By Faiz M Baluch
Balochistan is part of the Central Asian Plateau. The Baloch land shares its border with Persia in West, Afghanistan in North and Sindh and Punjab in East. Because of its strategically important location and vast reserves of natural resources Balochistan has been the focus of world powers throughout history. The first unified Baloch nation state was established in year 1666 under the authority of Khanate of Kalat.
The British Empire army invaded Balochistan on 13 November 1839 and killed Mir Mehrab Khan the then ruler of Balochistan. A few decades after the invasion, they divided Balochistan into three parts. That is why today Balochistan divided between three countries i.e. Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
There are only guesstimates of the Baloch population – about 12 million Baloch people live in Pakistan occupied Balochistan, over 4 million in Western Balochistan (Iranian occupied Balochistan) and over a million in Northern Balochistan, currently controlled by Afghanistan.
The British using its infamous policy of divide and rule drew two arbitrary lines, which have divided Balochistan into three parts: The ‘Goldsmith Line’ (1871) that presently separates Iranian occupied Balochistan from Pakistani occupied Balochistan. This agreement was between the Persian rulers, the then Qajar King Nasir-ul-Din Shah (1848-1896) and the British. In 1893 another arbitrary line the ‘Durand Line’ was drawn – transferring a large segment of the Northern region of Balochistan to Afghanistan. These borders were drawn without the consent of the Baloch people and to this day Baloch have never accepted these artificial lines (FPC, 2006).
By the beginning of the First World War the Persian lost control over Western Balochistan. In 1916 Bahram Khan Baloch was recognised by the British as the effective ruler of western Balochistan. Bahram Khan was succeeded by his nephew Mir Dost Mohamed Khan in 1921. His time in power coincided with the reign of Reza Khan as the ruler of Persia. Reza Khan invaded Western Balochistan and illegally annexed it to Persia in 1928.
Eastern Balochistan declared its full independence on 11 August 1947 at the time of British departure from the Indian sub-continent. The news of Balochistan’s proclamation of independence was reported in the New York Times on 12 August 1947. In the same moth first democratic general elections were held in Balochistan. Members of the Balochistan National Party, a secular democratic party, won 39 seats out of 52 seats in Balochistan legislative assembly of House of Commons (Sarmachar, 2009).
In 1948 Pakistanis asked the Baloch rulers to join Pakistan on the basis of shared religion but the democratically elected parliamentarians of Balochistan unanimously voted against the merger. However, Pakistan disregarded the decision of Baloch parliament and invaded Balochistan on 27, March 1948 (History, 2011).
In the very same year the younger brother of Khan of Kalat started the struggle against occupation of Balochistan. Baloch people have never accepted the forced annexation of their sovereign state to Pakistan and their struggle to regain independence continues to this day.
The Baloch liberation struggle 1948-77
Since illegal occupation of Balochistan in 1948, Pakistan has carried out five major military operations to crush the Baloch liberation movement. These military operations were conducted in 1948, 1958, 1962, 1973-77 and the year 2000 which is still continued.
The last two Pakistani military operations have been the bloodiest wars in the history of Balochistan. During 1973-77 military campaign, over 90,000 Pakistani troops supported by 30 US Cobra attack helicopters, supplied by the Shah of Iran, confronted over 60,000 Baloch fighters. As a result of this conflict, at least 15,000 Baloch were killed and many thousands were displaced (Rehman, 2010).
Selig Harrison, an American Scholar, in his book in In Afghanistan’s Shadow states that in 1970s Pakistan was fighting a losing war against Baloch fighters with relatively clumsy Chinook helicopters that they had received from United States. By “mid-1974, Iran sent thirty U.S supplied Huey Cobra helicopters, many of them manned by Iranian Pilots” (Harrison, 1981). That changed the balance in favour of invading Pakistani army.
Just three examples among their long list of different types of torture that Pakistani army employed in Balochistan during this conflict would suffice to reveal their murderous psyche. In one case after keeping and torturing their victims for months, Pakistani military officers flew their victims in a helicopter and dropped them from a very high altitude and filmed them falling down to the ground.
In second case after arresting and torturing their victims, in many occasions Pakistan military fastened their victims, drove and dragged them alive from one village to another. One of these victims was in Marri area from Alyani Marri tribe who lived in near Kahan village. He was dragged behind the Pakistani army truck from one village to another village alive. After their truck reached to the next village only a small part of the victim’s body was left attached to the rope. In addition, Punjabi army crucified many Baloch. One of the victims who experienced this entire ordeal has survived to tell the tale.
This brutal mind-set of Pakistan has not changed and they still carry out such inhuman acts. In August 2008 Pakistani military abducted three Baloch men and after failing to get any information from them, the men were burnt alive. The Asian Human Rights Commission confirmed this report and later Peter Tatchell wrote in The Guardian as following:
“The AHRC received confirmation that Pakistani soldiers arrested four people on April 5 2008, in the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan, and subjected them to torture. They were asked to identify local supporters of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). After failing to get any names from them, the victims were immersed in scolding hot coal tar. Three of the men were literally boiled and burned to death. A fourth died later from his injuries.” (Tatchell, 2008)
Pakistan nuclear tests in Balochistan
On 28 May 1998 Pakistan conducted six nuclear tests in Balochistan. These nuclear tests were conducted in Raak Koh area of Chaghai district in Balochistan. The explosions yielded 52 KT (kilotons) of radiotoxic nuclide. The tests impacts have been disastrous in terms of human costs; loss of livestock and environment. For instance, water has become contaminated and new born babies are affected with mysterious diseases. People in the region suffer from cancer, skin and eye complications. This inhumane act carried out by Pakistani state in complete secrecy without the knowledge of Baluch people and political leadership (Qazi, 2011).
The Baloch have been demanding an independent assessment of the impacts of these tests and are for complete removal of all nuclear activities from their homeland.
The ongoing military offensives and Baloch liberation struggle
A – Forced internal displacements
In 2000 the Pakistani military dictator general Musharraf launched the latest military operation in Balochistan. Hundreds of Baloch including women and children were killed and thousands were forced to flee Balochistan. The plight of the force-displaced people, also known as internally displaced people, was highlighted by international human rights groups.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that: “A large portion of the IDPs in Balochistan do not access the necessary commodities for survival. The government initially denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis, claiming that that the people who have fled Dera Bugti were well off. The denial was possible because journalists and aid groups were prevented from reaching the affected areas (AITPN, Jan 2007).
However, the grave situation of Baloch IDPs were documented by the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and reported by media in mid-2006. According to UNICEF, the displaced persons were living in makeshift camps without adequate shelter in Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Quetta, Sibi and Bolan districts. 28 percent of five-year-old children were acutely malnourished, and more than 6.0 percent were in a state of severe acute malnourishment. Over 80 per cent of deaths among those surveyed were among children under five (Daily Times, Jan 2010). In Dera Bugti district, schools have been closed intermittently. Early 2006, HRCP said children had not been attending them since March 2005, due to armed skirmishes between tribal militias and paramilitary troops in the area (IRIN, 2006)
In other areas of displacement, due to the blockade of Marri and Bugti areas by the Pakistani army, there are reports of malnourishment, lack of shelter and disease (IRIN, Feb 2006; AHRC, July 2006). There are mostly children and women suffering from diarrhea, dehydration, malaria and high fevers. Some cases of deaths have been reported but not confirmed by any hospitals (AITPN, 2007); (AHRC(b), 2006).
B – Enforced Disappearances and extra judicial killings
In December 2005 then interior minister of Pakistan, Aftab Ahamd Sherpao who is nominated in the in murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti, admitted that 4000 Baloch were in the custody of Pakistani security forces. Mr Sherpao admitted this while talking to media during a visit to Turbat town in Balochistan.
In their report on 5 March 2010 the Asian Human Rights Commission has estimated that the number of Baloch men, women and children abducted by Pakistani intelligence agencies, during Mushurraf reign, to be over 4000. Among the disappeared persons are the names of 168 children and 148 women. Baloch sources have claimed that the number of disappeared persons which continues to rise has now reached to over 14000.
In August 2006 the Pakistani army targeted and killed a prominent Baloch political leader Akbar Bugti (age 79). His body has not been returned to his kin-folks. Even though the military buried a padlocked coffin in Dera Bugti town of Balochistan claiming that it was the body of Nawab Bugti, but his son Jamil Bugti continues to insist that his father’s body has not been handed over to the family. Many of his companions were either killed or captured alive but neither their bodies were returned nor the abducted men were ever seen again.
On 3 April 2009, Pakistani agencies abducted three more Baloch political leaders including the president of Baloch National Movement (BNM) Ghulam Mohammed Baloch, his deputy Lala Munir Baloch, and a senior leader of Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Mr Sher Mohammad Baloch from their lawyer’s office. A week later, on 8 April 2009, their mutilated bodies were found in a desolated area called Murgaab. These three Baloch leaders were abducted from their lawyers’ office in broad daylight (AHRC, 2009).
The lawyer, Mr Kachkol Ali Baloch, of these three Baloch leaders is the eye-witness of their abduction (Walsh, 2011). He tried to register the case against Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for the abduction from inside of his office of three of his aforementioned clients. There are also many other eyewitnesses who saw uniformed Pakistani officials storming into Mr Kachkol Ali’s office and then dragging the three men out. Not only a case was not registered against Pakistani security forces but the lawyer was also threatened with dire consequence and eventually forced to flee Balochistan. He now lives in Norway where he has sought political asylum.
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organisation of the families of those Baloch who have been forcefully abducted and killed by Pakistan, says that over 14000 Baloch are currently under the custody of Pakistan. More than 600 of them have been killed under their custody. The VBMP further claims that over 1000 highly educated Baloch have been target killed by the proxy organisations of the state’s security agencies and the military.
This new policy of under custody killings has been described as the “Kill and Dump” policy of the state to counter Baloch freedom movement. Under this policy the state functionaries arrest Baloch activist, keep them in illegal custody for months and in some cases for years. The Baloch political prisoners are brutally tortured and humiliated and later killed in very gruesome manners. The methods of torture include breaking bones, plucking out eyes, cutting pieces of flash from the bodies of prisoners and rubbing salt and chilli on their wounds.
The international human rights groups have limited themselves to only expressing concerns over this very grave and deteriorating issue. The Baloch political parties and leaders want the UN related human rights groups to act practically and do more than just issue reports and statements. The UN and other Human Rights organisations, however, so far confined themselves to statements and expressing concerns.
In June 2012 the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay visited Pakistan and voiced concern over allegations of “very grave” rights violations and forced disappearances during Pakistani military operations against insurgents and militants. Talking about Balochistan situation she said: “Disappearances in Balochistan had become ‘a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair’.” She had urged the government and judiciary to investigate and resolve the cases of enforced disappearances (Nation, 2012).
The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntarily Disappearances visited Pakistan and Balochistan between 10 – 20 September and held meeting with different organisations, political parties and family members of enforced disappeared persons. The WGEID said: “The figures communicated to us range from less than a hundred to thousands. In Balochistan alone, some sources allege that more than 14,000 persons are still missing, while the provincial government only recognizes less than a hundred. To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket concerning the whole country. The number of officially registered allegations, although may not be reflective of the reality of the situation, is itself an indication of the existence of the phenomenon” (OHCHR, 2012).
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch has also expressed grave concerns about the Pakistani security forces atrocities in Balochistan. He expressed his concern in these words: “Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear,’ and in many cases are executed. The national government has done little to end the carnage in Balochistan, calling into question its willingness or ability to control the military and intelligence agencies” (HRW, 2011).
The top judge of Pakistan’s highest court also accused the paramilitary (Frontier Corps) of involvement in enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
“Enough evidences are available for involvement of the Frontier Corps in picking up of every third missing person in Balochistan,” the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court passed these remarks while investigating cases of missing people in Balochistan, where the military has retorted to brutal killings, bombardment of villages, abductions and other human rights violations in its bid to put down the Baloch peoples’ struggle for freedom (Balochwarna, 2012).
The military operations and arrests of Baloch political activists continue unabated across Balochistan. On 25 December 2012 the military conducted an operation in Mashky region of Balochistan and killed around 32 people including women and children. Pakistan Air Force used fighter jets to indiscriminately bomb the Baloch villages.
Dr Hakim Lehri, a senior Baloch political leader has described the Mashky operation and other human rights violations as Baloch genocide by Pakistan. In his article in Daily Times on 10 January he wrote: “The preliminary information that has reached us shows that in the initial phase of this operation where aerial bombardment has also been utilized, 30 innocent citizens have been killed, including elderly men and women and even children. Those who were martyred include Mir Saho s/o Rehmat, Khuda Bukhsh s/o Noor Mohammad, Ali Jan s/o Mir Saho, Jamil Baloch, 7 year old girl Khair Bibi, Lal Bibi w/o Dinar, Nazal d/o Dinar, Halima w/o Khuda Bukhsh, Ganj Khatoon w/o Ali Jan, Sud Ganj w/o Mir Saho, two year old Sakhi Daad, one year old Labo, 4 year old Bukhshi, Mah Naz (female), Gul Bibi (female), Sarah Ali Jan (female). Among the injured, those that have been identified are Sher Jan s/o Mir Saho, Karim Jan, Badal s/o Rehmat, Bukhshi Baloch, and two children” (Lehri, 2013).
Similarly, there have been reports of military operations in Dera Bugti and Kohistan Marri region in early 2013. The military has reportedly doubled the number of its troops already present in Balochistan.
Baloch people strongly believe that their universal rights including “right to life, liberty and security” are violated on daily basis by Pakistan. The international community and the international media, by and large, have remained silent on the plight of Baloch people. Pakistan has repeatedly been violating the UN and international laws in Balochistan. It is the moral responsibility of international community to intervene in Balochistan and secure the rights of Baloch nation in accordance to the UN conventions and international laws.
The Baloch are struggling to regain their independence. Baloch leaders and scholars believe that a free and democratic Balochistan can play a vital role in maintaining peace and security in the region. They are of the view that free and democratic Balochistan will be a natural ally of the international community and help them to eradicate religious terrorism that is largely organized, financed by the Islamic states of Pakistan and Iran.
The Baloch have also been constantly warning the Western democratic powers of Pakistan’s support of religious extremists groups and attempts to Talibanise the secular Baloch society. They say instead of supporting Pakistan the Western powers should support the Baloch people’s struggle for freedom, peace and democracy – in the same way that they are currently supporting the Arab democratic movements against dictatorial regimes (Shah, 2012).
C – State violence against women
Violence against female Baloch students and teachers is another worrying tactic of the spread of religious fundamentalists across Balochistan. Baloch women have received death threats from the Pakistani secret intelligence agencies and their agents across Balochistan. In their message the ISI supported fanatic elements have ordered the Baloch women to stay away from protests against Pakistan otherwise they would face grave consequences. These threats usually follow the intended vicious deeds.
In April 2011 acids were splashed on five Baloch girls in Noshki and Kalat. The victims included eight year old Saima, 14 year old Shakila and 20 year old Fatima who were attacked on their way to Killi Pandunari from Kalat town. Two weeks prior to this vicious attack acid were spilled on two girls in the town of Noshki in Balochistan. Baloch political and resistance organisations had strongly condemned those attacks and termed them as a conspiracy against Baloch freedom struggle (BBC, 2010).
On 22 May 2010 an elderly Baloch female human rights activist died when their car overturned while they were on their way from Quetta to Karachi to appear before the judicial commission about disappeared persons. Later it was found that the cause of the accident was due to a substance (powder) hidden in the tyre of their car. Bibi Mahtab Raisani campaigned for recovery and release of thousands of abducted Baloch activists including her son Mir Abdul Wadood Raisani (BalochHal, 2010).
On 10 September 2011 – Four female teachers of a private school were attacked with acid by unknown culprits in Killi Alam area of Saryab in Quetta. The female teachers were sitting in a van outside their school in Killi Alam on Saryab Road when two men on motorbikes hurled acid and fled from the scene. Three teachers, in early 20s, received burn injuries on their face, hands and legs while clothes of another teacher were burnt. The victims were identified as Robina Mushwani, 21, Fazila Bangulzai, 23, Sajida Bibi, 24 and 21-year-old Surriya Langhov. Sajida Bibi was discharged after being provided first aid. A proxy religious fundamentalist organisation of the ISI had accepted responsibility for the attacks in Kalat and Noshki (Guardian, 2011).
On 31 January 2012 Ms. Zamur Domki and her daughter Jana were shot dead along with their driver in Karachi. Zamur Domki was the sister of Baloch Republican Party’s chief Mr. Brahumdagh Bugti. Family sources and the only survivor in the incident said: “Between 1 and 1:30 AM on the 31st of January, shortly after leaving the uncle’s house, a black coloured car intercepted Bugti’s car near Gizri Bridge, Clifton. A man dressed in black shalwar kameez and wearing a black face mask jumped out of the car and shot the driver, Barkat Baloch, as they tried to get away. The driver was killed on the spot as a result of multiple bullet wounds to the head. Then the assailant opened the rear door at which point two bikes arrived at the scene and parked on the left and right side of the car. Upon opening the door, Zamur Bugti offered her jewellery, phone and valuables to the man, thinking that he was a robber. In response the killer told Zamur, in urdu, that he didn’t need her valuables and that he was there to kill her and her daughter. Zamur Bugti told him to spare her daughter and that he could kill her. At this point the killer went to the daughter who was sitting on the front passenger seat and fired multiple shots at her, hitting her in the chest and neck.
Zamur Bugti was made to witness the brutal killing of her daughter. Zamur Bugti was then shot over a dozen times in the head, face and neck at point blank range and was left in a pool of blood. During this incident, the police were spectating from a distance” (SATP, 2012)
Hyrbyair Marri, one of the most influential leaders of Baloch freedom struggle whom most of the Baloch regard as the pioneer of the current liberation movement, believes such attacks against Baloch women are failed attempts of Pakistani security agencies to harass Baloch women, prevent them from taking part in freedom movement and to stop them from getting education. Mr Marri said: “The state knows that the more education Baloch youth and women get – the more they will become aware of their rights and their demand for freedom will be greater.”
Baloch women are the bearer of the greatest hardships in Balochistan. The pain of losing their children, brothers, fathers and husbands while they have no ensured economic position is inconceivable. Illegal occupation of Balochistan by the artificial states of Iran and Pakistan has created a perpetual sense of insecurity and Baloch women and children are primary casualties of this insecurity. Consequently, Baloch women find themselves in even more disadvantageous position to the scanty health care, education and employment.
D – State backed religious fundamentalism
Today once again the US aid is being used to kill innocent Baloch women and children. Pakistan is blackmailing the international community in the name of war on terror and forcing them to turn a blind eye on Pakistani atrocities against the Baloch people. The world, especially the United Nations and the United States have been supporting Pakistan without any accountability despite knowing that the Pakistani military forces are organising and supporting Jihadist groups and committing crimes against humanity in Balochistan.
The Baloch leader Hrybyair Marri says: “There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan, especially religious fundamentalism. Pakistan is the breeding ground and the main centre for training and arming of extremists. The state and its security agencies train, fund and nurture these extremists for several purposes, for example, to black mail the western countries, and to counter the Baloch freedom struggle.”
He went on to say that Pakistan military has created several religious extremist groups in Balochistan and has given them full immunity to target kill and abduct pro-freedom Baloch activists. “In Balochistan the Pakistani security forces are using the Jihadist groups as proxy death squads to kidnap and kill Baloch political activists. These death squads have full backing of federal and provincial governments. They operate in different names such as ‘Mussalah Defa Tanzeem, Nafaaz-e-Aman, Shuhada-e-Balochistan and Lashakar-e-Jhangvi’,” Said Mr Marri.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is fully supported by state agencies and it is involved in sectarian violence in Balochistan. Most Baloch believe that by letting loose such terrorist organisations the Pakistan military wants to defame the Baloch liberation struggle. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is involved in killing of Shia Muslims across Pakistan and they had accepted the killing of over a hundred Shia Hazars in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan (BBCNews, 2013).
Hyrbyair Marri further argues: “The Universal Declaration of the Human Rights Act Article 3 clearly states everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. But the Baloch Nation is completely deprived of this basic human right. The irony is: either the international community is unaware of Baloch suffering or they are intentionally ignoring the gradual genocide of Baloch people by undemocratic and fundamentalist states of Pakistan and Iran.”
The western democracies speak of the ‘Arab Spring’ and continue to support the Arab uprising. But nearly ten years has passed from ‘Baloch fifth spring’ and the voice of Baloch for freedom and democracy has not received the same degree of sympathy from the international community. Selig Harrison describes what goes on in Balochistan as ‘slow motion genocide’ of Baloch people but presently the genocide is at full swing by Pakistan and Iran.
Hyrbyair Marri says: “We are seriously concerned that we will be exterminated and eliminated in our native land by Pakistan and Iran. We have legitimate reasons to be concerned and more than that we have legitimate reasons to appeal to the international community to intervene in Balochistan. Diplomatic channels will never convince Iran and Pakistan to voluntarily withdraw from the occupied Baloch land.”
Faiz M Baluch is a student of journalism at London Metropolitan University and a human rights activist working with International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons.
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