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Balochistan slips on human rights as fake encounters, targeted killings and torture go up, says HR body

Pakistan witnesses protests and agitations by the Baloch community over State-sponsored kidnappings of students (Photo: Twitter)

Fake encounters, State-sponsored kidnappings, extra-judicial and targeted killings, collective punishment have all shown an increase in Pakistan's largest province Balochistan. The Human Rights Council of Balochistan (HRCB), a non-profit group based in Balochistan, Sweden & France released its report – 'Balochistan: The state of human rights in 2021'.

The province—rich in mineral resources with coal, iron, gold and copper, which covers over 40 per cent of Pakistan's land mass is in turmoil because of a raging independence movement. In spite of its resources, Balochistan is also Pakistan's poorest area with rock-bottom basic facilities and low human development indicators. The Pakistani government has gagged the media from reporting about the happenings in the province.

The HRCB says: "Students remained the main target of the military and its shadow organizations, both in Balochistan as well as in other provinces of Pakistan. A large number of Balochistan’s students were forcibly disappeared in 2021".

The rights body adds that it received reports about the enforced disappearances of 442 people, of whom 170 were tortured and released while 272 people remained unknown. It adds that 366 people were killed.

Researcher and geopolitical analyst, Mark Kinra told India Narrative: "Pakistan has been killing Baloch indiscriminately and this figure of 366 just adds to the continuing genocide of the Baloch people". He adds that not just the world, but even India has not taken up the issue of the grave human rights violations in Balochistan.

In a severe indictment of Pakistan's powerful army, HRCB says that it razed entire villages with bulldozers and burnt them down. The report says: "A large number of women and children were detained and shifted to army camps where they were subjected to inhuman torture. Excessive use of force during military operations and bombings caused an increase in the number of internally displaced persons, a burning issue never taken into consideration, neither by state nor international humanitarian organizations".

The report also says that besides the Pakistani military, even State-sponsored death squads have remained active in the abductions and killing of political activists and their family members. The report says that the activities of the death squads have led to the displacement of many families in rural areas of Balochistan.

The 'Balochistan: The state of human rights in 2021' says that the military is victimising the local rural population. Giving an example, the report says that people in rural areas cannot enter or exit the village without prior permission of the army. The villagers have to get permission even to travel from one town to another to buy food. "… marriages and burials are to be registered to the military camps in advance. People are starving, as they need the army’s signature for purchasing even 1 kg of flour", says the report.

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The report also talks about the condition of the women.

The report says that at least 57 women were killed by their families over allegations of adultery and "not any single culprit was arrested and brought to justice". The report says that due to a culture of impunity, the culprits always get away with killings of women. "Honor killing is one of the most underreported issues in all over Pakistan and in Balochistan it is even worse", says the report.

The HRCB says instead of taking action to prevent enforced disappearances, Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Interior proposes to imprison and fine people who fail to prove the involvement of State institutions in abductions. "These amendments instead of criminalizing enforced disappearances in the country would rather encourage the perpetrators to continue disappearing dissidents and their families", says the human rights report.

The issues investigated and reported by HRCB have been spoken about by Baloch activists, many of whom have fled to the UK, Europe and other Western nations to escape persecution by Pakistan's intelligence and security agencies. Even in European countries, the activists say they have to keep quiet as they fear for their families back home.

Many activists that India Narrative has spoken to have confirmed how the Pakistani military is using Chinese drones to track and kill Baloch rebels. They also confirm that Pakistani security forces have been regularly using helicopter gunships against the Baloch in rural areas to intimidate and suppress innocent people.