Balochistan: Mystery Of The Missing Masses By Anurag Tripath

“There was no difference between a human being and animals in Balochistan where mutilated bodies were found on a daily basis.” – Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on April 6, 2012

Balochistan: Mystery of the missing masses By Anurag Tripath

“There was no difference between a human being and animals in Balochistan where mutilated bodies were found on a daily basis.” – Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on April 6, 2012

On July 4, 2014, Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department sources said that over 800 bodies were found in the southwestern Pakistani province during last three-and-a-half years, with most of them being found in Quetta, Khuzdar and Makran belt. The sources said that 466 victims were identified as ethnic Baloch, 123 as Pashtuns, and 107 from other ethnicities. Meanwhile, the Home Department sources explained that 107 bodies remained unidentified. Of the 466 Baloch killed in the province, most were political workers while the remaining were killed in incidents of targeted attacks, tribal disputes, domestic violence etc.

According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), up to 18,500 people of Balochistan have been missing since 2000, and of them data on 14,000 have been documented by the VBMP. VBMP claimed that during the Pervez Musharraf era (1999-2007), 4,000 Baloch went missing. The number increased to 18,500 during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government (2008-13), and the present Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government. The VBMP has shared data on 14,000 missing people with courts and United Nation agencies.

On Feb 1, 2014, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the issue following a statement by the Chairman of the VBMP Nasrullah Baloch, who had claimed that around 100 bodies had been recovered from mass graves in Khuzdar district, and among them three had been identified as missing persons.

In December 2013, Nasrullah Baloch alleged that 161 Baloch political workers had been subjected to extra-judicial killings in different parts of Balochistan in 2013, and that “Secret services picked up 510 Baloch political workers.”

Highlighting the perpetual danger, Nasrullah Baloch had writing about it earlier on July 11, 2012 said: “Every day Frontier Corps and secret agencies kidnap political workers in broad daylight and keep them in their illegal torture cells, and then we receive their bullet-riddled, mutilated dead bodies.”

Significantly, the Supreme Court has been hearing the Balochistan missing people case since 2012 and has already reprimanded the government for its failure to comply with its order on several occasions. At times, the government has pleaded helplessness in the matter.

Crucially, on Jan 30, 2014, the Balochistan Provincial Government conceded before the Supreme Court that it was handicapped in recovering missing Baloch persons, because it had no effective control over the Frontier Corps (FC), which was accused of ‘detaining’ these persons. A year ago, in March 2013, the Commission on the Inquiry of Enforced Disappearances, a government-sponsored judicial commission, admitted that total number of missing person cases stood at 621 at that time. However, Nasrullah Baloch, dismissed the figure: “Absolutely wrong figures. 621? Not at all. 23,000 is the number of registered cases. From this, a whole 14,000 came during the current government’s tenure.”

Abduction and extrajudicial killings has become the order of the day in the province. The disappearances and killings are widely believed to be orchestrated by Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies, particularly including the Frontier Corps and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), or by their proxies, particularly the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).

Interestingly, the Balochistan government on Dec 30, 2013, evolved a “smart and effective security policy”. Under the new policy, the operation would begin against the Baloch parties; such as Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA), Baloch United Liberation Front and Baloch Liberation Front. Significantly, Islamist terrorist formations find no mention in this listing, though they are responsible for the greater proportion of attributable attacks and killings in Balochistan.

However, contradicting his Home Minister’s implied allegation, as well as Islamabad’s standard rhetoric about India’s role in the troubles in Balochistan, on Oct 20, 2013, the Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch stated that he had no evidence of alleged Indian involvement in the volatile region.

Baloch had expressed the same view earlier in London, that the Pakistani establishment was responsible for the deteriorating situation in Balochistan and for pursuing ‘flawed policies’.

Anger among Baloch nationals continues to mount, both as a result of the continuing neglect of the province and the relentless campaign of ‘disappearances’ inflicted on dissidents by the state’s forces and covert agencies. The rebels continued to carry out attacks overwhelmingly targeting the economic infrastructure in the province, mainly gas pipelines, power pylons and railway tracks.

While Islamabad continues to ignore the ground reality in the province, the security forces remain preoccupied with their “kill and dump” operations. The Baloch separatist sentiment is hardening in the wake of continued state neglect and intensifying atrocities and disappearances engineered by the state and its agencies.

Meanwhile, Islamabad’s policy of appeasing Islamist extremists while suppressing the genuine demands of the Baloch people by raising the bogey of the ‘foreign hand’ continues to wreak devastation in the province. Conspicuously, Islamabad’s strategy of supporting armed fundamentalist formations and other violent proxies, to compound military and covert intelligence campaigns, indicate that the crisis in Balochistan is set to linger on for an indefinite period.

(Anurag Tripathi is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management. He can be contacted [email protected])

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