Long live free and united Balochistan

Long live free and united Balochistan

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Editorial: Amnesty International’s Concerns

International human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (IE), has taken notice of the worsening situation in Balochistan in a recently issued statement. It has appealed to all parties involved in the conflict, including the government and the armed nationalist groups, to opt for a quick solution of the turmoil in order to avoid further violation of human rights in the gas-rich province.

In its statement, AI has demanded that the government of Pakistan “must” investigate the torture and killings of more than 40 Baloch leaders and political activists over the past four months. “Activists, politicians and student leaders are among those who have been targeted in enforced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests and cases of torture and other ill-treatment. The violence takes place against a backdrop of increasing political unrest and Pakistan army operations in Balochistan, south western Pakistan,” said the statement.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, was quoted in the statement saying that Islamabad must act immediately to provide justice for the growing list of atrocities in Balochistan. “Baloch political leaders and activists are clearly being targeted and the government must do much more to end this alarming trend,” he observed.

On its part, the government of Pakistan has, as usual, almost entirely rejected the AI report saying that no government department was involved in the killing of Baloch leaders and activists. Rehman Malik, the federal interior minister, said that law enforcement agencies took retaliated actions against the attackers but, according to him, had not targeted any common person. He suggested the Amnesty International to directly discuss the matters with the government to know the “reality” prior to issuing such statements.

For the people of Balochistan, the statement issued by the internationally reputed media watchdog is a blessing in disguise. The deteriorating state of human rights in Balochistan no longer gets attention even in the Pakistani national media. Human rights organizations have also failed to mediate between the government and the insurgents in order to ensure the release of the missing persons. The judiciary, after its restoration, has avoided addressing the issue of missing persons to avoid unnecessary skirmish with the military and its intelligence agencies. The civilian government in Quetta feels totally helpless and powerless before the powerful quarters while the federal government has already initiated a mild operation in the province which was announced by the interior minister and confirmed by provincial ministers on the floor of the Balochistan Assembly.

Currently, the Baloch nationalists are facing two types of grave challenges.

Firstly, target killing of all moderate nationalist leaders who still believe in parliamentary politics and demand provincial autonomy while living within the federation of Pakistan. Several top leaders of moderate parties like Balochistan National Party (BNP) and the National Party (NP), which are as unpopular with Islamabad as with disillusioned youth, have been target killed in the recent times.

Among others, Habib Jalib Baloch, BNP’s central secretary general and a former chairman of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) and another ex-chairman of the BSO, Maula Baksh Dashti, are the most prominent Baloch nationalist leaders who have been murdered this year. Underground organizations, such as the Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem and Sipa-e-Shudha-e-Balochistan, have been claiming responsibility for these murders. Baloch nationalists insist that these outfits are in fact the product of the government.

Secondly, dozens of political activists who were subjected to enforced disappearance, were killed and their dead bodies were thrown away on the roads and isolated places. When these activists went missing, some of the family members blamed the government for whisking them away while some other families also registered petitions with different courts. With the petitions still pending at the courts, the dead bodies of the political activists were received with severe marks of torture.

Islamabad should comply with the recommendations made by Amnesty International to uphold the credentials a democratic government requires to legitimize its existence. The PPP is in power in the province as well as in the center. It should take this as an opportunity to proceed for a political settlement of all outstanding issues. There is no shortcut to a solution for Balochistan which is a complex case of multiple challenges.


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