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PAKISTAN – Human rights NGO calls for immediate demilitarisation of Balochistan

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hrcp.gifThe Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls
for immediate demilitarisation of Balochistan as the first
confidence-building measure to start a political dialogue in the
province and warns if corrective actions are not taken immediately with
the concurrence of Balochistan's people, the country may dearly regret
the consequences.
hrcp.gif(Source: 11 October 2009, FORUM-ASIA member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan)

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls
for immediate demilitarisation of Balochistan as the first
confidence-building measure to start a political dialogue in the
province and warns if corrective actions are not taken immediately with
the concurrence of Balochistan's people, the country may dearly regret
the consequences.

The full statement reads as follows:

a week-long visit of Balochistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
(HRCP) is of the firm view that the largest federating unit of the
state can only be likened to an active volcano that may erupt anytime
with dire consequences. The situation is alarming and worsening by the

It is apparent from the information received by the HRCP,
from various sources, government and non-government, political parties
and individuals that the decision-making is firmly in the hands of
elements that were in command before February 2008. It is the military
that still calls the shots. The provincial government is isolated and
made dysfunctional in critical areas. An over-sized cabinet, absence of
an opposition and wide-spread corruption have all contributed to a
political vacuum. There are deep concerns of governance in the entire
country but in Balochistan the crisis is deeper.

In this
crisis, a large section of the people of Balochistan has been driven to
the conclusion that they are being viewed as enemies of the state. They
feel abandoned by the people as well as political forces in the rest of
the country. There is a sense of isolation, rejection and dejection.

incidents of human rights' violations in Balochistan are wide-spread
and harrowing. Regrettably, the state has not addressed these
complaints and the media, either under pressure or on account of its
own failings, has been unable to probe and report the dreadful reality
on the ground. The most hair-raising are the continuing incidents of
enforced disappearances. In addition to a large number of cases already
taken up by HRCP, the Commission has been able to document 30 new cases
during its present mission to Balochistan. This appears to be only the
tip of the iceberg as a large number of families do not have access to
any forum of protest or redress. Moreover, the Commission is bound by
its method of work to verify each and every case brought before it in
accordance with accepted international standards of reporting.

has ample evidence to support the allegations of victims' families that
the perpetrators of enforced disappearances are intelligence agencies
and security forces. This has been conceded by high officials and
politicians in authority. The mission learnt in number of incidents,
even public figures in power were unable to secure relief or assurances
that such incidents will stop. These public figures cited a number of
incidents of disappearances in which, on the basis of credible
evidence, they approached the intelligence agencies and the security
forces only to be met by a bland denial. This amounts to rubbing of
salt into the raw wounds of the victims.
The existence of check
posts causing inconvenience and humiliation was reported by people from
all over Balochistan. Incidents were reported where the FC personnel
manning these checkpoints insulted the people by shaving their
moustache, tearing the Baloch shlawar and making other gestures
derogatory to their culture and bearing.
The mission also
received information about arbitrary arrests and reports of endemic
torture at unauthorised cells whose existence was confirmed by
knowledgeable people.

A history of neglect and betrayal over
the decades coupled with systematic human rights abuses carried out
with impunity has made a vast number of Baloch people desperate. No
wonder, in this situation the Baloch youth has been driven into
repudiating their allegiance to the state. Indeed, the voice of the
youth is so strident that even those who disagree with them do not dare
to express their views. The refusal of the Baloch youth to fly the
Pakistani flag or play the national anthem in many areas and the
insistence of the authorities to the contrary is only aggravating the
situation. When the people's will is being broken, their voice
ruthlessly stifled and their bodies charred in torture cells; where
mothers die every second waiting to hear from their disappeared child –
the state cannot expect any other reaction but one of rebellion. In
such circumstances the youth particularly is vulnerable to
manipulation. It is imperative for all national leaders act with
responsibility and to exercise a positive influence so that facts are
not distorted.

HRCP abhors violence both as a means and as an
end, perpetrated by any party. It regrets that target killings have
also been attributed to militants and nationalist forces. An important
number of people have fallen victims to target killings simply because
of their ethnic origin or belief. HRCP unreservedly condemns such abuse
of right to life and expects all political forces to do the same
publicly. The sins of the federal government must not be visited on
unarmed and innocent citizens.

The government's obligation to
investigate and punish the culprits is manifest and any failure in this
regard fuels discontent and mistrust. In this climate of fear, a large
number of government employees, academics, skilled people and members
of intelligentsia have migrated from Balochistan to other areas. Many
more are following. This has seriously affected the quality of services
available to citizens, especially in education and health sectors. It
is also causing serious imbalances in the community's social structure.

An additional factor of insecurity and tension is the
uninterrupted sequence of sectarian killings for the last six years.
The representatives of Hazara community have claimed that 270 of their
members have been killed since 2004. They have accused the security
agencies of colluding with the criminal elements. As an example, they
have presented the case of two notorious criminals who were arrested
and kept in the anti-terrorist lock-up from where they mysteriously
fled. The government had set up tribunals – one in 2004 and one in 2008
– to investigate two separate incidents of sectarian killings but the
findings of these tribunals have yet not been made public.
representatives of Pakhhtoon community list a long series of grievances
relating to denial of rights, discrimination in the allocation of
resources and non-acceptance of their demand to be an equal unit of the

A large number of people expressed concern over
the influx of so-called Taliban and other categories of militants in
Pakhtoon-dominated areas. There are serious allegations that these
elements are operating within Pakistan and across the border with
impunity. This is particularly worrying for the Pakhtoon community


HRCP is convinced that
ill-imagined, ill-informed and belated measures by the federal
government will not improve the situation in Balochistan. The
patronising manner in which "Balochistan package" is being promoted
will only add insult to injury. There is an urgency to create a climate
of confidence and trust where wider consultation with all stake-holders
is made possible. As a first step, demilitarisation of Balochistan is
essential. All those held under illegal custody be freed and
compensated. Political prisoners be released and perpetrators of human
rights violations be brought to justice. In the long run, all political
forces of the province should be brought in the mainstream. The people
of Balochistan be assured that they will have full authority to decide
their affairs including the management and control of their resources.

warns that if corrective actions are not taken immediately with the
concurrence of Balochistan's people and to their satisfaction, the
country may dearly regret the consequences.