The Human Rights Council of Balochistan (HRCB), an NGO based in France and Sweden, recently published a Bi-annual report titled 2019 Balochistan: The State of Human Rights. This report was published one week after the HRCB had issued a message of appreciation to Members of the European Parliament for “raising the issue of an ethnic cleansing in Balochistan” and hoped that “the civilized world would take steps to bound Pakistan of the instruments it has signed/ratified”.
It is a chilling read. In just six months, 371 people have disappeared and 158 have been killed across 6 districts of Balochistan. Thousands of people have gone missing from the region since the early 2000’s, and hundreds of those who have disappeared are often found later, dead on a roadside. The Pakistani government is known to operate a policy of kill and dump in Balochistan. On the 8th of January 2019, ten bodies that were decomposed ‘beyond recognition’ were brought for burial by the Edhi foundation to Teramil Graveyard, Dasht. These bodies were buried without DNA analysis despite the fact that the Pakistani courts have ordered DNA analysis of all “beyond recognition bodies”.
The Balochistan region is under the control of Pakistan’s military and has become a battlefield between security forces and armed groups, including hard line nationalists. In 2014, three mass graves were discovered containing more than one hundred bodies, in Tootak, Khuzar and another was discovered in July 2018, in Panjgur. Some bodies in the mass graves bore signs of torture. Unlike most war zones, this region is inaccessible for both Pakistani and foreign media, and the stories of the oppressed Baluchi people has no way to be shared with the rest of the country, and the world.
The tortured body of an 8-year-old child was found dumped in a sewage line in Pashin on the 6th of March. According to the police, the body bore clear marks of torture. During March 2019, sixty people were forcibly disappeared by security forces, fifteen were shot dead and seventeen unidentified bodies were recovered. The abductions include women and children, particularly those who are related to campaigners and political workers. These people are often taken from their homes by the military and kept in isolation for weeks, sometimes even months. They are then moved to illegal detention centres, run that by death squads, but supervised and sponsored by the military. These cases came into light in April 2018, after a woman named Naz Gul, who was five months pregnant at the time of her detention, died in one of the illegal detention centres after repeatedly being denied medical assistance for pregnancy-related complications.
A well-known Balochi writer and author of five books Nazar Mohammad was abducted by security forces on the 5th of March, 2019. He is a serving sergeant in the Royal Oman Army, in Sultanate of Oman. He was on his vacation and reached Turbat on the 26th of January, 2019, to spend his vacation with his family and friends, and was supposed to resume duty on the 20th of March. His whereabouts since his abduction are still unknown.
Lucrative access and resource agreements exclude the Baluch people from the rightful ownership of their assets. The construction of the Gwadar deep sea port and road infrastructure between Gwadar to Kashghar, in China, part of the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has resulted in untold human rights abuses that the Baloch people liken to “ethnic cleaning”. The Pakistani military has used a heavy hand to seize the resources of Baluchistan for itself and its cronies, especially its oil, gas and rare earth metals. Additionally, the Pakistan military regularly carries out strategic military exercises in the region, including nuclear testing and storage. Villages that block any proposed route are burnt to ashes and the people forcefully removed. It is generally believed that the military of Pakistan is beyond the accountability, and cannot be controlled by any civilian institution, including the Pakistan Parliament and judiciary.
Protests, campaigns and calls for local justice and international support has had little effect. Women and children set up a protest camp in front of Quetta press club, in the capital city of the province in 2009, and have maintained their vigil even to this day, such is the resilience of the Baloch people in fighting for their justice. In January 2019, 70 previously missing people were released due to the pressure from the families of missing people’ , but these families are also exhausted from a seemingly unending series of protests and visits to the courts, which bring few, if any, results.
Hundreds of thousands of Baluch people are displaced daily due to continuous military operations. These internally displaced persons are living without shelter in the harsh weather of Balochistan, often without food and drinking water. Many others have fled to Afghanistan and Iran living a similarly miserable life. No humanitarian organization has proffered any aid thus far, or has published registers of these displaced, war-effected, people. Millions of people are suffering. The issue of forced disappearances and missing people, and the extra judicial killings, must be investigated. There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid to be provided to the hundreds of thousands of people being displaced by this war. Pakistan is a recipient of the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+). As such, the European Commission has a responsibility to monitor and evaluate the situation across the whole of Pakistan and ensure that Pakistan is complying with the obligations of the 27 international core conventions, including those on human rights. Ironically, the European Commission has not visited Balochistan. This oversight speaks to the Commission’s failing in their responsibility to tax payers, as well as failing the people of Balochistan, by allowing these human rights abuses to continue.