Increasing calls for justice for the missing in Pakistan’s Balochistan

Baloch human rights groups accuse the state of having abducted thousands of Baloch activists, often using violent methods, to give up information about militant groups that operate in the region. 

Baloch human rights

Balochistan: Pakistani security forces have had to contend with a number of incursions on its soil – from extremist militant groups in the north to a separatist insurgency in the country’s southwest province of Balochistan.

The Baloch have accused the Pakistani government of kidnapping, torturing and killing thousands of its vocal nationalists.

Dr Ghulam Sarwar Bangulzai has been searching for his nephew ever since he disappeared almost five years ago. Intelligence agencies had picked them up in July 2010 from the Mastung area of Balochistan on suspicions they had joined the Baloch separatists who have been fighting the Pakistani state for an independent homeland.

Dr Bangulzai said he was released 13 days later after undergoing severe torture. But the fate of his nephew remains a mystery.

Baloch human rights groups accuse the state of having abducted thousands of Baloch activists. They say the missing were captured, often using violent methods, by the army to give up information about militant groups that operate in this region.

Many abductees have been later found dead. “In the past, the mutilated bodies of Baloch could at least be identified,” said Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of the Voice of Missing Baloch Persons. “But now mass graves have been discovered and their bodies are mutilated to such a degree that they are not even identifiable.”

Dr Bangulzai says the Baloch community has lost hope in Pakistan’s judiciary for its failure to address its grievances – top of which is the return of its people, like his nephew. So frustrated are the Balochs with the injustice that even their normally conservative women have taken to the streets to demand the release of the boys and men in their family.

Many are also disappointed the international community has kept silent. “The international community only intervenes where it sees its own interest,” said Dr Bangulzai. “Looks like so far they have not managed to find anything of interest in the Baloch people. We are the oppressed people. We will continue protesting. We don’t have guns to go and fight.”

While the government has acknowledged that it’s ‘picked up’ Baloch people, it has denied accusations of torture and murder. The state has also insisted that the ‘missing’ are in the hundreds and not the thousands.

“The matter is sub judice before the Supreme Court and we have a commission for enquiry at the Home Department,” said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani. “We have dealt with this issue. But the claims of the proscribed organisations that they are in thousands are also baseless.”

Pakistani intelligence agencies say they investigate every allegation of abduction by the state. They say a number of people who are supposedly missing have been tracked down in Afghanistan and even in some Middle Eastern countries. According to them, Baloch militants conveniently cross into Afghanistan and tend to obtain Afghan passports.

Some political observers say Pakistan is fighting on too many fronts and rather than create more enemies, the state should resolve the Balochistan issue once and for all.


Courtesy: Channel NewsAsia

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