The recent killing of five individuals, three of whom have been identified as Baloch missing persons, by the Pakistani forces in Quetta has alarmed rights groups and activists. Many have raised concerns that such “gangster tactics” from the security forces have seen a sudden spike recently. They say that a new series of extrajudicial killings has begun, and it is not clear when this end will.
The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan claimed that it had killed five members of Baloch “pro-independence” groups in an armed confrontation in Quetta on August 11. The Balochistan Post investigated the incident and found that three of the slain individuals were actually Baloch missing persons who had been detained from different areas of Balochistan. The victims’ appearance – ragged clothes, long, dishevelled hair and an unkempt beard – are telltale signs of a person who has been kept in confinement for a long time.
The news of the incident spread like a wildfire on social media. Activists and rights groups came forward to further highlight the issue and raised concerns for the lives of thousands of Baloch missing persons. Mama Qadeer Baloch, the Vice Chairman for the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, said that the Baloch missing persons are being killed in fake encounters by the Pakistani forces. He said that the Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan has killed several missing persons and then thrown their dead bodies in the wilderness. In many cases, the dead bodies were identified by their family members and it was revealed that they had been missing for several months of years.
He encouraged the family members of Baloch missing persons to register the names of their loved ones in the VBMP records so that the organization can call for their safe release.
Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), a rights group advocating for several social reforms, raised concerns over the alleged fake encounter of missing persons by the Pakistani forces. In a thorough media statement, the committee said that the families of the Baloch missing persons, rights groups and human rights activists have religiously campaigned for an end to enforced disappearances and the safe release of missing persons. The premier of the country, federal and provincial ministers and even army officials have acknowledged their stance and promised to bring the issue to an end. But instead of releasing the Baloch missing persons, the Pakistani forces are killing them in fake encounters, the committee said.
BYC said that after the infamous ‘fake encounter’ of five Baloch missing persons in Quetta, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan claimed on August 25 that it had killed seven members of a Baloch “pro-independence” organization in an armed confrontation in Loralai. It was subsequently revealed that the victims were Baloch missing persons who were detained by the Pakistani forces and kept in confinement for months or years.
The committee said that it will organize and carry out campaigns to highlight the issue and hopefully put an end to this practice. BYC appealed to the families to register their missing loved ones or raise the issue of their disappearances on social media so that rights groups can identify them and call for their recovery. In the absence of such measures, it is possible that the missing persons might be killed in a fake encounter.
Baloch Yakjehti Committee announced that it will carry out a social media campaign with the hashtag #StopFakeEncounterOfBaloch and appealed to the general public to participate and raise their voice against this gruesome practice.
The Baloch Women Forum also took notice of the Quetta incident and said that the Pakistani forces are killing innocent Baloch missing persons every month in fake encounters. They said that the victims are then buried in unmarked graves and no procedure, like DNA testing, is being carried out to identify them.