Brussels, July 19, 2019:Ahead of Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and his delegation’s visit to the United States of America on 22nd July, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a letter to President Trump requesting his intervention in the deteriorating situation in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
Sixteen, cross-party, pan European MEPs signed the letter during this week’s European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, France. The MEPs highlighted the dire situation for the Baluch people stating that “The people of the province have legitimate grievances – they are relatively powerless against the State trying to silence them.”
The economy of Pakistan in recent years has been in decline leading to a debt ridden State. As such, the Government of Pakistan has become increasingly dependent on the resources extracted from the Baluch lands, and from the investments offered by others currently involved in the exploitation of the region, particularly China. The Chinese presence has brought further suppression as the Chinese organisations operating in the region have followed the lead of the Pakistani government and continually refused any form of dialogue with the Baluch people. The people of the region are not receiving any share of the financials gains from the ongoing mining and development.
For decades, the Baluch people have suffered under endless forms of harassment, torture and other manifestation of persecution at the hands of the Pakistani authorities, namely its government, its military, and intelligence services. The Pakistani government is known to operate a policy of kill and dump. The Pakistan Supreme Court has acknowledged the role of Pakistan security and intelligence agencies in forced disappearances. To address the international condemnation of this practice, Pakistan established a Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in 2011, which by March 2017 had identified 1,240 reported cases of missing people. No one has been prosecuted for these crimes to date.
The Baloch Human Rights Organization and Human Rights Council of Balochistan have established that in January 2019 alone there were 77 forced disappearances and 18 extra-judicial killings and 46 cases of enforced disappearances and 17 cases of killing reported in February. Due to the relentless campaigning of international and Baluch advocates, 36 illegally detained Baluch were released during the month, some of whom had been missing for upwards of 2 years. Forced disappearances also include children, women, and the elderly. The Pakistani government have yet to honour any the judgment from its own courts ordering DNA analysis of “beyond recognition bodies”.
The MEPs specifically highlighted that “since 1947, there have been no reports of any terrorist activities by any Baluchistan organisation. Indeed, they supported the US Army in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism.” The Parliamentarians acknowledged that there have been reports of Baluch organisations fighting against the Pakistani government to protect their lands, their assets and their families, but that all these cases were found to have been provoked by the Pakistani government.
The MEPs’ polite request for the President of the United States of America to intervene on this human rights crisis also contained the plea that the people of Baluchistan should not be labelled as terrorists. “The Baluch people believe they must fight to preserve their cultural identity, while striving for institutionalised legitimacy and recognition of their existence. They are not terrorists, and labelling them as such only amplifies the suffering of this situation.”
The European Parliamentarians were clear that their values aligned those of the United States where both parties condemn all forms of terrorism and both seek peace and stability in the Afghanistan- Pakistan region.