Baloch social and political activists ran a campaign on social media on Thursday, demanding an end to death squads in Balochistan. Thousands took to Twitter and other social media platforms, expressing their concerns and fears and recollecting how the gruesome practice has personally affected them. The campaign hashtag #EliminateStateDeathSquads dominated the trending page for hours.
According to Baloch nationalists, death squads are state-backed local militias created and controlled by the Pakistani military and used to do its bidding in Balochistan. Their primary goal is prying on Baloch “pro-independence” commanders and leaders and denouncing them to the military and assisting the Pakistani security forces in raids in various areas in Balochistan. To reciprocate for their espionage, the Pakistani authorities have given them a free hand in Balochistan: these militias are involved in a myriad of social ills, like robberies, drug trafficking, ransom kidnapping and so on.
The anti-death squad social media campaign was announced a few days earlier. Scores of activists, journalists, social workers and politicians took to the social media, each relating their personal tragedy and demanding an end to the practice. Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Chairman of BNP-Mengal, said in a tweet: “Under which law are you permitted to kill innocent citizens if you carry a flag of Pakistan? Does carrying a flag make you a die hard patriot? Death squads have been killing thousands and they get away with murder just to justify it with a flag. #EliminateStateDeathSquads.”
Dr Nawab Baloch, Chairman of the Baloch Student Action Committee and a respected voice in student circles, also participated in the campaign, saying: “Majority of population in Balochistan is insecure due to presence of death squad. They can openly kill , rob and torture anyone. #EliminateStateDeathSquads.”
Nimra Baloch of the Baloch Student Organization shared a related news report on Twitter, saying that the death squads are used to silence the voices against oppression. “They are responsible for missing over loved ones and Voices against oppression in Balochistan are silenced by these Death Squad commandos. #EliminateStateDeathSquads”, she tweeted.
Baloch “pro-independence” leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch also participated in the social media campaign. In a series of tweets, he asked the United Nations and other global rights organizations to take notice of this grim practise in Balochistan. He called the South Asia Press investigative report an “eye opener for the world.”
Referring to the death squads, he said that the Pakistani military has been using “mercenaries” against the Baloch freedom movement since the beginning. He said that these militias have ended thousands of innocent lives, and the state is no reshaping them into political entities.
“The puppet government of Balochistan has supported these mercenaries. They are killing and disappearing able-bodied Baloch youth in particular”, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said, referring to the army-backed Balochistan Awami Party that rules Balochistan now.