By Francesca Marino
Nigel Adams, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development in the UK, has formally declared that they are aware of reports of mass graves in Khuzdar, Turbat, and Dera Bugti in Balochistan.
Adams made this remark while replying to questions raised by a British member of Parliament, Stephen Morgan, who is the Labour MP for Portsmouth South in England. The Labour MP raised the questions in Parliament after a delegation headed by Hakeem Wadhela, the president of Baloch National Movement UK Chapter, met twice with the MP and gave a detailed presentation about Balochistan.
Few words, sanitise and sterilised as only words can be; few words referring to one of the darkest chapters of the ongoing genocide in Balochistan:
At the end of January 2014, in fact, eight collective graves were discovered in Khuzdar, Tootak. A shepherd, leading his flock to pasture, saw human bones sticking out of the earth. He called the police, people started digging. They counted 169 bodies. The police, after sealing off the site and rush the people away, declared that there were only 15 bodies.
The same graves, mass graves filled with unidentified bodies, have been found in Dera Bugti and Sui, containing the remains of women and children too and confirming the fear that quite often the ‘missing people’ of Balochistan are killed and quickly buried in unnamed and unsigned graves. Unfortunately, the truth will never come to light. No one knows how many other mass tombs are there, or the number of nameless corpses buried in those hastily dug holes.
Because the reactions of the Army and government were emblematic once more; instead of investigating, the military intensified operations against the Baloch, bombing Dera Bugti, Mashkai, Awaran, Nisarabad, and Panjgur, using helicopter gunships and artillery. Entire neighbourhoods were reduced to rubble.
When the graves were uncovered, the police and the Army refused to let the small crowd that had gathered try to identify the bodies. They dispersed the onlookers, wielding their sticks. Interestingly, the graves were discovered not far from the residence of Shafique Mengal: A goon reputedly close to the intelligence services and the leader of one of the best-known groups used by the Army in dealing with both the nationalists and ordinary citizens.
Mengal’s organisation is openly affiliated to the intelligence services and the Frontier Corps, which use the group for work that is a little ‘dirtier’ than usual. It has been said that the Frontier Corps provided Mengal and his men with a present of a private prison complete with torture cells near Tootak.
Needless to say, after a mild wave of indignation, the story of the mass graves disappeared under a pall of silence. Faced with the concerned recommendations of a number of humanitarian organisations, the Pakistani government ‘commission of enquiry’ showed most eagerness not in establishing the truth but in exonerating the armed forces and secret services to the utmost of its ability.
The truth is that the system is rotten to its core. The commissioners empowered to make recommendations can be members of the very organisations they are asked to judge. In such cases, it is obviously in their interests to engage in cover-ups and negate the evidence.
Amnesty International stated: ” The Frontier Corps reportedly cordoned off the area surrounding the graves soon after their discovery, preventing civil society and the local community from monitoring activity at the gravesites. The Frontier Corps has also reportedly prevented some relatives of enforced disappearance victims from visiting a local hospital to inspect the recovered bodies to see if they could identify their missing relatives.”
“As far as Amnesty International is aware, no Frontier Corps or other security and intelligence service personnel have been brought to justice for their involvement in enforced disappearances or other human rights violations in Balochistan. The authorities also have a very poor record in bringing non-state suspects to justice, with criminal gangs and armed groups, some hostile to the state or engaged in hostilities in neighbouring Afghanistan, others targeting those considered anti-state or the minority Shi’a Muslim population, operating with virtual impunity,” it added.
Independent investigations, and even international humanitarian organisations’ access to the areas in question, are banned for ‘security reasons’; in truth, this is more for the security of the state’s institutions than that of its citizens.
Acknowledging the UK knows of the mass graves, the West knows, UN knows and the world not only do nothing about it but goes on selling arms to Pakistan, the same arms used against Baloch and other Pakistani citizens, means we are not just witnesses but also responsible for those unnamed bodies, for the plight of people of Baloch waiting for years their dear ones to come back. We are responsible for those graves, for those children. And partners in crime with Frontier Corps, Shafiq Mengal and people like him. Think about it, Mr Adams.
Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Balochistan Post or any of its editors.