Balochistan is a black hole for human rights violations

Ending insurgency requires removal of grievances

For the last seven and half decades, tens of thousands of Baloch have been killed, violating their right to live securely. The ongoing conflict between Baloch nationalists and government of Pakistan over the rule of Balochistan has resulted in the ill-treatment of people and human rights violations. There were insurgencies in the region time and again: 1948, 1958 to 1959, 1962 to 1965, 1973 to 1977. After the last four insurgencies, another nationalist movement began in the 2000s which has continued till date.

It is estimated that 4000 people were reportedly detained in the province only in the period of 2002 to 2005. Of these, only 200 were produced in court. However, the law enforcement agencies have been accused of massive human rights abuses in Balochistan by Human Rights Watch, with the disappearance of hundreds of activists. Sadly, 1102 people disappeared from the region only in 2008. A number of bodies were found on roadsides having been shot in the head.

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Baloch are usually tortured, abducted and their rights violated. Why is Balochistan a black hole of human rights violations? What are the motives that extremism in the society is so high? Are Baloch born to live under such conditions?

The human rights situations in Balochistan is appalling. The Pakistan government does not live up to its constitutional responsibilities though UN working groups make recommendations against human rights violations. The worst human rights violations take place in Balochistan that show how the state has failed to accommodate the socio-culture and grievances of the Baloch. People of Balochistan face human rights violations on a daily basis; people are eliminated from their land, their resources are extracted against their will, even people were removed from their houses for the sake of CPEC projects.

So, this is the province where human rights are in danger. This is the province where Baloch are routinely attacked, made to disappear and abducted. Meanwhile, it is too bad that the devastating consequences of human rights violations are apparent as Baloch are surviving on the edge of the stake. Multiple lives of the Baloch are targeted and claimed.

The above heart-rending situation of the Baloch is the worst and poisons the seeds slumbering beneath the soil, visible to the eye. They wait only for the right kind of rain to come before speedily blooming into a harvest of hate. This rain, in Balochistan’s regard, are insurgents. And now it is time to reap. Now it seems as if it were a norm for people of Balochistan to face human rights violations, especially those who are the most educated, well talented, skillful and intellectual.

In addition, the lives of ordinary Baloch are on a rollercoaster ride – the Baloch are repeatedly made to walk into dark walls. This serious issue has never been as simple as it is painted. It is the inability of the ruling party that Baloch are forcibly taken away, made to disappear, mistreated and killed. In essence, as far as Baloch are concerned, the authorities could do no right. Even after claiming lives of a great deal of people, there are demands that the province should be reviewed so that amendments could be made.

A life without violence is essential to health. This is just a slice of what Baloch are facing, if nothing is done, nobody can live in peace in the province. There are cries for help, all pleading to be saved from torments here, where a victim is turned into an oppressor, and targets of conspiracy into conspirators.

Although human rights are the basic rights and freedom that belong to every person in the world from birth until death, and are applied regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live, Baloch are still extrajudicially killed and disappeared by force. Though the basic rights are based on shared values, like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence, and though people have the right to express their own opinions, the right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state, the Baloch nation is deprived from all these rights.

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The pure land has the population of 12.34 million and there are an estimated 6.9 million Baloch in the country; unfortunately, they see tragic episodes of dismemberment of the country. A bird’s eye view of the history of the sufferings of the Baloch makes one understand why Balochistan is a simmering volcano today.

At the time of independence, Balochistan consisted of four princely states – Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan, and Makran. Balochistan was given two options; accession to India or accession to Pakistan. When they asked for the third option, they were disregarded. However, Balochistan was, as Khan of Kalat of the time Yar Ahmed Khan accepts in his biography, annexed to Pakistan on 28 March 1948. The Khan of Kalat was forced to sign the instrument of accession. It was agreed in the agreement that the province will have autonomy over all its affairs except defence, external affairs and communication which would be dealt with by the federal government, but this agreement, regretfully, remained a dead letter.

In 1954, the government merged all the four provinces into One Unit. Consequently, the Baloch protested against this scheme as it would create a Baloch identity crisis under the influence of the population of Punjab. Thus, violence erupted in the 1960s. Instead of diffusing the tension politically, President Ayub Khan deployed over 1000 troops in Balochistan to quell the upsurge. Such repressive behaviour towards Balochistan has led to threats till today.

On the other hand, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the government of Balochistan. He justified his action, maybe genuinely or as a ploy to teach a lesson to Baloch leaders who were bold to demand authority over their own provincial resources. Resultantly, protests started against this action of the federal government, and Bhutto sent 80,000 troops to crush the rebellion.

The exploitation of resources has made the Baloch resentful. Balochistan, being enriched in natural resources like gas, copper, gold and other reserves, has been exploited over the years. Natural gas, for example, was discovered in Sui in 1952, but this gas has never reached its own town of Sui. Even the provincial capital, Quetta, got gas connections in 1970, while it reached Lahore and Karachi by 1955. Sadly, even today, out of 34 districts, only 14 have access to natural gas.

Let alone this, 85 percent of the population has no access to safe drinking water, around 75 percent is deprived of access to electricity, 70 percent do not have access to education and 63 percent are living below the poverty line. This scenario shows that the rulers are not interested in Balochistan, but they are only interested in its land for its natural resources and strategic location.

To go deeper, Baloch have less representation in central bureaucracy and other federal government bodies. Hence, it can be inferred that Baloch have genuine grievances. Our rulers have never heeded to the sufferings and legal demands of the masses. Despite tackling the issues through negotiations, the authorities’ approach towards insurgents leads to destruction.

Recently, former CM Akhtar Mengal has highlighted six points that include: recovery of missing persons, implementation of National Action Plan, implementation of six percent quota for Balochistan in federal government, immediate repatriation of Afghan refugees, and construction of dams in the province to resolve the acute water crisis. To pacify Balochistan cauldron, and to resolve its decades old issues, the state should remove grievances of Baloch people, which may be a game changer for Baloch to bring peace to their province.

A life without violence is essential to health. This is just a slice of what Baloch are facing, if nothing is done, nobody can live in peace in the province. There are cries for help, all pleading to be saved from torments here, where a victim is turned into an oppressor, and targets of conspiracy into conspirators.

Needless to say, if authorities do not act upon the issues, there is no doubt all Baloch will have to raise their voices. For much of the violence occurring in Balochistan, the government has little choice but to implement law and review the province. It is heartening that police turn blind when it comes to human rights violations. The practical obstacles are so many, but by upholding the rights of people, governing bodies can act effectively on the issues.

It is hoped that those responsible for such reforms will take their duties honestly. What we need is strict implementation of law and a permanent solution to problems is the only way to come out of bygone era. Let’s hope that immediate steps will be taken to fulfill the commitment to protect and promote rights of people and ensure a safe environment.

Ayesha Peeral
Ayesha Peeral
The writer is a freelance columnist


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