Sunday, April 5, 2020

UK Govt confirms it is aware of mass graves in Balochistan

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A senior Minister of United Kingdom has confirmed that their government is aware of reports of mass graves in different areas of Balochistan.

Nigel Adams, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development in UK, has said that they are aware of reports of mass graves in Khuzdar, Turbat and Dera Bugti in Balochistan.

Though not particularly mentioned but is believed UK Minister was referring to three mass graves with more than 100 bodies found in Tootak Khuzdar in early 2014. In later years further mass graves were found in Dera Bugti, Turbat and other areas of Balochistan.

Mr. Adams said that British Government regularly raises its concerns about human rights at the highest levels of the Government of Pakistan and added: “Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, raised concerns about human rights with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister in February 2020.”

He made the remarks earlier this week while replying to questions raised by a British member of Parliament, Mr 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.

Stephen Morgan meeting a delegation of Baloch National Movement in Feb 2020

Nigel Adams confirmed that UK is aware of concerning reports of restrictions on movement in Balochistan. The British Government strongly condemns the persecution of all minorities, including the targeting of people based on their ethnicity or beliefs.

Stephen Morgan asked Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that what steps the Government is taking to ensure that UK arms exports are not used in human rights violations in Balochistan.

To which Nigel Adams replied that the UK Govt does not issue export licences where we assess there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression. The Government keeps defence exports under careful and continual review and can suspend or revoke licences when necessary.

Stephen Morgan further questioned that what assessment Nigel Adams has made of the accuracy of allegations that British made arms have been used in human rights abuses in Balochistan.

Replying to the question, Nigel Adams said that All export licences are strictly assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of our assessment.

Stephen Morgan also raised the issue of restrictions alleged to have been placed by Pakistan on the activities of NGOs and aid organisations in the Balochistan region.

Nigel Adams replied: “We continue to monitor the ability for NGOs and aid organisations to operate. We have expressed our concern to the Government of Pakistan and continue to urge a clear and transparent process to ensure International NGOs can operate effectively in Pakistan or understand the reasons for their eviction.”

Balochistan, home to an armed struggle for an “independent Balochistan”, has witnessed alarming violations of human rights. US state department also raised grave concerns about the situation of human rights in its country report for 2019.

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