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OP-ED: No mercy for Baloch nationalists

  • Published at 02:10 am October 13th, 2020
Photo: Reuters

Pakistan’s ‘kill and dump’ policy in Balochistan continues with impunity

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on October 1, 2020, while hearing a petition on recovery of missing persons in Balochistan, trashed the inquiry report submitted by the police. The apex court ordered that the police officers who prepared the inquiry report must be removed from service and sent back home.

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan and a resource-rich region with less than 4% of its total population. Despite the natural resources, the Baloch are deep in deprivation, poverty, and lack of education and health care.

Three months before the formation of Pakistan in August 1947, the Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah negotiated the freedom of Balochistan under Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Ahmedzai, the Khan of Kalat from the British Empire.

The princely state of Balochistan achieved independence from the British Raj on August 5, 1947, nine days before Pakistan was created. Hectic parleys were held regarding Balochistan’s relationship with Pakistan -- amongst the Viceroy, the Crown’s Representative, Jinnah, and the Khan of Kalat.

The meeting resulted in a communiqué on a “Standstill Agreement” on August 11, 1947, which stated: “The government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat [Balochistan] as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British Government with a status different from that of Indian States.”

In seven months, Jinnah’s change of heart compelled Khan of Kalat to accede to Pakistan on March 30, 1948 after the Pakistan military invaded Balochistan and captured its capital Quetta. Under the duress of military officers, he signed the accession treaty. The subjugation of Rawalpindi was not accepted by the defiant Baloch nationalists.

The province’s total population is around 7 million, and is divided into several tribes which are traditionally engaged in tribal feuds over the hegemony of the region.

Baloch political leaders Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri submitted a 15-point agenda to the Pakistan government demanding greater control of the province’s resources and a moratorium on the construction of military bases.

A year later in August 2006, the 79-year-old Nawab Bugti was killed in a brazen assault by the Pakistan army on the orders of the military dictator Pervez Musharraf, which dawned a new era of Baloch insurgency.

Indeed, on June 17, 2020, Akhtar Mengal, leader of Balochistan National Party, lamented over lists of unfulfilled promises by the “Naya Pakistan” government under Prime Minister Imran Khan to address Baloch grievances, including the untold agony of the missing people.

Akhtar Mengal claimed that two years ago, he handed down a list of 5,128 missing people to Imran Khan. Since then, he claimed, another 1,800 were reported to have disappeared. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) stated that between 2002 and September 2018, at least 6,428 persons were forcibly abducted by security agencies and their henchmen, who have links with Rawalpindi.

Mama Qadeer Baloch, the vice-chairman of the VBMP in September asserted that state-backed death squads had spilled the blood of the Baloch in several areas of Balochistan.

Pakistan security forces commit the “kill and dump” method to terrorize the sympathizers. Most of the missing persons are mercilessly tortured and killed in custody, and later the mutilated bodies are dumped near their villages as a warning.

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of the Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at [email protected]; Twitter @saleemsamad.

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