding mission is urgently needed to independently assess the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Balochistan.
- Pakistan should be pressed to lift entry restrictions and permit aid agencies, journalists, and human rights defenders free access to Balochistan, in order to ensure the delivery of aid to the impoverished population, enable free media reporting, and allow the documentation of the effects of military occupation.
- The culprits should be prosecuted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international humanitarian law.
- The bringing of civil claims in US courts by Baloch victims of human rights violations committed by Pakistani State officials, using the Alien Tort Claims Act.
- Make western aid to Pakistan conditional on the ending of human rights violations. Until Islamabad complies, all aid should be withdrawn from the Pakistan government and switched to local and international aid agencies that conform to international human rights norms.
- A boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions campaign targeting Pakistani government, Military, and intelligence officials implicated in human rights crimes in Balochistan.
What is urgently needed is a road map for peace and securing a negotiated political settlement.
How do we get from here to there?
I am proposing this six-point road map:
- Ceasefire and cessation of all Military operations, withdrawal of Pakistani troops and paramilitaries to barracks, and a halt to the construction of new Military bases and outposts – with independent monitoring and supervision by UN observers and peacekeepers.
2. Release of all political prisoners and a full account of the fate of all disappeared persons.
- Open access to all parts of Balochistan for journalists, aid agencies, and human rights organisations.
- Right of return for displaced refugees, restoration of their property, and compensation for losses caused by the conflict.
- End internal colonisation of Balochistan by non-Baloch settlers.
Whether my proposals are the right ones is a matter for debate. But it is crucial that there is some kind of specific, credible road map, which the Baloch people, together with the UN and the international community, can press Pakistan to accept.
Some critics say that Balochistan can never win against its all-powerful, over-bearing occupier. But from my knowledge of history, David can defeat Goliath, as the US learned to its cost in Vietnam.
About the Author: Peter Gary Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Can be reached at; email@example.com