Quelling conspiracy in Balochistan
By: Khalid Khokhar
The controversial visit of UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to evaluate the missing persons issue has brought Balochistan into the spotlight. Earlier this year, the US Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Dana Rohrabacher, staged an unusual US Congressional hearing on human rights abuses in Balochistan, accusing Pakistan’s intelligence agencies responsible for enforced disappearances of the Baloch people.
The US legislator also co-authored an article favouring an independent Balochistan. Responding sharply, Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning such activities as interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. It became the cause of further deceleration in the cooperation between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spearheading to exterminate terrorism from the region.
Nonetheless, owing to Pakistan’s strong protest, the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisted, “The Congressional hearing on Balochistan doesn’t necessarily imply that the US government endorses the point of view”.
As the diplomatic tensions between Washington DC and Islamabad reached its lowest ebb due to a chain of unfortunate events that happened in the last year or so, the ongoing 10-day mission by the UN team is seen by some as US tactics to apply more pressure on Pakistan Army for a possible military operation against the Haqqani Network (HN) in North Waziristan.
The issue of enforced disappearances in Balochistan has once again alarmed the vibrant and proactive National Assembly of Pakistan. Expressing surprise at the visit of the delegation, the fact-finding exercise is termed a ‘threat to the country’s sovereignty.’ It is feared that the so-called fact-finding UN team would hold Pakistan responsible for human rights violations and give the Baloch an opportunity to talk about their right to self-determination. As expected, during the course of visit, the Chief Rapporteur of UN mission, Olivier de Frouville, has hinted that something is seriously wrong because of which the people are so worried and anxious.
The UN visit to Balochistan has come when the Supreme Court has formed two judicial commissions on the issue and the National Assembly Committee has also been playing a vital role in locating the missing persons. It is because of this factor that UN working group’s request to meet military and civilian authorities in connection with missing persons has not been entertained. The Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also refused to meet the UN working group to discuss the matter of missing persons saying that the matter is sub-judice.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBMP), a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) inflated the figure of missing persons at 14,385. The chief of Jahmoori Watan Party (JWP) Talal Akbar Bugti, presented a list of 650 missing persons to the UN officials. However, Riaz Fatiana, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, informed the UN mission that incidents of enforced disappearances had declined sharply to less than 400 from the previously reported 2,300, because of the focus of the judiciary, parliament and media.
The MNA told the UN officials that all the state institutions are playing a positive role to resolve the issue. According to the HRCP report, as many as 225 bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons were found between July 2010 and November 2011. During the inquiry, the Chief of the CIED Justice (R) Javed Iqbal found out that even the HRCP has exaggerated the figures of missing persons as they failed to provide details about them when asked. Additionally, the inquiry commission observed that the HRCP’s list also contained the names of those living abroad and also those who have been involved in terrorism-related cases.
Rejecting the impression that thousands of people were missing from Balochistan, the head of the CIED found out a total of 460 missing persons from across the country and of them 57 are from Balochistan.
The democratically-driven Pakistan is more than capable of protecting fundamental rights and freedoms in all parts of Pakistan, including Balochistan. With the placement of independent judiciary, an enlightened civil society coupled with a vigorous media, can redress grievances, be it political or economic. Pakistan is confronted with challenges of enormous magnitude that require unity, harmony and mutual respect among all segments of the society and state institutions. Our well-aware politicians owe to exhibit greater responsibility and avoid preferring their narrow political gains over the national interests.