HRCP for talks with Baloch insurgents
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government to hold immediate talks with Baloch insurgents, both within and outside the country, without any impunity to individuals among them causing grave human rights violations.
Launching a report of its fact-finding mission to Balochistan here on Sunday, the commission also urged the insurgents to respect the wishes of people supporting restoration of normalcy and political stability, stop attacks on innocent civilians and give peace a chance.
The report titled “Balochistan: Giving the people a chance” was launched at a news conference by former HRCP chairperson Asma Jahangir. It was attended by the commission’s current Chairperson Zhora Yusuf, General Secretary I.A. Rehman and members of the mission Justice Malik Saeed Hassan and columnist Kamran Shafi.
Ms Jahangir said the situation in Balochistan could improve if the federal and provincial governments and law-enforcement agencies were of the same mind. Militancy could not be condoned in any form. The Baloch insurgents should hold negotiations as their elders had always waged political struggle (to secure their rights), she added.
She also said the Baloch must get their due rights. They want peace, but also their rights. She said the people of Balochistan had informed the mission about the presence of all kinds of local and foreign agencies, including Indian and Arab, but they were not influenced by these agencies. The people were rather struggling for the rights on their own, she said.
The mission went to Balochistan in June. Besides the overall human rights situation in the province, it reported the terrorist attack on a bus carrying students of a women’s university in Quetta and the bombing of Quaid-i-Azam’s residency in Ziarat. Members of the mission also held meetings with representatives of the political administration and a cross-section of the society amid hopes that the government has the authority, commitment, representative character and sincerity of purpose to deal with the problems the province has been facing for a long time.
The report says the HRCP is fully aware of the risks to Baloch nationalists by state actors, but it expects them to denounce violence. Weakening the democratic process will only strengthen the hands of undemocratic forces.
It urges Baloch insurgents to stop all kinds of violent activities at least for a brief period to give peace a chance. This will provide the new government an opportunity to confront “actors within the state” committing human rights violations on the pretext of furthering national security.
During this period, it says, the government could put up a monitoring mechanism to investigate human rights violations by state agents and punish perpetrators. This could lead to reciprocity for peace rather than reprisal where eventually ordinary people have to pay the price with their lives, liberty and their right to peaceful existence.
The HRCP calls upon security forces and intelligence agencies to operate within the ambit of the constitution and law. There are credible reports of continued serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance of people, arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. These illegal actions will affect the democratic process and further alienate the people.
The report says the heads of Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies should warn their forces against committing human rights violations and in case of any breach of law the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
It says the biggest hurdle in normalisation of the situation in Balochistan is the abhorrent practice of enforced disappearance and dumping of bodies of the kidnapped people.
The HRCP calls for implementation of all recommendations of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances which had visited Pakistan in September last year.
The report recommends development and publicising of standard operating procedures (SOPs) on engagement of security forces and intelligence agencies operating in Balochistan. It seeks powers for the chief minister to write the annual confidential report on the performance of the chief of FC Balochistan and heads of all security agencies tasked with maintaining law and order in the province.
The report says major development projects in Balochistan should be completed at the earliest. It urges the chief minister to appoint a human rights adviser to improve the situation relating to people’s human rights. The adviser should be mandated to raise resources from international donors to make these rights a reality.
As Balochistan is undergoing a period of serious crises in terms of erosion of civil and political rights, the government must set up a provincial human rights commission to monitor and address violations of civil and political rights of its population.
A conventional inter-governmental human rights body will not be effective and, therefore, a cross-party parliamentary body should appoint a person of high integrity as the chief human rights commissioner. The commissioner with the approval of the chief minister should appoint commissioners for each district of Balochistan.
The report says the policing system in Balochistan needs urgent reform. There is an urgent need to boost morale of the police force which has been for a number of reasons reluctant to go after militants and criminals. An academy should be built for training police personnel. Police should have the requisite support from cellphone companies and the National Database and Registration Authority to trace criminals. The civilian intelligence gathering capacity also needs to be enhanced.
The report says it is high time to do away with the distinction between ‘A’ and ‘B’ areas in Balochistan. The government should set up a committee of parliamentarians assisted by experts on the issue to gradually phase out the distinction. The government should make a blueprint whereby the FC can gradually be recalled from the province as active policing by it has been counter-productive and has created vested interests within the institution itself and deepened resentment among the people of the province.