Balochistan Mass Graves: An International Inquiry Needed

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not spoken about the mass graves found in Balochistan. Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch has not uttered a word either. The mainstream national media has systematically snubbed the story. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have not issued statements. Nevertheless, that does not help in keeping the world ignorant about the shocking mass mass graves of Balochistan in the age of social media. There is widespread anger among the people of Balochistan and those who believe in human rights across the world over such brutal acts as well as over the silence of the Pakistani government authorities and the media. They are trying to cover up the whole issue in an attempt to protect those involved in these crimes against humanity.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, at least one hundred dead bodies have been found from these mass graves although B.B.C. Urdu has reported only 13 bodies from two mass graves. None of the dead bodies could be identified because they had been completely decomposed. It is very likely, says the A.H.R.C, that these bodies are that of the Baloch boys who had gone missing since the dictatorial days of General Pervez Musharraf. While thousands of Balochs are still reported missing, hundreds of bullet-riddled dead bodies of these missing persons were found in different parts of Balochistan after Musharraf’s departure from power. Such killings were called as ‘kill and dump’ operations by the international human rights watchdogs and the foreign media.

The town from where these graves have been discovered is the stronghold of Shafiq Mengal, an ultra-religious tribal strongman connected to the Pakistani intelligence agencies. He was empowered by the State in order to counter and replace the local influence of Baloch nationalists Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his son Akhtar Mengal, both former chief ministers of Balochistan. Shafiq’s father, Naseer Mengal, a former senator, served as Pakistan’s minister for petroleum in the government of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam) during 2002-2006. Shafiq has remained infamous in the area as a strongman of the Pakistani agencies who is involved in kidnapping and murder of Baloch political activists. He reportedly heads the anti-nationalist outfit, the Baloch Musla-Defai Tanzeem that has claimed responsibility in the local media for hundreds of killings of Baloch nationalists, journalists and human rights activists.

It is not a coincidence that Balochistan’s minister for home and tribal affairs (the local version of federal interior minister), Sarfaraz Bugti, belongs to the rival tribe of late Nawab Akbar Bugti, the former governor of Balochistan who was killed by General Musharraf in 2006. After Bugti’s killing, the Baloch revolted and waged a full-fledged insurgency while the Pakistani military empowered and patronized Nawab Bugti’s tribal opponents such as Sarfaraz Bugti. Hence, today a top rival of Nawab Bugti has been rewarded and promoted for his loyalty to the army to such an extent that he has been appointed as the province’s minister for home and tribal affairs. Hours after the discovery of the mass graves, the home minister, as expected, absurdly raised fingers at the Indian intelligence agencies for killing and dumping the Baloch youth. Such irresponsible statements on the part o the provincial minister only amounts to exempting the provincial government from its responsibilities and covering the heinous crimes for which the Pakistan army has been blamed by international human rights organizations.

The recovery of the mass graves in Khuzdar has surely come as a setback to those women, children and the elderly participants of the historic long march headed by Mama Qadir Baloch whose son, Jalil Reki, also disappeared and was eventually killed in a similar fashion two years ago. The participants of the long march walked 700 miles from Quetta to Karachi to seek the release of their loved ones. For the past few weeks, they have been marching from Karachi to Islamabad to continue their peaceful struggle seeking humane treatment for their family members. The mass graves are indeed not the reward these peaceful protesters deserve. It is likely, although not confirmed, that some of the dead bodies found in these mass graves may belong to those whose family members are a part of the ongoing long march.

Despite official efforts and the media’s complicit role, the story about the mass graves in Balochistan will not fade away in the coming days. A government investigation in the matter is unacceptable considering the government’s own non-serious attitude toward the whole matter as demonstrated by the home minister. The government, security forces and intelligence agencies are routinely blamed for these mass graves. Therefore, it is not possible to dig out credible findings from a probe that is conducted by the Pakistani government. Only an investigation conducted by credible organizations such as the United Nations, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and similar international bodies known for their reliability will be acceptable. In addition, the international community, must play their role in bringing the people behind these crimes to justice. The Baloch have been suffering for decades and the international community has an inalienable obligation to end the state-sponsored crimes against our unarmed people.

The Baloch Hal Editorial

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