US state department’s report and Balochistan – TBP Editorial

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The US state department’s report on Human rights violations in Pakistan has extensively reported on Balochistan unlike Amnesty International’s annual report on the Asia Pacific where the rights organization seemed to have forgotten the existence of Balochistan and the violation of the rights taking place in it for decades now.

The US department of state often called the state department, which primarily handles the foreign affairs and policy of the country. The department also submits annual reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress.

The country report on Human rights practices for 2019 has reported extensively on human rights abuses in Pakistan. Although the report includes numerous issues across Pakistan but here are few issues highlighted in the report regarding Balochistan only.

The report consists of 7 major sections that have several sub-sections. Under the sub-section of ‘Enforced disappearances,’ the report has highlighted the case of Hani Gul Baloch and her fiancé Muhammad Naseem Baloch who both were abducted from Karachi by intelligence agencies.

Under the section of ‘Political Prisoners and Detainees,’ the report exclusively mentioned the situation in Balochistan and interestingly for the first time Baloch missing persons were called political prisoners rather than just Missing Persons.

The report read that general amnesty was announced in 2009 for non-state actors but despite the announcement, illegal detention and disappearances of Baloch political leaders and citizens continued. The report also mentioned that their contacts have reported an escalation in the number of abductions in Balochistan. Naming ‘Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’, as a reference, the report read that the NGO denied the claim of govt. releasing 200 missing persons, but the number was only 100 between January to June 2019.

The report further mentioned an extension of military and police to previously ungoverned areas in Balochistan and stated that the operations have become a norm in the province.

The other issues that were mentioned and condemned in the report were the killing of polio workers in Balochistan, curbs on freedom of speech, especially mentioned the blocking of websites that promote Balochistan’s independence. It also condemned the government for not allowing NGOs to work in Balochistan and denying NOC(No objection certificates) to travel to some parts of Balochistan.

The report also highlighted the issue of political parties and student organizations (Naming BNP and BSO) being harassed and threatened by intelligence agencies in Balochistan. At the end of the report, the ghettoization of the Hazara community in Quetta was also highlighted.

In other sections, on the front of forced labour, the report highlighted the bonded labour and child labour in the coal fields of Balochsitan. Even though the human rights situation in Balochistan is far worse than mentioned in the said report, nevertheless highlighting of worsening human rights situation in Balochistan by an authentic voice such as The US state department is a welcoming step towards the right direction.

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