Clip_47The mass grave found at Tootak village in district Khuzdar, Balochistan, is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. At least in the history of what we now call Pakistan.

Family members gathered around the grave but the police and other security forces refused them permission to try and identify the bodies and baton charged the people to disperse them.

On January 25, three mass graves were found after one of them was discovered by a shepherd who saw pieces of human bodies and bones. He informed the Levies, a private armed force organised by tribal leaders, and according to Assistant Commissioner, district Khuzdar, Mr. Afzal Supra, the grave was excavated and 15 bodies were found.

As the news of the mass grave spread throughout the district, people gathered there and started digging in the nearby area where they found two more mass graves. In total 103 bodies were recovered from the graves. The bodies were too decomposed to be identified.

From the three mass graves 17, 8 and 78 bodies were found but the local people say that a total of 169 bodies have been found. People have witnessed more than 100 human bodies in Tootak while they were digging the area.

However, Pakistani military forces stopped the local people from unearthing the mass graves and took control of the area. Now, no one is allowed access to the location except military personnel.

One security official said so far they have found around 56 unidentified graves and that there are many more. It is claimed that these bodies are those of Baloch missing persons.

The confirmation by government officials that over one dozen bullet-riddled bodies have been dumped in unmarked graves — many of them considered to be mass graves — in Balochistan has exposed the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the security forces over the years in a bid to suppress a popular uprising against the government.

It is feared that more mass graves will be found in the coming days. However, the Pakistan Army is not allowing any civilian or media outlets to visit the area.

Nasrullah Baloch, the vice chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), fears that their relatives who disappeared following arrest by the security services in the restive province might be buried in those graves. Baloch says that his cousin and the son of Mama Qadeer, who is leading the historical long march for the recovery of missing persons, Jalil Reki and another, Sana Sangat were brought to Khuzdar after arrest and killed after some days. He believes that their bodies must be here with others.

These mass graves were found close to the residence of Shafique Mengal, who is a known man of the security agencies and who is heading a militant organisation with the name of Nifaze Amn. The organisation claims itself to be affiliated to the Pakistan security forces, working for the implementation of Islam and against anti-State elements. He has been provided with 30 armed vehicles. Whenever the security forces fail to conduct actions in tribal and mountainous areas they ask for Mengal’s help.

The FC and other forces, as claimed by Baloch nationalist groups, have helped him to make private jails and torture centers in Tootak where the missing persons are brought and tortured before being extrajudicially killed. There is no power supply in the area but interestingly, electricity lines were provided to his private jails and his ‘fort’ which is guarded by the law enforcement agencies.

Human rights violations could soon escalate as the Pakistani government recently passed a new controversial law, the ‘Pakistani Protection Ordinance’- PPO, which has legalised enforced disappearances.

The government has been presented in the Senate on Feb 4, 2014 and thus has yet to be passed by the parliament. In an effort to provide protection for the crimes of the security forces the government has given legal cover for enforced disappearances and allows the security agencies to keep any suspect for up to three months without presenting them before a court and in cases of suspected terrorism the person can be kept for six months in their custody.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken suo motu notice on an appeal by Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons but will something come out of it?

District Coordination Officer (DCO) Khuzdar Abdul Waheed Shah on Feb 4, 2014 presented the Balochistan government’s report on the discovery of mass graves in the region in the Supreme Court.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani, heard the suo motu case relating to the unearthing of 13 decomposed bodies from the mass graves.

The report said DNA samples had been collected from the bodies, adding that the bodies were being kept in Civil Hospital Khuzdar for identification.

Also during the hearing, Home Secretary Balochistan Asad Gilani told the bench that the Balochistan government had appointed a single-judge tribunal to ascertain facts. Justice Muhammad Noor Meskanzai of the Balochistan High Court will complete his findings and recommendations in a month.

Two bodies — of Qadir Bakhsh and Naseer Ahmed of Peer Andar — have been identified and handed over to their heirs on the request of the deputy commissioner of Awaran after completion of formalities. But the report did not mention whether those identified were on the list of missing persons. However, Mr Baloch claimed that three of the bodies had been identified and their names were on the list of missing persons.

Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner Syed Abdul Hameed Shah submitted a report which said that a shepherd from Tootak area had approached his office on Jan 17 and divulged on the condition of anonymity that he had seen vultures and crows hovering over some bodies lying under heaps of stone and mud in the remote area of Mazzi.

The deputy commissioner, in coordination with local Frontier Corps Kalat Scouts Commandant Col Tanvir Ahmed Khan, went to the area, along with large contingents of levies and FC. The places were dug and two bodies were found. Some other spots were marked for digging the following day and 11 more bodies were found — five in one grave and six in three separate pits.

The bodies were taken to the District Headquarters Hospital and tissues were obtained for DNA tests. Preliminary results of the tests were expected by Feb 6 but the results have not been revealed which is not surprising.

The report said a medical team constituted by the provincial government had carried out post-mortem of the remains and collected samples to determine the cause of deaths.

The provincial government has also constituted a special medical board comprising four members in this regard.

The bench later adjourned the hearing to March 7.