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Not missing, says the Supreme Court

Published Feb 17, 2012 10:53am

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According to various statistics available from the Asian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, at least 900 Baloch citizens have disappeared up until January 31, 2012. – File Photo

As per the order of the Supreme Court, the ISI and MI produced seven detainees before the bench on Monday, February 13. Three of the detainees were brought from the Parachinar Internment Centre, while the rest from Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital. To describe softly, their condition was so frail and ailing, their bodies covered with blisters, so painful to witness that the mother of two of the detainees died of a heart attack the next day. However, not one of the detainees was a Baloch.

To probe into a bit of history, one of the perceived reasons for the suspension of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Ahmed Chaudhry was his pursuit of the missing persons’ case, the majority being from Balochistan. However, ever since his reinstatement, the SC has restored and worked upon a large number of cases, largely pulling political maneuvers against the elected government, but has remained complicit upon the blatant human rights crisis ongoing in Balochistan. The recent presentation of detainees can, at best, be stated as a cosmetic move.

From the establishment’s point of view, the Baloch resistance is predominantly a conspiracy hatched by foreign powers to undermine Pakistan’s position as a global stalwart in the energy sector, with much of the blame going to the neighboring giant and other “anti-Islamic” nations. From Zaid Hamid’s view, the Sardars have joined hands with the “illuminati”, to somehow justify slain leaders of the province. While Nawab Akbar Bugti may be the most prominent leader to be targeted in recent times, the history books will bring up many more similar prominent names that have been targeted similarly.

While agencies and the security establishment have historically targeted prominent Sardars, the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti seems the most significant impetus to the resistance over the past decade. Former President Pervaiz Musharraf is largely held responsible for his death, and the lack of any investigation or punitive measures from any government institution has taken away any scarce hope of justice held by the Baloch and brought the movement widespread support from all corners.

To make matters worse, mutilated bodies of prominent grassroots leaders have been simply dumped in the troubled areas, as a message to silence all those who oppose the oppressors. That, however, has added more fuel to the fire.

To someone new to the topic, the Baloch resistance may seem forty-years old, or at most from the creation of Pakistan. However, it takes a closer look to understand that the resistance goes further back to colonial occupation by the British. The difference between then and now can be judged by the nature of the perceived occupier. The British used politics and money to push their agenda, the Baloch resisted by means of poetry and literature. Today, both the oppressed and the oppressor use firepower to fight their war of supremacy.

Balochistan is seen as Pakistan’s treasure trove and is perceived as its saviour from an economic perspective. However, the security establishment’s narrow and egoistic view inhibits any possible progress, which is evident not only by the living conditions of the inhabitants, but also the lack of access to any justice to the people. Their policies have not only been snubbed, but have unfairly targeted a proud race, and have suppressed their freedom, liberty and the right to their land.

According to various statistics available from the Asian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, at least 900 Baloch citizens have disappeared up until January 31, 2012, with 236 bodies dumped in public places, 56 of them found between the last six months. The relatives of the missing persons have been protesting for the last two years all over the country, only to have a deaf ear turned towards them by the media.

This constant cold shoulder to the woes of the Baloch can prove to be fatal for Pakistan. The same has added fuel to the low-lying insurgency, which is increasingly gaining momentum and becoming, as per statistics, more challenging for the security forces. Civilian, Security Forces, and Militant fatalities in 2006 stood at 226, 82, and 142 respectively. In 2011, the same figure stands at 542 civilians, 122 Security Forces personnel and only 47 militants, according to the SATP. Every passing day more people are committing to the same cause, and one must worry of the perception that will be held by the future generation of Balochis.

The recent US Congressional hearing on Balochistan is a cause of alarm for Pakistan. While at one end it does display the extent of involvement of the superpower in Pakistan’s internal affairs, it also displays the extent of the country’s ignorance on the issue. The extent of human rights abuse committed has been conveniently ignored by the security establishment, even when they were constantly being brought to their notice by Baloch activists and various human rights organisations. While the National Assembly has condemned it as interference due to a wider agenda, one must reconsider the circumstances which have brought it to light.

While currently the US State department has stated that it’s the country’s own issue to solve, it displays signs of deeper future entanglement of the issue with our foreign relations.

Currently, it is stated that the United States has a certain amount of covert involvement in the province. This was hinted by Shahzain Bugti’s call to a US embassy official at the time of his arrest for moving huge quantity of arms and ammunitions near Quetta, which was discarded by embassy officials on a non-interference stance. However, future overt involvement could be on call and it could be the next pressure card on Pakistan once the Afghan war subsides. The softest form of that can be in the shape of sanctions, something which Pakistan has borne the brunt of before. The most damaging can be the kind which brought about its separation with East Pakistan.

Even if to some extent the claims of a conspiracy theory may stand to have some weight in the form of support to resistance leaders, the conditions which have brought upon their acceptance of such support can only be blamed on Pakistan itself.

Pakistan’s own political conundrum is most to blame for the mess that Balochistan has become. With no stable political establishment, the military has held the helm of all policies towards the province with only a narrow security perspective in sight. Resultantly, even genuine political participants from the province are considered to be betraying the cause in the eyes of the locals. While some major political parties have highlighted the issue, those have largely been moves for political maneuvering.

Local journalists are now hesitant to cover the issue due to threats the number of fatalities, with ten journalists losing their lives in 2011 alone.

One wonders what shape the crisis takes in the future, and what policy moves the establishment considers for pushing some sort of reconciliation. The time is now crucial for the resolution of the resistance, but from what is apparent, Pakistan could come to witness a very dark future with regards to the province which would put at stake the whole nation.

The writer is a Multimedia Content Producer at Dawn.com