In this file photo from September 2016, Mazdak Dilshad Baloch, son of prominent author-activist Naela Qadri Baloch and filmmaker Mir Ghulam Mustafa Raisaini who lives in Canada in exile, climbs during a protest against Pakistan near Pakistani Embassy against human rights violation in Balochistan. (HT Photo)
Updated: Dec 29, 2016 09:47 IST
By Rezaul Hasan Laskar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nearly 1,000 bodies of political activists and suspected separatists have been found in the restive Balochistan province over the past six years, according to the Pakistan government’s official figures.
Most of the bodies were dumped in the regions of Quetta, Qalat, Khuzdar and Makran, areas where Balochistan’s separatist insurgency has its roots, BBC Urdu reported citing figures from the federal human rights ministry.
“According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies have been found in Balochistan since 2011,” the report said.
Rights activists said the figures pointed to large-scale extrajudicial killings, the report added. Relatives said most victims were picked up by security agencies.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks about rights violations in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir created a furore in Pakistan, which said he had crossed a “red line”.
Baloch activists have for long accused Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies of adopting a “kill-and-dump” policy in the resource-rich but impoverished region.
Thousands of people have disappeared without trace in Balochistan since a separatist insurgency gained momentum in 2007, BBC reported. A military-led operation was launched in early 2005 to counter the uprising by ethnic Baloch groups, who want a greater say in decision-making and exploitation of natural resources such as minerals and gas.
The BBC report said one of the more prominent cases of “kill-and-dump” was that of political activist Jalil Reki, who lived in Quetta’s Saryab neighbourhood. He was arrested at his home in 2009, and his body was found two years later in Mand area near the border with Iran, some 1,100 km south of Quetta.
“They came to our house in three vehicles. These were the vehicles of agencies. They took away Jalil,” his mother said. “The police did not take our report. Our male relatives later approached the then chief minister’s office, but we could not get any response.
“Two years later some people found his body in Mand. He had one bullet in the head and three in the chest. His arms were fractured and there were cigarette burns on his back.”
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) said it recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and there are many more it had not been able to document.
VBMP chief Nasrullah Baloch said most of the bodies “are of those activists who have been victims of ‘enforced disappearances’ - people who are picked up by authorities and then just go missing”.
His allegations were largely in line with a 2013 report by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that noted “credible reports of continued serious human rights violations, including disappearances of people, arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings”.
Balochistan government spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar denied that state agencies were involved in such acts. “There are several explanations. Sometimes insurgents are killed in a gunfight with law enforcement agencies but their bodies are found later,” he said.
“Militant groups also fight among each other and don’t bury their dead fighters. Then there are tribal feuds, organised crime and drug mafia.”
There have been frequent protests by relatives of victims and Baloch nationalist organisations over the years, and many activists have fled to foreign countries or safer locations within Pakistan.
Naveed Baloch, who was briefly held by German police for the December 19 truck attack in Berlin, left Pakistan in February to “escape persecution” in his village in Mand region.
An activist of a nationalist party, he was arrested and tortured by Pakistani forces in Balochistan last year, and his home in the village was raided again recently, his cousin, also named Naveed Baloch, told BBC Urdu.