It was in March 1948 that the last of the erstwhile Balochistan Agency acceded from British India into the newly formed State of Pakistan. However, the assimilation and acceptance of the Baloch people into Pakistani society and Pakistan as a whole has been characterized by both active and passive resistance. The denial by the Pakistani State in providing mere provincial status and rights to Balochistan till 1970 was also accompanied by a policy of systematic oppression of the Baloch people that has continued till the present – the most recent phase of which was set in motion when General Pervez Musharraf assumed power after conducting the 1999 coup d’état replacing the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In January 2000, under his orders as the Chief Executive of Pakistan, his army ravaged the New Kahan area to the south of Quetta – the capital of Balochistan, in a joint military operation involving the police and paramilitary, the latter of which included the Pakistan Rangers. In one day alone, 125 people were arrested, others disappeared forever (Television, 2010).
Pakistani forces not only arrested the locals of New Kahan but also vandalized their residences, of which the semi-permanent settlements were destroyed completely. The arrested included almost all of the adult men, while only women, elderly and children were left. These arrests however would soon turn out to be state-abductions, without any respite to the relatives, who approached the authorities for the whereabouts of their loved ones to no reciprocation – the regional authorities had no answers.
New Kahan (News) is an area to the south of Quetta populated by the Marri Baloch Tribe. The Marri Baloch had migrated to Afghanistan during the 70s military offensive and lived in Afghanistan as refugees until the Taliban took over, after which they were forced to return to Balochistan in the early 90s. New Kahan and surrounding area has always been, and remains, one of the primary regions of retaliatory offensives whenever there is an attack on Pakistani forces and government installations in Quetta. The latest raid in New Kahan was conducted on the night of 14 August 2020, ten residents were reportedly arrested and soon after they disappeared.
The 125 people arrested from New Kahan were later charged with an apocryphal murder case and transferred to the Central Jail in Hudda, Quetta. There they were put under the supervision of the non-police security agencies i.e. the Pakistan Army and the ISI, and the routine of night-long interrogations and tortures continued. Visitors were allowed, but they were subsequently followed when they left, and among those, two were arrested after visits to their jailed relatives. The New Kahan area remained tense following the formal charges, police would patrol the area at night, and many men would not return to their houses for the fear of being arrested.
When the majority of these 125 people were eventually released, they described the horrendous torture, mistreatment and humiliation, theirs as well as that of the political prisoners detained by the Pakistani authorities. They had been deprived of food and sleep, and there were reports of physical torture including bodily mutilations.
The offensive on New Kahan in Quetta as part of the “new war” started by General Musharraf was the just the beginning of a long and continuous cycle of subjugation of the Baloch people in Pakistan’s bid to strengthen its occupation over Balochistan. It had forced many Baloch to once again flee to foreign lands and become stateless. Nearly half a million Baloch had reluctantly left their native towns and villages in Balochistan due to the continuous offensives of the Pakistan Army, they scattered around Sindh and Punjab and were labelled as ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) (UNPO, 2015). It was also the beginning of the latest wave of enforced disappearances in the province.
The numbers of these IDPs rose exponentially after the assassination of the aged Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti on 26th August 2006, whose murder worked to fuel the fire and the situation further deteriorated. It angered the Baloch people, especially the youth, many of whom thought Pakistan’s relation with Balochistan has reached a point of no return. The pro-freedom armed organizations intensified their activities. The Pakistani state, more precisely its military headed by General Musharraf, instead of showing any signs of remorse justified the killing of Nawab Bugti and his companions, he even went as far as congratulating the Pakistani forces for this successful operation against Baloch nationalism.
Almost three years after Nawab Bugti’s assassination, on April 3, 2009, Pakistani Forces attacked a lawyer’s office in the Turbat area of Balochistan and abducted three of his clients. The lawyer was tied, blindfolded and beaten up. These victims, this time also, were high-profile Baloch political leaders, including the leader and founder of Baloch National Movement (BNM) Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, deputy chairman Lala Munir Baloch, and a senior leader of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Sher Mohammad Baloch (DAWN, 2009).
A week later, on the night of 9th of April, bullet-riddled bodies of the three were found in the Pedarak region near Turbat. The custodial killings of the three Baloch leaders was beginning of what later became the infamous ‘kill and dump’ policy, under which the Pakistani Forces started killing previously abducted Baloch activists and threw away their mutilated dead bodies in barren areas, on roadsides, and in deserts across Balochistan, and in some case even in Sindh and Punjab.
This ‘kill and dump’ policy however, intensified from July 2010 onwards, and almost every day, or every other day, a dead body would be found in Balochistan revealing signs of torture and bullets wounds. Many bodies have been found with amputations, with limbs and other body parts removed. This inhumane practice continues unabated to this day and so does the enforced-disappearances of Baloch rights activists (Panah, 2017).
In January 2014, in the Tootak area of Khuzdar district in Balochistan, three mass graves were discovered. The graves reportedly contained at least 169 bodies, but only three people remain identified as previously abducted Baloch activists. The three victims were abducted from Awaran region of Balochistan and killed in custody. The rest of the bodies were not identified because they were mutilated beyond recognition. Upon the discovery of the mass graves, the military quickly cordoned off the area, blocked all access, and seized the rest of the human remains. No forensic identification was done, no DNA test of the remains was conducted and the families of disappeared persons still live in uncertainty, whether their loved ones were among those found in the mass graves (AHRC, 2014).
The Baloch suffering doesn’t end here. There is a great crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Pakistan as previously mentioned, a large part of whom remain ethnically Baloch. The IDPs not only live in appalling conditions, but Pakistani Government including the Deep State controlled by the military establishment, also forbids international humanitarian organizations from helping these displaced people. The intelligence agencies and other security institutions continue to haunt the already suffering Baloch IDPs to this day. One of the latest examples is the abduction and subsequent murder of Khan Mohammad Bugti, son of Mohammad Khan Bugti, from Karachi (BalochWarna, 2020). Khan Mohammad had fled Dera Bugti in 2006 after Pakistani forces bombed his home district, he lived and worked in many cities of Sindh and Punjab before eventually moving to Karachi for better work opportunities.
Before Khan Mohammad Bugti’s abduction and murder, five other members of the Bugti tribe were murdered in cold blood in an extra-judicial encounter by the Punjab Police in Rajanpur. These victims too were IDPs, and had been abducted from different areas of Sindh and Punjab long before they were murdered in the aforementioned police encounter. Among the five victims, Dost Mohammad Bugti was abducted in December 2009 from Karachi, Ghulam Hussain Bugti was abducted in February 2020 from Kandhkot in Sindh by intelligence agencies, Teacher Ali Bugti was arrested by Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Punjab from Rajanpur in November 2019, and Ramzan Bugti was abducted from the Patfidar region of Dera Bugti in Balochistan in July 2019.
On August 4, 2020, two IDPs, brothers Kachi Khan and Zamur Khan Marri, were abducted from Khairpur district of Sindh. The victims fled Balochistan amidst Pakistani state brutalities, and had been living in Sindh from past several years. On August 12, 2020, the two brothers, along with four more Baloch were arrested from Faqir Colony area of Karachi. The men originally hailed from Awaran region of Balochistan and had left Balochistan because of continuous human rights violations and ongoing enforced disappearances.
From the illegal occupation of Balochistan to the ongoing systematic state-sponsored killings, these crimes against the Baloch people have been carried out with impunity by the Pakistani establishment, and time and again Pakistani military personnel and politicians have unapologetically confessed to these crimes as well.
Musharraf would often wave his fist in the air and threaten the Baloch nation as famous Pakistani columnist and author Mohammad Hanif wrote in New York Time, “In one video interview, Musharraf can be seen claiming that he doesn’t care if his people use drills or whatever to extract information from suspects. He once threatened a veteran Baloch nationalist politician by saying, “you won’t even know what hit you.” The man was hit, and killed, by a missile in 2006.” (Hanif, 2019)
In 2004, the then Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao visited Gwadar, Balochistan, and answering a question about the security situation in the province, went on record to admit that Pakistani security forces have arrested 4,000 Baloch.
In December 2015, the Home Secretary of Balochistan, Akbar Durani was quoted by the media saying that Pakistani forces have arrested more than 9,000 people from Balochistan under the National Action Plan (NAP) in the year 2015 alone. Balochistan’s provincial Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti also confirmed these arrests while boasting about tightening the security situation in Balochistan (Shah, 2015).
In 2017 Sarfaraz Bugti even suggested that genocide is needed to eradicate ‘the terrorists’. He made these extreme remarks during a meeting with local elders in Dera Bugti, “to save the future generations and for a prosperous Pakistan, there is no other option but to carry out the genocide of ‘terrorists’” (News B., 2017).
Pakistan, as an ever-paranoid state has forgotten the difference between whom it considers Baloch citizens and whom it considers Baloch terrorists. With indiscriminate killings and other human rights violations, the cries of the Baloch people have fallen on deaf ears, with no solution in sight, the Baloch people still look forward to the future, albeit a bleak one.
AHRC. (2014, January 27). More than 100 dead bodies from three mass graves were found in one district of Balochistan. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://reliefweb.int/: https://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/more-100-dead-bodies-three-mass-graves-were-found-one-district-balochistan
BalochWarna. (2020, August 17). Balochistan: Baloch IDP abducted from Karachi and killed by Pakistani forces. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from www.balochwarna.com: https://balochwarna.com/2020/08/17/balochistan-baloch-idp-abducted-from-karachi-and-killed-by-pakistani-forces/
DAWN. (2009, May 25). Who killed the Baloch leaders? Retrieved August 19, 2020, from dawn.com: https://www.dawn.com/news/965267/who-killed-the-baloch-leaders
Hanif, M. (2019, December 19). The Dictator and His Death Sentence. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/19/opinion/pakistan-pervez-musharraf.html
News, B. (2017, November 22). Pakistani minister prescribes genocide to resolve security issues in Balochistan. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from www.balochwarna.com: https://balochwarna.com/2017/11/22/pakistani-minister-prescribes-genocide-to-resolve-security-issues-in-balochistan/
News, B. (n.d.). Photo journal: Life in a tribal Balochi settlement. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from news.bbc.cu.uk: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/south_asia_life_in_a_tribal_balochi_settlement/html
Panah, H. Y. (2017, March 25). Human Rights in Balochistan: A Case Study in Failure and Invisibility. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/human-rights-in-balochist_b_9541436?guccounter=1
Shah, S. A. (2015, December 28). More than 9,000 arrested in Balochistan under NAP in 2015: Durrani. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from dawn.com: https://www.dawn.com/news/1229192
Television, A. (2010, October 30). Musharraf justifies killing of Akbar Bugti. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from www.youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQK3N4dLz8w
UNPO. (2015, October 16). Balochistan: The Silent Plight of Baloch Refugees. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from unpo.org: https://unpo.org/article/18643
The views expressed are of the author and may or may not represent the views and policies of Voice of Baloch.