Author: Hakeem Wadhela
On August 25th, Counter Terrorism Department, a Pakistani force, claimed that it has killed seven fighters of Balochistan Liberation Front in a clash. CTD claimed that the armed men were planning to carry out an attack when they were intercepted and killed.
This was not the first incident of its kind where CTD had claimed killing “members of the armed group”. On August 12 CTD claimed that they had killed 5 members of the Baloch Liberation Army.
In Pakistani mainstream media these encounters are portrayed as a big achievements of CTD, but the ground realities say otherwise.
Activities of CTD have been criticized by the Baloch rights groups who say that people mainly targeted in these operations have been identified as previously abducted persons.
Three of the five individuals killed by CTD on August 12th were identified as previously abducted persons. Jameel s/o Muhammad Hussain, Shoaib s/o Atta Muhammad and Khan Mohammad were among the five individuals that the CTD had killed in an alleged firefight in Quetta.
Family members and local sources told The Balochistan Post, a local media outlet, “that the said individuals were detained by the Pakistani security forces.”
Jameel was picked up by the forces from Panjgoor in March 2021.
Shoaib, also a native of Panjgur, worked as a laborer in the United Arab Emirates. He was returning home for vacation when his journey was cut short at the Karachi Airport, where he was “abducted” by the Pakistani forces.
Khan Muhammad was reportedly detained by the Pakistani forces from Panjgoor two years ago.
Mana Qadeer, Leader of the Voice For Baloch Missing Persons in a media statement said that the innocent Baloch civilians are being “forcibly disappeared” and then handed over to the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), which then systemically executes these missing persons and later claims that they were killed in a confrontation.
In the last couple of years CTD has reportedly killed scores of Baloch missing persons in fake encounters, only in August 2021, CTD itself claimed killing of 12 individuals in two different incidents.
No evidence of the targeted individuals being involved in any kind of violence or firefight have been provided by the CTD.
Baloch National Movement, a political party struggling for the freedom of Balochistan have called such actions as collective punishment of Baloch people. Living in exile, leading BNM internationally, Dr Naseem Baloch shared his opinion on the issue saying that “these encounters are a failed tactic of security forces to hide their crimes. For the disappeared persons, earlier, they claimed that they have fled the country, or they are in mountains. Obviously, no one believed such false statements of them. By this, again, they cannot hide the crime of disappearance.”
Dr Naseem believes that the situation has never changed in Balochistan since March 1948. It has only gotten worse. “The situation has not changed since the occupation. It is always worse. Pakistani policies of oppression are continued unabated.”
Responding to a question whether these fake encounters are the newest form of kill & dump policy?
He replied, “for me, it is the massacre of Baloch people; be it fake encounters, target killings, kill and dump, or custodial murder, their aim is to crush the Baloch nation.”
Commenting on the impacts of these fake encounters Dr Naseem elaborated that “Pakistan wants to crush the Baloch liberation struggle by brutal tactics. She wants to spread terror and fear. But the Baloch nation has proved that they cannot withdraw after such policies.”
He also pointed out that many people have started registering cases of their missing loved ones saying that “they (families of missing persons) have come to know that if they keep silent after threats from the Pakistani military and its death squads, then their loved ones will be killed in silence and named as encounter.”
According to Dr Naseem “another impact, is an acceptance of responsibility by Pakistan because earlier the state was of the view that it has nothing to do with disappearances. Now the narrative of relatives of missing persons and record list of missing persons is evidence that these encounters are fake, and victims are forcibly disappeared Baloch people.”
Dr Naseem also stressed that “we can get more evidence for the world to show.”
Human rights council of Balochistan, a rights group working internationally for the Human rights of Balochistan and also campaigning for the safety of the Baloch missing persons demanded a judicial investigation into all the operations of police’s Counter Terrorism department, saying that “fake arrests and fake encounters of missing persons seems to be a new pattern.”
Representative of the said organisation Abdullah Abbas Baloch working on the cases of the abducted persons calling these encounters a “matter of grave concern” said “as human rights organization, it is a matter of grave concern that a UNHRC member state forcibly disappears political activists, denies them basic right of fair trial, keeps them incommunicado detention for years and later kills them in fake encounters. It should also concern other human rights organizations, particularly the UN.”
Responding to the question of why the CTD is targeting previously abducted persons and the silence of mainstream media and judiciary Mr Abbas said “the forces cannot hide anymore their involvement in enforced disappearances in Balochistan and other areas in Pakistan, so they are trying to shield it using CTD as frontline force to give it a legal backing. As far as the media and judiciary is concerned, I have mentioned it on several occasions that the entire state machinery is involved in this crime by turning a blind eye towards the actions of military and their responsibility.
Unfortunately, the judiciary has also failed to provide justice to the victims. However, I encourage the families of victims of fake encounters to file murder cases against CTD officers.”
While asked about the role of HRCB to highlight the issues internationally and how the Pakistani deep state could be pressurized to prevent these fake encounters he said that “I have written a report on CTD fake encounters, we have sent the report and other updates related to this particular issue to all the concerned organizations. Moreover, I expect the UN to question Pakistan about killing missing persons in fake encounters and other continuing HR violations in her upcoming Universal Periodic Review.”
Abdullah Abbas also requested all the families whose loved ones are abducted by forces to file their cases. Saying that “It is the only way to save them and bring the perpetrators to justice through international remedies.”
CTD’s operations are concerning and suppression of the issue from the mainstream has once again left the families of the victims in darkness. The Pakistani deep state has always tried to suppress Baloch voices with extreme measures and violence, to keep them away from their demands for their rights and freedom.
Unfortunately, the Pakistani media and judiciary have failed the families of the Baloch missing persons on many occasions, and there is not much hope from these organisations or from the government to ensure that the families of the victims get justice, or these fake encounters are prevented.
To prevent these encounters from happening, families of the victims and Baloch nation must record their protest and make sure that their voice is heard and those responsible for the killings of their loved ones are punished and CTD is fully dismantled in Balochistan. Otherwise, such operations will carry on and many more innocent people will become victims of these “encounter specialists”.
Hakeem Wadhela is president of Baloch National Movement UK-Zone and a freelance journalist. He tweets at @HakeemWadhela