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KARACHI, Oct 13: The conflict in Balochistan has been going on over the past four decades but only recently has the violence in the province increased at an alarming momentum, with killings, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, protests and demonstrations becoming more common, said a rights activist during an informal talk here on Friday evening.

Keeping in line with a series of talks on the Balochistan conflict, T2F had invited Director of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Pakistan Ali Dayan Hasan to express his views on the human rights crisis in the province.

He talked about the role of mainly three actors — state, nationalist forces and the Taliban — in the Balochistan violence and the victims of the violence.

He criticised the packages announced by the government to control the situation and highlighted the need for taking concrete measures to bring about a change.

“Human rights abuses fuel conflicts. End the abuse and you have a good chance of ending the conflict,” said Mr Hasan. He added that the 2006 killing of Akbar Bugti triggered a new wave of killings across Balochistan, but had it not been his murder, there would’ve been another trigger for the violence.

He also spoke about collecting information for a report on missing people in Balochistan, which eventually turned into a report on the extrajudicial killing of Baloch nationalists by Pakistani security forces stationed there. It is titled: We can torture, kill or keep you for years: enforced disappearances by Pakistan security forces in Balochistan and is available on Human Rights Watch’s website.

“Since 2011, at least 400 Baloch nationalists have been found murdered on the streets in Balochistan,” related Mr Hasan, “The state has escalated rather than decreased the violence. You can announce 500 packages for the people of Balochistan, but that’s not the solution. People are being killed. They have no dignity, security or sense of empowerment.”

He added: “No military or intelligence personnel have yet to date been held accountable for disappearances, torture and targeted killings.”

Ethnic killings

Talking about the other factor involved in the increasing violence in Balochistan was Baloch nationalists themselves. “They are targeting the Urdu-speaking and Punjabi people there,” he said, “mostly teachers and that is causing a severe crisis of education. They have attacked schools and have been placed mines in front of schools.”

This information has also been published in an HRW report titled, Their future is at stake: attacks on teachers and schools in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Sectarian killings Mr Hasan was of the opinion that third actor in the violence in Balochistan was the Taliban. “They are acting with banned militant outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi to target the Hazaras. “The Hazaras suffer from double jeopardy: they have visibly distinct features and have a history of persecution. In the late 1990s, the first great massacre of the Hazaras took place in Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan) by the Taliban who were aided by Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan — the parent organisation of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.” “These are the most vulnerable people in Pakistan. Out of 100 Shias killed in Balochistan in the past couple of years, 90 are Hazaras.”

Escalating violence

He said until two years ago, violence in Balochistan was between the state and non-state actors, but it was rapidly deteriorating and the violence was subdividing into different parts and multiplying. “It has come to a point where surprisingly Pakhtun labourers  have been attacked though the community was not traditionally considered an outsider in Balochistan.”

“There is a Bosnia-esque situation developing in Balochistan and the state is absent,” he said.

Mr Hasan’s talk was not restricted to identifying the perpetrators and victims of the violence in Balochistan only, as he also suggested conflict resolution measures to the government to end the violence. “In order to end a conflict, you need to have talks with the parties involved in the conflict,” he said.

“The parties involved are not the Government of Balochistan and the people – they are the army and the nationalists,” he added.

He added that the nationalists had a total lack of faith in the state, and understandably so, because none of the promises made by the state had been fulfilled. He said he was pleased with Gen Kayani’s statement that the army would support political steps allowed under the constitution to resolve the Balochistan issue.

“The state has a crisis of credibility that needs to be addressed,” he insisted.

“The crisis of the state and criminal justice system has created a vacuum where rule of law is concerned. That is why incidents such as the attack on Malala Yousafzai in Swat have taken place. It seems as if it has become a free-for-all,” he added.

Commenting on the role that political parties could play in improving the situation, he said that they could help by forging unity at least on this issue. But unfortunately, according to him, “the dirty secret is that no political party cares about Balochistan because electorally-speaking, it is not important for votes.”