How ISI is turning Balochistan into a mass grave
By Farooq Ganderbali
The notorious intelligence wing of Pakistan Army, the ISI, has been waging a brutal and relentless war against its own citizens in Balochistan. The killings and abductions of innocent Baloch men and women have been so rampant that it has become difficult to hide the figures and the anonymous graves scattered the biggest province of Pakistan. The repression—abductions and killings—have intensified once the Chinese came to the scene, demanding security and unbridled access to the natural resources of resource-rich province in the guise of building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese have literally hired Pakistan Army as their security outfit to ensure that the $45 billion corridor does not run aground.
But facts are startling and cannot any longer been suppressed.In August 2016, for instance, the DIG Investigations and Crime, Balochistan informed a committee of the Senate that 1,040 people were killed in Balochistan in the last two years.Since such data rarely comes from official sources, the numbers cited by the senior police official could be taken as a reliable reference point. The Baloch people, however, contest the official figures and argue that the number of abductions and killings have been quite high in the recent past, especially after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project picked up.
In February this year, for instance, Baloch Republican Party spokesperson Mohammad Bugti alleged that `` the Pakistani Army’s continuous military operation throughout the past week has set a new example of brutality in history.`` He said the army had locked down DeraBugti and was using gunships to terrorise the people. Many have died or disappeared in the continuing operation.
In Geneva, another Baloch leader, Ahmad Mastikhan urged the UN to appoint a special rapporteur to probe the grave human rights violations being committed by Pakistan Army in Balochistan. He alleged that it was a far more serious crisis than what was happening to Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Baloch Republican Party member Abdul Nawaz Bugti, making a similar demand, that the UN intervention had become urgent and imperative after the discovery of a mass grave in DeraBugti in February this year. The grave only had women and children.
A widely respected lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, expressing concern, called for a swift action in the region; she said: “For Balochistan, human rights question remains as it was in the past.”
This is not the first time such a brutal suppression of Baloch people have been unleashed. The Baloch have been subjected to state-sponsored repression ever since they had expressed their demand to be free of Pakistan. There was nothing common, be it the language, or culture, or history, between the Baloch and the Punjabi Pakistanis. The Baloch always consider themselves to be a separate nation of people, like the Pathans. They were however forced into submission by Pakistan Army with the West, Britain and US in particular, supporting the new occupier than the people. Since then, Pakistan has been trying, without much success, to convert Balochistan into a subsidiary province, more like a supplier of minerals, gas and other natural resources to Punjab and Sindh.
But the people of Balochistan have been opposing the state project tooth and nail. For that, they have been over the decades terrorised through brutal military means. Thousands have died in the battle for their honour but have refused to kneel down before the military might of Pakistan Army. The army has always viewed the Baloch suspiciously, calling them terrorists and `Indian agents` to justify its kill and dump policy. Thousands of men and women have been abducted and killed and their bodies dumped by the road side or outside their homes or in mass graves. These graves continue to be discovered in different areas of the province.
The last major offensive against the Baloch was carried out by General Pervez Musharraf who was incensed by the Baloch demand to punish an Army Major for raping a Baloch doctor. The despotic General not only refused to pay any attention to the truth of the army officer brutalising a young Baloch woman, he launched a massive military operation against a popular Baloch leader, Nawaz Akbar Khan Bugti. The Baloch did not want to fight and want to sit across the table to discuss their problems with the government. But Musharraf, drunk with power, was not interested in peaceful dialogue and he surrounded the homes of Baloch leaders with tanks and bombed them with military jets. Hundreds were killed and scores of villages and towns were razed to the ground, forcing the community to retreat into distant shelters.
The assassination of Bugti and his men created an international outcry with the West calling for a UN intervention and punishing sanctions against Pakistan. Since then, the army decided to change the tactics—from an open war against their own people, it made the war more covert. The media was banned from reporting the military operations and instead they were fed with information, false and misleading, about the military operations.
For the media, hailed otherwise as a courageous pillar of society in Pakistan, atrocities in Balochistan was not news. The Baloch were not victims but terrorists and soldiers were martyrs and the army protector of lives. This media management became even more blatant with the Chinese demanding security in Balochistan. It has been a no-holds war in Balochistan. In this war, even children and women are not spared.
While Pakistan cooks up false charges of espionage against an Indian businessmen who had strayed across the Iranian border, to deflect world’s attention from Balochistan, the atrocities against the Baloch people continue without any pause.
(The author is a Freelance journalist and columnist