Embarrassing Pakistan? Editorial:The Baloch Hal

AI urged the UA and China to make sure that assistance provided to Islamabad to fight the war against terror was not squandered in Balochistan to commit more human rights violations.

 In a strongly-worded statement issued yesterday, the globally respected human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI), urged the United States of America, China and other allies to make sure that assistance provided to Islamabad to fight the war against terror was not squandered in Balochistan to commit more human rights violations.

It is AI’s second critical statement on Balochistan in the last four months which clearly indicates about the worsening state of human rights in the province and growing concern of the international community. According to the report, at least ninety Baloch political workers, journalists, students have been kidnapped, tortured or killed in what the Amnesty International called as “kill and dump” policy which is largely linked to the Frontier Corps (FC) and intelligence agencies by the relatives of the missing persons and eye witnesses.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, observed in the statement: “Since October, every month has seen an increase in the cases of alleged disappearances and unlawful killings. These atrocities are carried out with flagrant impunity. Credible investigations into these incidents -resulting in prosecutions – are absolutely necessary to establish some trust between the Baloch people and the Pakistan government.”

Besides commenting about the exploitation of the Baloch natural resources and their benefits going to other ethnic groups, the report has also called upon the government of Pakistan to “provide accountability for alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to the government forces in recent months.”

The group has also coaxed the Baloch nationalist armed groups to refrain from targeting innocent civilians belonging to other ethnic groups mainly the teachers, a vast number of whom has fled the province causing a greater a scarcity of human resource to serve the poorly-served Baloch people.

Before the spokesman of the Foreign Office rejects the AI report by terming it as “Jewish/Indian conspiracy to malign Pakistan”, we want the national and international media to understand how disconcerting the situation in Balochistan is. It is a statement issued at the very right time. Many media outlets inside Pakistan brazenly refuse to cover Balochistan, particularly the issue of the missing persons, because they allege that the matter is ‘exaggerated’ by the Baloch nationalists. They also snub this grave violation of human rights by billing it as a plot of foreign forces to disrepute Pakistan. A report by an independent and neutral body like the AI should now come as an eyeopener.

Unfortunately, even our democratic rulers often go overboard in adopting a defensive attitude toward such reports. There have been numerous instances when senior government officials even questioned the legitimacy of international groups like Transparency International when the latter exposed government inefficiencies and corruption. There is a need to straighten the faulty strategy being pursued in Balochistan.

While the Amnesty International report should be seen by the Balochs as a moral victory against the government, it is very important to see the darker side of the picture as well. It clearly seems that attacks perpetrated against Punjabi settlers and the targeted killing of school teachers has backfired. The international community does condemn the atrocities being committed by the Frontier Corps and the intelligence agencies but it cannot endorse attacks on innocent civilians, particularly teachers.

The report said: “Armed Baloch groups have also been implicated in a surge in targeted killings of non-Baloch civilians and government employees, including teachers at government education institutions.
Hundreds of teachers have fled the province as a result of these killings, bringing the education system to breaking point.”

The sooner the armed groups review this strategy, the better. To gain international legitimacy, the Baloch movement has to meet the international standards and expectations as well. It is no longer possible to act in isolation if there is a Baloch desire to be supported on all fronts by the international community on the issue of human rights and ownership on natural resources.

On its part, the government should realize that the “kill and dumb” policy is not going to work to accomplish any agenda. For the international community, particularly the United States of America, it is the time to intervene and ask Islamabad to stop this blatant violation of human rights in Balochistan. An unstable Balochistan can upset the war against terror in Afghanistan. The more the Frontier Corps (FC) struggles to crush Baloch nationalists, the less attention it will pay to the border with Afghanistan or strive to dismantle the alleged Quetta Shura purportedly causing trouble for the international community in fighting the battle against terrorism.

Balochs deserve a respectful treatment and ownership on their natural resources. It is the country’s most exploited province which needs to be empowered and shown the path to development and prosperity through a genuine political process.


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