Enforced Disappearances continue unabated in Balochistan, confirms HRCP

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Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its annual report for 2019 has confirmed that enforced disappearances continue unabated in Balochistan.

According to details, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has released its annual report for the year 2019. TBP has analysed the report, which extensively explores the human rights abuses in Balochistan, outlines the government’s setbacks in this regard and offers multiple directives to curb the ongoing human rights issues.
 
The report surveys major human rights abuses in Balochistan like the enforced disappearances, the kill-and-dumps, violence caused by “state and non-state actors”, curtailed freedom of expression and the poor health and education standards.
 
“Enforced disappearances are perceived to be the biggest issue in Balochistan. Incidents of disappearance continued unabated and, in most cases, victims’ families are afraid of communicating their cases to the authorities”, the report highlighted. The Voice for Missing Baloch Persons, an organization actively working for the recovery of missing Baloch persons, has been protesting in front of the Quetta press club for 10 years. In early 2019, the VMBP halted its protest for two months after the CM of Balochistan promised to take the required measures and retrieve the missing persons. According to the report, the chairperson for VMBP handed over a list of 365 disappearances – a number disputed among the authorities and the protesters – to the CM and hoped that the “kill-and-dumps” will be stopped. The protest was re-initiated the very next day when the activists claimed that the authorities had reneged and, instead of recovery, more people had disappeared. Mama Qadeer of the VMBP had opened up to the HRCP that roughly 470000 Baloch and 35000 Pashtuns were missing from Balochistan.
 
The VMBP had also claimed that that, “number of people disappeared per month outnumber those returned.” The HRCP “fact-finding” mission also found that, despite the promises by the authorities, the enforced disappearances are continuing unabated. Recounting the arrest of four women on the accusation of supplying arms and munitions to separatists in Awaran, the report stated that the “State officials are now accused of extending arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to include women.”
 
“kill-and-dump” has also been a major human rights problem in Balochistan. Following enforced disappearances, the detainees are often killed and their dead bodies are thrown at anonymous locations. These bodies mostly bear scars which hints that they are subjected to various degrees of torture before being killed. Commenting on this issue, the report states that, “Balochistan Human Rights Organisation (BHRO) reported that several tortured and decomposed bodies were still being found in Balochistan.” Akhtar Mengal – the chairman of BNP-Mengal and the opposition leader in the Balochistan assembly – had claimed in the National assembly of Pakistan that “22 such bodies had been buried by Edhi without any effort being made to identify them.” The VMBP had also acknowledged that, after the negotiations with the authorities, the number of discovered corpses had “reduced significantly” in early 2019.
 
In 2018, the report continues, a six-point agreement between the PTI-led government and BNP-Mengal had been signed. This agreement included the “the ending of all overt and covert military operations; the production of all missing persons; the disbanding of all proxy death squads created by the ISI and MI; and free political play without interference for Baloch nationalist parties.” Despite the agreement, disappearances and kill-and-dumps continued as usual and attracted a lot of criticism to the federal government. Akhtar Mengal also raised voice in the NA and accused PTI of “failing to implement the Six Points”. Responding to the accusation, the HR minister of Pakistan, Shireen Mazari, expressed that “some forces” were creating “impediments” and did not wish to “change the old course”. The army operations are also commonplace in Balochistan. Security forces sweep across villages, subject the denizens to “physical force” and arbitrarily penalise whole villages for “a random shot fired from its direction.” The report also criticised Balochistan’s incumbent CM, Kamal Khan Alyani, for his inability to “prioritise human rights abuses” as he had refused to meet the HRCP’s “fact-finding” mission.
 
The report also claims that “Baloch separatists” and the “Islamists” are the actors in non-state violence. The Islamists have launched multiple attacks across Balochistan; mostly targeting the Hazara community. These non-state actors have organized numerous minor and major attacks that have resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
 
The report also heavily castigates the inadequate state response to the security issues in Balochistan. Despite the high militarization and policing, the state seems to “prioritise the protection of state assets” to “the people in Balochistan.”
 
“Balochistan’s Right to Information laws are considered the weakest in the country”, the report states. There have been attempts to replace the current “Freedom of Information Act” with a new law. The report also claims that the existing law offers vague definitions for “information”. It also directs that any “harmful” information regarding the LEAs must not be shared. Further, the extreme censorship on media has also hindered the reporting of issues like enforced disappearances and kill-and-dumps. The report also mentions that “it is not possible to criticise the security forces in Balochistan” as the consequences still remain “harsher”. Information regarding CPEC is also withheld as its propagation is considered an issue of “national security”. Internet is also routinely cut off in Balochistan for “security reasons”; political dissidents, activists and journalists are constantly targeted with the “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act”.
 
In 2019, the report continues, protests and rallies were organized by the young doctors in Balochistan to address the basic problems, but to no avail. With no “financial” and “administrative” powers, the conditions of Hospitals are deteriorating. Malnutrition, polio, HIV, dengue, hepatitis and congo virus are the major healthcare issues in Balochistan. “Balochistan has the lowest vaccination coverage in Pakistan”, the report claims. Furthermore, the government has also allocated 3.41 billion PKR in funds for the construction of emergency medical centres on National Highway. This measure aims to reduce the fatality rate of road accidents on the narrow highway. An additional 438 million were also allocated for the treatment of the “underprivileged” people in best hospitals of Pakistan.
 
The report also acknowledges that “Education is always claimed to be a high priority issue in Balochistan”. Despite this obvious problem, no initiatives have been taken to improve education standards. The government had also promised to upgrade 80 model and high schools and re-open 1800 additional non-functioning schools. There is no evidence that these promises came to fruition. “Ghost teachers” – those drawing full salaries without any duty – are also a major problem in Balochistan. Many such teachers were sacked and a few were re-enacted throughout the year. The report also criticises the lack of adequate action in the UOB scandal, where the university staff had used the CCTV footages of female students in “compromising situations” to extort “financial” and “sexual favours”. There have been few notable positive developments in the education sector like the allocation of 4 billion rupees for the renovation of institutions; construction and funding of a school with Chinese assistance in Gadani; allocation of 200 million rupees to provide basic facilities in schools and the official banning of corporal punishments.
 
The report also highlights the insufficiencies in various other areas as well. The sectarian and religious violence against minorities; the curtailed freedom of women in work and educational institution; forced displacements; extrajudicial torture in prisons; thousands of pending legal cases; CNIC closures on petty charges; indecent child labour conditions in Coal mines; land grabbing and water scarcity are few notable issues.

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