the relentless campaign of ‘disappearances’ inflicted on Baloch dissidents by the state’s Forces and covert agencies, and appear to have provoked the recent spate of attacks in North Balochistan by Baloch separatist formations.
Pakistan: Disappearing Justice In Balochistan
By Anurag Tripathi
On September 25, 2014, Police recovered three mutilated bodies from the Rakhshan Nadi and Washbud areas of Panjgur District in South Balochistan. According to reports, all victims had received multiple bullet injuries. The victims remain unidentified.
On September 23, 2014, Balochistan Levies personnel found two bullet-riddled bodies in the Pidark area of Turbat District in South Balochistan. The victims remain unidentified.
These are the latest in an endless chain of ‘disappearances’ and political killings in the troubled Province. Sources in the Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department indicate that in 2014, so far, 53 mutilated bodies have been found in Khuzdar, Turbat, Panjgur (South Balochistan), and Quetta (North Balochistan) Districts, and other troubled areas, mostly in the Southern part of the Province.
More alarmingly, a July 2104 report disclosed that at least 803 bodies had been found in Balochistan over the preceding three-and-a-half years, most of them in South Balochistan and Quetta. Sources stated that 466 victims were identified as ethnic Baloch, 123 as Pashtuns, and 107 from other ethnicities. 107 bodies remained unidentified. Of the 466 Baloch killed in the Province, most were political workers, while the remaining lost their lives in incidents of targeted killings, tribal disputes, and criminal and domestic violence. Responding to the report, Baloch nationalist leader, Dr Hayee Baloch, observed, “This is an alarming situation. Baloch political workers were still being picked up from various parts of the Province to suppress their voice.”
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Province has recorded at least 3,248 civilian fatalities since 2004. Of these, 305 civilian killings (182 in the South and 123 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations. The Islamist and sectarian extremist formations, primarily Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India), claimed responsibility for the killing of another 502 civilians, all in the North, mostly in and around Quetta. The remaining 2,441 civilian fatalities – 1,511 in the South and 930 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’. A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).
According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) as on February 7, 2014, up to 18,500 people have been missing in Balochistan since 2000. 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 stated that the data on 14,000 of the ‘disappeared’ had been documented by the organisation, and had been shared with the courts and United Nation agencies. Significantly, the Supreme Court has been hearing the Balochistan missing persons case since 2012 and has already reprimanded the Government for its failure to comply with its orders on several occasions. At times, the Government has pleaded helplessness in the matter. Significantly, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on December 10, 2013, hearing a case pertaining to missing persons, had ordered that all the missing persons be recovered or accounted for by December 19, 2013, and made the Federal and Balochistan Governments responsible for execution of its directive. On January 30, 2014, having failed to implement the order, the Balochistan 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, which was accused of ‘detaining’ these persons.
Significantly, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch on September 27, 2014, admitted, “The missing persons issue was still a big challenge… However, it is not possible to resolve all the issues of the Province through available resources.”
In the recent past, Baloch separatist insurgent groups such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT), United Baloch Front (UBF), United Baloch Army (UBA), Baloch United Liberation Front (BULF) and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), have extended their networks into Northern Balochistan, particularly in Quetta, the provincial capital, which lies deep in the North. Significantly, on October 1, 2014, the UBF claimed responsibility for an attack, in which at least four persons including two teenage boys were killed, and another ten were injured, when unidentified militants hurled a hand grenade at a barber shop near the Sirki Kalan area on Double Road in Quetta (Quetta District). The explosion was followed by firing. Nevertheless, as SAIR has noted earlier, Baloch insurgent groups dominate the South.
It is, consequently, not surprising that Islamabad is targeting Southern Balochistan. On the other hand, despite clear signs of a deteriorating situation in North Balochistan, Islamabad has demonstrated very little urgency in addressing the problem. North Balochistan is dominated by Islamist terrorist groups and Sunni sectarian formations such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which have flourished under the aegis of the military mullah combine, though the latter has now gone renegade and directs much of its terrorist activity against the Army and political establishment in Islamabad.
Interestingly, the Balochistan Government on Dec 30, 2013, evolved a “smart and effective security policy”. Under the new policy, operations would commence against Baloch militant formations, such as BRA, BLA, BLT and UBA, BULF and BLF. Significantly, Islamist terrorist formations find no mention in this listing, though they are responsible for the greater proportion of attributable attacks and killings in the Province.
Alarmingly for the Baloch nationalist groups, terrorist outfits that share their ideology with the TTP are spreading their influence in the Province. In the recent past, they have extended their networks into the Makran Division, including Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar Districts, which lie deep in South Balochistan. Significantly, the region has witnessed attacks on private schools with the extremists professing abhorrence for western and girls’ education. Among such recent attacks, on May 21, 2014, at least six persons, including a Government school teacher identified as Master Hameed, were shot dead when terrorists entered his residence and opened fire, killing him and five of his relatives in the Dasht area of Turbat District. The attack came in the wake of threatening letters sent to private schools by a newly surfaced terrorist group, Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (Organisation of Islam and the Right Standard) in Panjgur District, warning the people to completely shut down girls’ education or to prepare themselves for “the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”.
Earlier, on May 13, 2014, four armed TIF terrorists, wearing headbands with Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is Great) imprinted on them, set ablaze the vehicle of Major (Retired) Hussain Ali, owner of The Oasis School, in the same District, while he was driving girls to school. The masked terrorists asked him and the girls to de-board the vehicle, before setting it ablaze. Such attacks are indices of the penetration of the Taliban ideology of intolerance and religious bigotry into the Southern regions of Balochistan, which had, thus far, escaped the influence of TTP and its likes.
The new developments come amidst continuing neglect of the Province and the relentless campaign of ‘disappearances’ inflicted on Baloch dissidents by the state’s Forces and covert agencies, and appear to have provoked the recent spate of attacks in North Balochistan by Baloch separatist formations. Though such incidents have not reached an alarming level, they are a disturbing indication of a change in trends. Meanwhile, both the Provincial and Federal Governments continue to ignore the ground realities of the Province. Islamabad’s strategy of supporting armed Islamist extremist formations and other violent proxies and suppressing the genuine demands of the Baloch, even as the most basic issues, including the urgent crisis of extra judicial killings, continue to be ignored. Such a strategy, long embedded in Islamabad’s approach to this restive Province – the most impoverished and backward in the country – is bound to bring more chaos in the already destabilized region.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management