‘Several of those “dis- appeared” were among the dozens of people extra- judicially executed in recent months in the resource-rich, violence-wracked province,‘ says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its 132-page report “‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan.”
The report, released on July 28th in New York, documents “dozens of enforced disappearances, in which the authorities take people into custody and then deny all responsibility or knowledge of their fate or whereabouts.”
Balochistan is the largest province by area of Pakistan, constituting approximately 44% of the conutry’s total land mass. According to the 1998 census, Balochistan had a population of roughly 6.6 million. It borders with Iran to the West; Afghanistan to the North, and the Arabian Sea to the South.
Balochistan is rich in mineral resources and the second major supplier of natural gas in Pakistan. Nevertheless, its share of Pakistan national economy has ranged between 3.7% to 4.9%. Since 1972, its economy has grown by 2.7 times.
The following are extracts of HRW report, which details 45 alleged cases of enforced disappearances, the majority in 2009 and 2010. While hundreds of people have been forcibly disappeared in Balochistan since 2005, dozens of new enforced disappearances have occurred since Pakistan returned to civilian rule in 2008.
“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,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “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 report is based on over 100 interviews by Human Rights Watch in Balochistan in 2010 and 2011 with family members of “disappeared” people, former detainees, local human rights activists, lawyers, and witnesses to government abductions.
**The Military, Again**
Human Rights Watch investigated several cases in which uniformed personnel of the Frontier Corps, an Interior Ministry paramilitary force, and the police were involved in abducting Baloch nationalists and suspected militants.
In others cases, witnesses typically referred to abductors as being from “the agencies,” a term commonly used to describe the intelligence agencies, including the military Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence, and the civilian Intelligence Bureau.
In all the cases HRW documented, the security forces never identified themselves, nor explained the basis for the arrest or where they were taking the person. In many cases, the person being arrested was beaten and dragged handcuffed and blindfolded into the security forces’ vehicles.
**Beating, Hanging, Sleep Deprivation**
Without exception in the cases HRW investigated, released detainees and relatives able to obtain information reported torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Methods of torture included beatings, often with sticks or leather belts, hanging detainees upside down, and prolonged food and sleep deprivation.
In some cases relatives told Human Rights Watch that senior government officials, including the Balochistan chief minister, Nawab Aslam Raisani, had freely admitted that intelligence personnel were responsible for the disappearance but expressed an inability to hold the abductors accountable.
**Also Because Tribal Affiliation?**
Those targeted for enforced disappearance were primarily Baloch nationalist activists or suspected Baloch militants. In several cases, people appeared to have been targeted because of their tribal affiliation, especially when a particular tribe, such as the Bugti or Mengal, was involved in fighting Pakistan’s armed forces, says HRW. Little information is available about what happens to people who are forcibly disappeared.
Some have been held in unacknowledged detention in facilities run by the Frontier Corps and the intelligence agencies, such as at the Kuli camp, a military base in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.
“Pakistani security services are brazenly disappearing, torturing, and often killing people because of suspected ties to the Baloch nationalist movement,” Adams said. “This is not counterinsurgency – it is barbarism and it needs to end now.”
The number of enforced disappearances by Pakistan’s security forces in recent years remains unknown, HRW said. Figures provided by senior officials are grossly inconsistent, and these officials have provided no explanation about how they were reached. In 2008, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said there had been at least 1,100 victims of these disappearances in Balochistan.
In January 2011, Balochistan’s home minister, Mir Zafrullah Zehri, told provincial legislators that only 55 people were considered missing.
Extrajudicial Executions There is increasing evidence to suggest that many of the “disappeared” have been extrajudicially executed while in government custody, according to HRW. Human Rights Watch has recently reported on the killing of at least 150 people across Balochistan since January in acts widely referred to as “kill and dump” operations for which Pakistani security forces may be responsible.
Assailants have also carried out targeted killings of opposition leaders and activists. HRW reiterated its call to the Pakistan government to end these abuses immediately.
**Killings Civilians, Destroying Private Property**
Armed militant groups in Balochistan are responsible for killing many civilians and destroying private property. In the past several years, they have increasingly targeted non-Baloch civilians and their businesses, police stations, and major gas installations and infrastructure. They have also attacked security forces and military bases throughout the province.
HRW documents abuses by Balochistan militants in a December 2010 report, “Their Future is at Stake.” Under international law, enforced disappearances are considered a continuing offense, one that is ongoing so long as the state conceals the fate or the whereabouts of the victim.
“President Asif Ali Zardari should realize that the disturbing reality of wanton and widespread abuse in Balochistan cannot be wished away,” Adams said. “All Pakistanis will pay the price if the government fails to protect Balochistan’s population from heinous abuses at the hands of the Pakistani military.”
**Autonomy, Mineral Resources**
Balochistan has historically had a tense relationship with Pakistan’s government, in large part due to issues of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploration, and a consequent sense of deprivation, HRW reports.
“During the rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, from 1999 to 2008, the situation deteriorated markedly. Two assassination attempts on Musharraf, in 2005 and 2006 during visits to Balochistan, resulted in a crackdown on Baloch nationalists by the armed forces and Military Intelligence, the military’s lead intelligence agency in the province.”
The recent surge in killings and ongoing enforced disappearances can be traced to the 2006 assassination of the prominent Baloch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and 35 of his close followers, and the murders of three well known Baloch politicians in April 2009 by assailants believed to be linked to the Pakistan military, says HRW.
Full release: http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/07/28/pakistan-security-forces-disappear-opponents-balochistan