For last seven and half decades, tens of thousands of Baloch have been killed, violating their right to live securely. The ongoing Balochistan conflict between Baloch nationalists and government of Pakistan over rule of Balochistan has resulted into ill-treatment of people and human rights violations. There were insurgencies in the region time and again: 1948, 1958 to 1959, 1962 to 1965, 1973 to 1977. After the last four insurgencies, another nationalist movement began in 2000s which is continued till date.
It is estimated that 4,000 people were reportedly detained in the province only in the period of 2002 to 2005. Of these, only 200 were produced in court. However, Law Enforcement Agencies have been accused of massive human rights abuses in Balochistan by Human Rights Watch, with the disappearance of hundreds of activists. Sadly, 1,102 people were disappeared from the region only in 2008. Number of bodies were found on roadsides having been shot in head.
Baloch are usually tortured, abducted and their rights violated. Why is Balochistan a black hole for human rights violations? What are the motives that extremism in the society is so high? Are Baloch born to live under such condition?
Let me draw the attention towards the appalling human rights situations in Balochistan. Pakistani government does not live up to its constitutional responsibilities though UN working groups make recommendations against human rights violations. The worst human rights violations take place in Balochistan that show how the state has failed to accommodate the socio-culture and grievances of Baloch. People of Balochistan face human rights violation on daily basis; people are eliminated from their land, their resources are extracted against their will even people were removed from their houses for the sake of CPEC projects.
So, this is the province where human rights are on stake. This is the province where Baloch are routinely attacked, disappeared and abducted. Meanwhile, it is too bad that devastating consequences of human rights violations are apparent as Baloch are surviving on the edge of the stake. Multiple lives of our Baloch brothers are targeted and claimed.
The above heart-rending situation of Baloch poisons the seeds slumbering beneath the soil, visible to the eye. They wait only for the right kind of rain to come before sprinting and bloom into a harvest of hate. This rain, in Balochistan’s regard, are insurgents. And now it is time to reap. Now it seems as if it were a norm for people of Balochistan to face human rights violations, especially those who are the most educated, well talented, skillful and intellectual people.
In addition, the lives of Baloch are on a rollercoaster ride – the Baloch are repeatedly put to walk into dark walls. This serious issue has never been as simple as it is painted. It is the inability of ruling party that Baloch are forcibly taken away, disappeared, mistreated and killed. In essence, as far as Baloch are concerned, the authorities could do no right. Even after claiming lives of a great deal of people, there are demands that the province should be reviewed so that amendments could be made.
Although human rights are the basic rights and freedom that belong to every person in the world from birth until death, and are applied regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live, Baloch are still extrajudicially killed and disappeared by force. Though the basic rights are based on shared values, like dignity, fairness, equality respect and independence, and though people have the right to express their own opinions, right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state, the Baloch nation is deprived from all these rights.
The pure land has the population of 12.34 millions and there are an estimated 6.9 Baloch in the country; unfortunately, they see tragic episodes of dismemberment of the country. Let’s have a bird’s eye view of the history of sufferings of Baloch, one would understand why Balochistan is a simmering volcano today.
At the time of independence, Balochistan consisted of four princely states – Kalat, Lasbela, Kharan, and Makuran. Balochistan was given two options; accession to India or accession to Pakistan. When they asked for the third option, they were not regarded. However, Balochistan was, as Khan of Kalat of the time Yar Ahmed Khan accepts in his biography, annexed to Pakistan on 28 March, 1948. The Khan of Kalat was forced to sign the instrument of accession. It was agreed in the agreement that the province will have autonomy over all its affairs except defence, external affairs and communication which would be dealt with by federal government, but this agreement, regretfully, remained a dead letter.
In 1954, the government merged all the four provinces into One Unit. Consequently, the Baloch protested against this scheme as it would create the Baloch identity crisis under the influence of population of Punjab. Thus, violence erupted in 1960s. Instead of defusing the tension politically, Ayub Khan deployed over 1000 troops in Balochistan to quell the upsurge. Such repressive behavior towards Balochistan has led to threats till today.
On the other hand, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto deposed the government of Balochistan. He justified his action on the ground – may be as genuinely as a ploy to teach a lesson to Baloch leaders who were bold to demand authority over their own provincial resources. Resultantly, protests started against this action of federal government, and Bhutto sent 80,000 troops to crush the rebellion.
The exploitation of resources has made the Baloch resentful. Balochistan, being enriched in natural resources like gas, copper, gold and other reserves, has been exploited over the years. Natural gas, for example, was discovered in Sui in 1952, but this gas has never reached to its own town of Sui. Even the provincial capital, Quetta, has got gas connections an 1970, while it reached Lahore and Karachi by 1955. Sadly, even today, out of 34 districts, only 14 have access to natural gas.
Let alone this, 85 percent population has no access to safe drinking water, around 75 percent is deprived to access electricity, 70 percent do not have access to education and 63 percent are living below the poverty line. This scenario shows that the rulers are not interested in Balochistan, but they are only interested in its land for its natural resources and strategic location.
To take it further, Baloch have less representation in central bureaucracy and other federal government bodies. Hence, it can be inferred that Baloch have genuine grievances. Our rulers have never heeded to the sufferings and legal demands of the masses. Despite tackling the issues through negotiations, authorities approach towards insurgents that leads to destructions.
Recently, Akhtar Mengal has highlighted six points that include: recovery of missing persons, implementation of National Action Plan, implementation of six percent quota for Balochistan in federal government, immediate repartition of Afghan refugees, and construction of dams in the province to resolve the acute water crisis. To pacify Balochistan cauldron, and to resolve its decades old issues, the state should remove grievances of Baloch people, which may be a game changer for Baloch to bring peace to their province.
A life without violence is essential to health. This is just a slice of what Baloch are facing, if nothing is done, nobody can live in peace in the province. There are cries for help, all pleading to be saved from torments for here, a victim is turned into oppressor, and targets of conspiracy into conspirator.
Needless to say, if authorities do not act upon the issues, there is no doubt all Baloch will have to raise their voices. Much of the violence, occuring in Balochistan, the government has little choice, but to implement law and review the province. It is heartening that police turn blind when it comes to regard of human rights violation. The practical obstacles are so many, but by upholding the rights of people, governing bodies can act effectively on the issues.
It is hoped that those responsible for such reforms will take their duties honestly. What we need is strict implementation of law and a permanent solution to problems is the only way to come out of bygone era. Let’s hope that immediate steps will be taken to fulfill the commitment to protect and promote rights of people and ensure a safe environment.