Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur’s speech at the Conference on
“Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Asia: Building solidarity, breaking barriers”
Convened by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Islamabad on 2nd and 3rd February 2015 at Hotel Ramada.
“Enforced and Involuntary disappearances in Asia”, thanks to ICJ (International Commission of Jurists) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that this conference is being convened.
I thank them all. I thank Asad Jamal Sahib and my fellow penalers.
“Building solidarity and breaking barriers”: building solidarity isn’t easy, it is difficult but I think breaking barriers will be much more difficult.
But as a poet said, “If we choose easy ways we will never be able to do that.”
There is a Urdu verse that:
“Too khush ke tujhay haasil, main khush ki meray hissay main naheen Woh kaam jo aasaan hotay hain who jalway jo arzaan jotay hain”
“Some very content with the transitory glamour and the easy task, Me glad that these neither are in my share nor for them do I ask.”
So, if we choose easy ways we will never be able to reach there.
The title of my talk is:
‘Invisible Crimes and the Blanket of Silence’
‘Enforced Disappearances’ in Balochistan are an unmitigated tragedy because there is no hope for justice for the victims or their relatives and it is compounded by the fact that the media and civil society in general tend to overlook these crimes against humanity. The state exploits this apathy and continues to play havoc with Baloch lives. More tragically the increasing number of Baloch victims of enforced disappearances has seen ever decreasing condemnation by civil society and the media. Mentioning the atrocities being committed in Balochistan is taboo, a blanket of silence has spread; anathema even for the civil society because the Baloch fed up with sixty (six) years of injustices now demand freedom. The crimes against humanity in Balochistan are being deliberately ignored.A German poet Bertolt Brecht’s 1935 poem “When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain” will help to put this, what is happening in Balochistan and how it is being ignored into proper perspective:
“Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood, but speaks another language. They do not understand him.
Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at the door where he has four times been given something: the fifth time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.
The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
(That’s exactly what has happened in Balochistan.)
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!
‘When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like summer rain.”
This is exactly how it is in Balochistan today.
Sadly now the crimes there have become invisible and no one shouts ‘stop’ to end the butchery there and those who do go unheard. However, there is an ancient Greek quote, it asks, “When will there be justice in Athens?” The answer is, “There will be justice in Athens when the uninjured are as outraged as the injured.”
And this is not happening here. And we are a long way from that.
Until the uninjured are as outraged as the injured, there can be no justice here.
Enforced disappearances in Balochistan aren’t a bolt from blue; these have been used to crush legitimate Baloch struggle for rights and became the norm since the first widespread resistance to Pakistan’s injustices in 1973 and have intensified recently. The reason that this policy has been used so very violently and indiscriminately against Baloch is the total immunity and the culture of impunity that prevails and the perpetrators enjoy complete immunity; not even a single perpetrator had been charged leave alone prosecuted. There has been a conspiracy of silence and cover-ups by state institutions in expectation that the Baloch resistance can be broken with brute force. And they are sadly mistaken.
However they have misread Baloch resilience. Although enforced disappearances victims’ number according to Mama Qadeer the Vice Chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) is now over to 20000 and that of victims of ‘kill and dump policy’ exceeds 2000 yet the Baloch continue to struggle. And they will continue to struggle until they reach their final goal. These figures are often disputed but the fact is that even a single disappeared person is one too many. It is not the number that counts it is the injustice of disappearing people. I personally knew 23 persons among the 2000 plus killed; and most of them were my students when we lived as refugees in Afghanistan from 1978-1991. Among the missing are five of my friends.
There is personal involvement for me due to this reason and every Baloch missed or goes missing or even if any person goes missing anywhere be it in Sri Lanka, Nepal or anywhere in the world I think we should all stand up for that. Without that, only limiting ourselves to our own relations and our relatives and our people will be unjust.
The practice of organized disappearances came in wake of the 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh where there was carnage and no one was held responsible. And began during the 1973-1977 military operations in Balochistan. These recent enforced disappearances are not a recent phenomenon although they sever now.
Asadullah Mengal son of Ataullah Mengal the former Chief Minister of Balochistan was abducted along with his friend Ahmed Shah Kurd from Karachi on February 6th 1974 and their fate remains a mystery. In January1975 my friend, my comrade Duleep Dass aka Johnny son of retired Air Commodore Balwant Dass travelling from Sibi to Karachi with Sher Ali Marri was picked up near Belpat by army and never heard of again. During that time my Marri friends Ali Dost, Bahar Khan, Shafi Mohammad and Allah Bakhsh too were disappeared and they were never heard of again.
For Pakistan the Conventions and Protocols on human rights are not even worth the paper they are written on; Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture on June 3, 2010 but continues the barbaric inhuman treatment of persons in its custody. The ‘Kill and Dump’ policy continues unabated. Despite efforts by the Amnesty International and others Pakistan has neither signed nor ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED) which came into force on December 23, 2010.
This disconcertingly indifferent attitude towards international conventions on Human Rights pinpoints a deeper pathological moral irresponsibility afflicting an establishment that pursues torture and brute force as the only measure to deal with dissent. Pakistan willfully ignores all laws and conventions which can in anyway hinder its ‘dirty war’ in Balochistan and has given itself blanket immunity so that it can impose its unjust and illegal will on people without ever answering for its crimes. This makes protection of rights of people in Balochistan impossible.
The Pakistani Supreme Court (SC) had nearly a hundred hearings on the issue of missing persons; it was long on rhetoric but pathetically short on action. The IG (Inspector General) FC (Frontier Corps) refused to appear in the hearings but nothing happened. Nobody could ever call him. During a Quetta Registry hearing the Chief Justice said that Frontier Corps is accused of picking up every third missing person but yet no action was taken by the Supreme Court.
Surprisingly in June 2013 the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) recommended filing criminal cases against 117 officials of law enforcement agencies allegedly involved in missing persons’(cases) but no action followed. More than a hundred bodies were found in Tutak. A judicial commission was formed to investigate it. And it came up with the finding that nobody is responsible for it; as if those bodies rained from the sky and nobody was responsible for that. Commissions here are formed to cover-up whatever crimes the state commits.
How the institutions react to all efforts which are taken by international organizations, or the organizations here for protection of human rights. You’ll get an idea that when the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) came here in September (2012). Even the Chief Justice did not meet him claiming that it was a matter sub judice. So, they cannot afford to meet him.
A PML-Q member in National Assembly said that, “if you allow these organizations to come here they will put up a case for Balochistan and then Baloch will get the idea to break Pakistan.”
Even a so called democrat Senator Raza Rabbani while chairing the Parliamentary Committee of National Security in Senate said that “No group should ever be allowed in future to come here.”
Now imagine if nobody is allowed to come here to even observe what is happening how do we get justice? This decision ensured that UN human rights missions would be able to visit here.
Under all these lame excuses they continue to do this. And whenever the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International or HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) publish reports the Pakistani Army dismisses them as pack of lies. These are not accepted by anybody. They are considered as a pack of lies that whatever efforts they put into investigate all this is simply doesn’t mean anything to them.
And about protecting the Baloch rights by the Balochistan government in Balochistan is indeed pathetic because that government for its own survival aids and abets in the crimes against humanity in Balochistan. The myth that they represent the will of people is exposed by the fact that Dr. Malik won his Kech seat with only 4539 votes of the total number of 74000 plus votes that were in that constituency. The Deputy Speaker Qudoos Bezinjo from his seat in Awaran won with only 544 votes; a mere 1.18% votes were casted in that constituency. They can’t be the representatives of all the people because then those elections were boycotted by the people on call of Baloch Sarmachars who have called knowing that nothing would happen they had boycotted the elections.
It is indeed sad that the media which could play a positive role in curbing all these human rights violations doesn’t play its role except for the few exceptions. There is a Malcolm X quote; he says that, “If you’re not careful, newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” That is exactly what is happening. Baloch are branded as traitors because they demand freedom. And it is then all justified to kill and dump them and throw them away any way they want. I would like to say that I support Balochistan’s independence.
In Balochistan the human rights abuses increase in proportion to the insecurity that state feels in Balochistan. And this isn’t something, the crimes there aren’t random; it is organized crime. Even a whiff of suspicion about a person is a death warrant for him. People are picked up, and when dumped with slips of paper in their pockets naming them and now they don’t that as well. Now they just disappear them with nobody knowing what their fate is.
The relatives of the missing persons, the agony they undergo, they have been protesting peacefully. Mama Qadeer with Farzana Majeed and some ladies of the affected families and young children. They walked for 3000 kilometers in 106 days. Nobody paid attention to them. They were harassed on the way and even those people who put them up were harassed. So that is how it is.
But if you want to get an idea what the relatives feel I think Mohammad Hanif Sahib’s HRCP published booklet “The Baloch who is not missing and others who are” will give you an idea. And as a personal experience whenever I go to Duleep Das’s 92 years old mother the first question she asks me is, “How is my Johny?” She doesn’t still believe that his son died. So, there is no closure for the person whose relatives go missing. It is a tragedy that Pakistan doesn’t seem to learn. It didn’t learn from Bangladesh, it isn’t learning here. It continues with its brute force policy against the Baloch and the Baloch keep resisting and they will keep resisting. But this has to end. This should end. But it is a far cry because they don’t listen to us.
Longfellow translated a German poet, he says,
“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness He grinds all.”
So they will be ground, we will get justice by achieving our freedom.