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Let’s jointly mourn all target killed Balochs, Shias and Settlers: Human rights violations in Balochistan

Compiled from various sources listed below

Balochistan, with 9m out of Pakistan’s 180m people, covers 44% the country’s territory and contains its most valuable deposits of gas, copper, iron ore and oil. It has a new deepwater port, Gwadar, and provides a route for trade and pipelines to Central Asia. Yet Balochistan is the country’s most impoverished province. The Baloch are convinced that they are being exploited to death by Pakistan Army and central government, dominated by Punjabi, Muhajir and Pashtun. Balochistan was semi-independent under the British Raj, and some Baloch believe it was forcibly annexed in 1948, sparking the first of five revolts led by tribal chieftains. http://www.economist.com/node/21552248

Since July 2010 over 300 battered corpses have been flung on roadsides and in remote areas across the province. Baloch activists and human-rights organisations believe these men, insurgents and activists, were victims of a “kill and dump” policy run by the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force that works with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency. With burn marks, broken limbs, nails pulled out, and sometimes with holes drilled in their heads, the bodies are discarded, becoming food for dogs. The security forces deny any connection to the corpses. No one has been held responsible. http://www.economist.com/node/21552248

According to Baloch activists (e.g. the Voice for Missing Baloch, a campaign group), 8,000 people have disappeared over the past nine years. However, this fact has not bee corroborate by human rights groups nor is any data available to confirm this figure. Last year the provincial government acknowledged that about 1,000 people were missing. Now, curiously, the government puts the figure at 48. Baloch activists believe that students, doctors, lawyers and others among the province’s educated class are being targeted. http://www.economist.com/node/21552248

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its 132-page report released in July 2011, “‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan,” there are dozens of enforced disappearances,in which the authorities take people into custody and then deny all responsibility or knowledge of their fate or whereabouts. The report 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. http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/07/28/pakistan-security-forces-disappear-opponents-balochistan

Citing HRW, Declan Walsh reports in The Guardian in July 2011: Local groups have counted more than 180 bodies, mostly of men who reportedly disappeared at the hands of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) in co-operation with Frontier Corps paramilitaries. The nationalists are also guilty of gross human rights violations, in particularly the targeted killing of Punjabi “settlers”, teachers, politicians and anyone deemed to be co-operating with the military. A sense of lawlessness and impunity reigns in the province, which covers 43% of Pakistan’s land mass but accounts for just 5% of the population. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/28/pakistan-military-campaign-balochistan-hrw

HRW says that in military detention camps, prisoners are beaten, hung upside down and deprived of food and sleep for long periods. Over the past year the bodies of detainees have turned up on the roadside across the province, triggering protests in the provincial capital, Quetta. The exact number of those detained is unclear. In 2008 the interior minister, Rehman Malik, said at least 1,100 people were missing, but last January the Balochistan home minister put the figure at just 55 people. Targeted killings of “settlers” and other accused collaborators by rebels is carving up the province along worrisome ethnic lines – in Quetta, for instance, non-Baloch doctors refused to work in Baloch areas, fearing harm. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/28/pakistan-military-campaign-balochistan-hrw

The rebels have also killed hundreds of fellow Baloch whom they accuse of siding with Pakistan. Six young, apparently unarmed men were tried and executed by the BRA in March in the rebel stronghold of Dera Bugti. Many passing civilians have been killed by insurgents’ landmines. Another dimension of violence affects the province’s Shia Muslim minority. Over 600 Shias have been killed over the past decade by Sunni Deobandi jihadist groups. Some of those Sunni Deobandis are ethnic Balochs. Late last year, buses were twice ambushed, and the Shia passengers were singled out and shot by Brahvi-Baloch members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a terrorist group with known links with Pakistan Army. The police patrol just 5% of Balochistan. The rest is manned by tribal “levies” and the FC, which has 50,000 troops. Security sources estimate the strength of the armed separatists at 1,500-4,000 men. http://www.economist.com/node/21552248

The violence is cascading. Baloch separatists have been on a killing spree of their own, aimed at Punjabi “settlers”, whose families may in fact have lived in the province for generations. The BLA gunned down a respected professor, Nazma Talib, by the gates of Balochistan University in Quetta, where she taught mass communication. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organisation, believes 800 settlers have been murdered since 2006, seemingly by separatists. http://www.economist.com/node/21552248

Teachers, professors, and school administrators have found their lives increasingly under threat in Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan. Between January 2008 and October 2010, suspected militant groups targeted and killed at least 22 teachers and other education personnel in the province. Militants have also threatened, bombed, or otherwise attacked schools, resulting in injuries, deaths, property damage, and curtailed education for Balochistan’s children and youth. In 2009, government schools were open for only 120 days, compared with around 220 days in the rest of Pakistan. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Fearing for their safety, many teachers—particularly ethnic Punjabis and Shiite Muslims and other targeted minorities—have sought transfers, further burdening what is already the worst educational system in Pakistan. Since 2008, more than 200 teachers and professors have transferred from their schools to the relatively more secure capital Quetta, or have moved out of the province entirely. Nearly 200 others are in the process of making such transfers. New teachers are hard to find, and replacements often less qualified than predecessors. In Baloch areas of the province, schools are often under or poorly staffed, and many remaining teachers say they are so preoccupied with declining security their teaching has been adversely affected. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Education falls in the crosshairs of three distinct violent conflicts in Balochistan. The first is a nationalist conflict, in which militant Baloch groups such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) seeking separation or autonomy for Balochistan have targeted Punjabis and other minorities, particularly in the districts of Mastung, Kalat, Nushki, Gwadar, Khuzdar, and Quetta. While individuals from all professions have been the victims of such “targeted killings,” teachers and students
constitute a significant proportion of victims because militant groups view schools and educational personnel, particularly ethnic Punjabis, as representatives of the Pakistani state and symbols of perceived Punjabi military oppression of the province. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Often no group claims responsibility for attacks, and few perpetrators have been apprehended and prosecuted. Those that do claim responsibility for such violence often justify it as a response to perceived lack of Baloch control over resources, under-representation in the national government, and retaliation for abuses by state security forces against the Baloch community. The second distinct conflict is a sectarian one, in which militant Sunni Muslim groups have attacked members of the Shia community, especially members of the Persian-speaking Hazara community. Such sectarian attacks appeared to increase in 2009, and occur mainly in Quetta and its neighboring districts. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Between January 2008 and April 2010, approximately 160 non-Baloch individuals were killed in what the government believes were “targeted attacks”—that is, assailants specifically selected their targets rather than conducting indiscriminate or random attacks. At least 220 or more persons were also injured in such attacks during the same time period, according to the same provincial government statistics. In addition, alleged militants killed 124 police and 101 Frontier Corps members during the same period, according to a senior government official. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Baloch militants are believed to be behind the attacks on ethnic Punjabis, who constitute the majority of victims. Militant Sunni groups have been linked to sectarian killings of members of the Shia minority, including Shiite members of the Hazara ethnic community. Between January 2008 and April 2010, at least 76 individuals were killed and 62 injured in suspected sectarian attacks. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Among those targeted and killed by militants have been at least 22 teachers and other education personnel. The most prominent assassination was that of the provincial minister of education, Shafiq Ahmed, in October 2009, for which the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) claimed responsibility. University professors and grade school teachers in Quetta and Baloch districts have also been attacked. According to government statistics, at least 11 of those who died in targeted killings between January 2008 and April 2010, and 4 of those wounded, were teachers. However, a survey of public press accounts conducted by Human Rights Watch, combined with our field investigation, identified at least 22 education personnel killed from January 2008 to October 2010. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Armed militants appear to target individuals for several reasons, and it is not always possible to separate the motives for each killing. Ethnic Punjabis, Shia, teachers, and other education personnel have been at particular risk. In a refrain heard on several occasions, one teacher told Human Rights Watch: “Once a ‘settler,’ always a settler in Balochistan. No matter how long you are in the province.” http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/pakistan1210.pdf

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has published list of 143 Missing persons in Balochistan (updated until May 29, 2011). HRCP has also documented cases of about 140 bodies of missing persons found in Balochistan (July 2010 – May 2011) http://www.hrcp-web.org/pdf/balochistan_report_2011.pdf

HRCP 2012 report provides details of excesses against non-Baloch Settlers. Two years ago the pressure in Balochistan was on settlers, now it had ethnic, sectarian and religious overtones, focused on Shia Hazaras, Pakhtuns and Hindus. Settlers had left many parts of Balochistan and Quetta on account of insecurity after Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing by the military. The land mafia had also tried to make money out of the misfortune of the settlers who had faced threats and intimidation from insurgents. The Hindu community had migrated from Dera Bugti and Khuzdar in large numbers. Their migration was prompted by kidnappings for ransom. A leading Hindu religious leader had been abducted in Kalat. Hindus were a trading community and departure of many Hindu families from Nushki for India and other countries had led to the collapse of the local business. Pakhtun traders had left Panjgur and Turbat for Quetta and Chaman. Ethnic Punjabis, Seraikis and Sindhis who had come to Turbat, Panjgur and Makran as labourers had left. Shia Hazaras were going abroad in any manner that they could. Parsi MPA Faridoon Abadaan remained missing after being abducted a decade earlier. Initially, his captors had demanded ransom for his release. Abadaan’s wife was abducted last year and released after payment of 30 million rupees some nine months later. 50 Parsi families who used to live at Jinnah Road in Quetta had all left Pakistan. http://www.hrcp-web.org/pdf/Balochistan%20Report%202012.pdf

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Abdul Nishapuri

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