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Baloch human rights abuses by Pakistan echo in UK parliament, lobbying by activists pays off

BNM activists give representation at 10 Downing Street (Photo: BNM/Twitter)

The human rights abuses by the Pakistani State in its estranged province of Balochistan through enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions has been noticed by British members of parliament. In the past few weeks, MPs have asked the government about its policy regarding the disputed region.

On March 10, Pete Wishart of the Scottish National Party asked the British foreign ministry – the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, “… whether his Department has made an assessment of the implications for its policies of the human rights situation in the Pakistani region of Balochistan, including potential occurrence of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and honour killings”.

Similarly, Labour Party member Seema Malhotra asked Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly, on March 15 about the “recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the adherence to human rights in Balochistan”.

In his reply to Wishart, Parliamentary Under-Secretary Leo Docherty said that the UK has been engaging with the Pakistani government at senior levels to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.

Docherty said: “On 30 January, Minister of State for South Asia, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, discussed the human rights situation with Minister for Human Rights Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada. In June 2022, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan discussed the issue of enforced disappearances in Balochistan with Minister Pirzada”.

Baloch organisations have been lobbying in the UK and Europe asking for the governments to intervene in the war-like conditions in Balochistan. A UK-based senior leader of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) told India Narrative that recent developments in the UK are expected to add momentum to the global campaign for justice in Balochistan.

The Baloch have been lobbying with members of the British parliament as well as those of the European parliament in a bid to push for independence from Pakistan. To raise public opinion about the little-known issue, they are also holding frequent demonstrations in European cities to highlight the neglect of Baloch issues.

Pakistan has been strafing local populations through helicopter gunships, has been using China-supplied drones to track Baloch fighters and has stepped enforced disappearances of Baloch women.

In February this year, Baloch and Sindhi groups had protested outside 10 Downing Street, seeking intervention by the British government. The Sindhi nationalists even submitted a petition to Sunak’s office requesting him to press upon Pakistan to stop enforced appearances of the Sindhi community and release missing persons.

Balochistan, which lies to the south-west of Pakistan bordering Iran and Afghanistan is in the grip of one of the longest-running insurgencies, going on for over seven decades after the Pakistani Army invaded an independent Balochistan on 27 March 1948.

Also read: Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances continue in Balochistan: rights body