Tribesmen gather near burning fuel tankers after they were attacked in Chaman, in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border November 13, 2010. – Reuters Photo

ISLAMABAD, June 29: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has said that agents of the state, insurgents and extremists operating in Balochistan share a common disregard for citizens’ rights. The insurgents are involved in killing ‘settlers’ and religious extremists in sectarian killings.

In a report — “Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos” — released here on Wednesday, the HRCP said: “There is strong evidence of involvement of security forces in enforced disappearances and killings and FIRs registered against security personnel remain un-investigated without exception.”

The report based on the commission’s fact finding mission to Balochistan said that security forces enjoyed complete impunity.

HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf criticised the apathetic attitude of both the federal and provincial governments towards the plight of Baloch people. “The civilian authority in Balochistan is practically non-existent and everything is run by security forces.”

She said disappearances continued in all parts of the province and security forces were involved in many of the disappearances and killings. Most of the victims aged between 16 and 25 were either students or unemployed youth.

HRCP secretary general I.A. Rehman and former chairperson Asma Jehangir compared the situation in Balochistan with that of East Pakistan in 1971 and said that security forces were trying to create the same narrative of external forces being responsible for the violence in the province.

“Considering what is being done to those people — they are still very patient,” Mr Rehman said, adding: “If we don’t want them to be patient anymore then the choice is yours.”

The HRCP findings conclude that the Balochistan government is powerless and has failed to raise people’s issues and is subservient to the military.

The report said the situation in Balochistan was so precarious that even courts had failed to ensure compliance with their orders.

Answering a question about the involvement of foreign hands in Balochistan, Asma Jehangir said: “Are you trying to suggest that all Balochis have sold out to foreign elements. Has the government tried even one person for treason?”

She said: “It is repeatedly said that Indians are stirring up trouble in Balochistan, but when the government levels such allegations, we expect it to show some evidence. Unfortunately, we have not seen that. If the allegations are correct, it is all the more serious that the government is not taking up the matter.”

Ms Jehangir highlighted the kidnapping of lawyers who were pursuing cases of missing persons and referred to a case where a lawyer was abducted after winning a case against influential people. “He (lawyer) was detained in a no-go area and I believe that the kidnappers are being patronised by our intelligence agencies,” she said.

The HRCP report contains details of 140 people who had been reported missing, but their mutilated bodies were found between July last year and May this year. “A very dangerous trend has emerged that those who had disappeared were found dead on roadsides. The bodies have torture marks,” the HRCP chairperson said, adding: “Insurgents and religious extremists are also involved in the killing of ethnic and religious minorities.”

Recommendations

The HRCP said that people involved in illegal detention should be prosecuted and the victims of enforced disappearance must be traced, released and given compensation.

“The illegal practice of enforced disappearances represents a complete negation of rule of law and must stop forthwith. The state must ensure that actions of its agents remain within the confines of law and that derelictions are investigated in a transparent and credible manner and punished in accordance with the law.”

The commission said that political engagement or dialogue should be the preferred approach and promises made in the Balochistan package should not remain little more than promises, as it was now. It said: “All security forces operating in the province should be brought under civilian control, and there is a need for accountability of security forces. No one other than the authorities authorised by the law should take a person into custody.

“The powers of decision-making and governance must be restored to civil political authorities in Balochistan. The provincial government needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of people.

“The higher judiciary may instruct subordinate courts to actively pursue cases of rights violations, while the judiciary should also be more assertive in ensuring compliance with its orders.”

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