Remorseless and impenitent
By: Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The days assigned by the UN to help protect human rights will remain quite meaningless and ineffective as long as the culture of impunity is allowed to prevail Pakistan’s promises and pronouncements reiterating and praising its commitment to human rights on every International Human Rights Day, universally celebrated on December 10, sound hollow, nay obscene, to the victims of its remorseless violence. Vice Chairman Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Mama Qadeer’s son Jalil Reki was killed by state agencies. Brave Mohammad Hanif gave a poignant account in ‘The Baloch who is not missing’ in a national daily in February 2012. Banuk Farzana Majeed Baloch’s brother, the BSO (Azad) senior leader Zakir Majeed Baloch is missing since June 2008. Her parents too old and weak, she sits at protest camps to highlight her brother’s disappearance. There are thousands of people whose loved ones are missing or have been brutally tortured and dumped. The Pakistani state enacts this farce of lip service to human rights annually and with it belittles the memories of thousands of its victims.
Naturally, celebration of this day has not changed anything for the persecuted communities and people in Pakistan because their lives and way of life remain under increasing threat. All dispensations here actively collude in ensuring that the perpetrators continue to commit and enjoy immunity for their crimes in Balochistan and for the 1971 unparalleled atrocities in Bangladesh. The Pakistani state remains remorseless and impenitent with the handy excuse of ‘national interest’. Here, Human Rights Day poignantly highlights nothing but the state’s brutality and atrocities.
The Pakistani state and army perpetually reject reports by Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) — ‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’ — or the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP): ‘Balochistan: Blinkered slide into chaos’. The army has rejected the recent AI report regarding the situation in Bajaur as a “pack of lies and part of a sinister propaganda campaign” against them. Apparently, the victims, their relatives, the international bodies all prevaricate and only the Pakistani state and army practice veracity.
Enforced disappearances violate the human right to dignity. Forcible disappearances and extra-judicial killings not only violate the rights of the victims but also of their families. People have been going missing in Balochistan since 1973 but this evil has pervasively intensified since 2005 and during the PPP rule, it has become even more vicious and abhorrent.
A friend attended the International Human Rights Day protest by relatives of Baloch missing persons in Karachi and wrote: “Among the protestors was a lady relative of a missing person at the protest. Her slippers were tattered, her clothes turning to rags, she marches with these slippers; it was heartbreaking.” Probably her only bread-earning brother is no longer there to provide her with reasonable clothing and slippers or perhaps she is too distraught in her quest for her missing relative to even bother about appearances. Enforced disappearances do not only snatch away the life of the immediate victim but also destroy lives of their near and dear ones, making every living moment miserable. No one would like to be seen in shabby clothes and battered slippers; the ‘enforced disappearances’ deny people a dignified, decorous and decent life.
Here Baloch intellectuals, journalists, poets, human rights activists and lawyers have been killed but there has so far never been a single prosecution. And there never will be for here not only the state’s collusion with death squads is beyond doubt but also it being the perpetrator is well established and confirmed by its own Supreme Court. The ‘wall of impunity’ has been cracking and crumbling in Latin America with prosecutions of some generals. However, here it is futile to expect that the murders of Advocate Zaman Khan Marri (‘Wronged souls do not vanish’ Daily Times, September 9, 2010) or Advocate Ali Sher Kurd and thousands of others will ever be reviewed or solved as long as the perpetrators of these crimes rule.
In some places, at least a show of compassion is displayed. For three decades, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) battled the British and their sponsored Protestant militias in Northern Ireland. Patrick Finucane, a 39-year-old Belfast solicitor, was killed in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). He had successfully challenged the British government over several important human rights cases in the 1980s. He was shot 14 times as he sat eating a meal at his Belfast home with his wife Geraldine, who was also wounded during the attack, and his three children. Sir Desmond de Silva’s review released on December 12, 2012 confirmed that agents of the state were involved in his killing and that the level of state collusion was “shocking”. It found that Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers proposed Mr Finucane, 39, be killed, and passed information to his killers. Although David Cameron apologised to the Finucane family on behalf of the whole country, the review downplayed it by concluding that there was “no overarching state conspiracy”. Mr Finucane’s widow dismissed the report as a “sham” and a “whitewash” and she said, “At every turn, it is clear that this report has done exactly what was required — to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its cabinet and ministers, to the Army, the intelligence services, to itself.” She added, “At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed, and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused.”
The days assigned by the UN to help protect human rights will remain quite meaningless and ineffective as long as the culture of impunity is allowed to prevail. There is always collusion between the state and death squads in countries trying to protect the privileges of the ruling classes against class or national struggles, but here the collusion is remorseless as Bangladesh and Balochistan have proved. The wall of impunity is not going to crumble here of its own volition; it needs to be brought down.
Eugene Victor Walter in Terror and Resistance says that for states, “The use of terror is the order of the day, and they consciously design a pattern of violence to produce the social behaviour they demand.” In Balochistan, the state aims to force people to forego a life of dignity and freedom. People too are eventually forced to use violence as a way of seeking political redress and curbing states’ ability to use terror for social control and this is what is behind all struggles for emancipation.