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Controversy over Pak army’s revenge killings in Balochistan refuses to die, judicial inquiry sought

Bodies of the nine persons killed by Pakistani forces in the Ziarat operation (Photo: The Balochistan Post)

The Balochistan provincial government has written a letter to the Balochistan High Court (BHC) seeking a judicial inquiry into the 'encounter killings' in which nine people were killed by the Pakistani army in Ziarat. The inquiry will find out the status of the slain people – whether they were missing people or not.

The Friday Times quoted the provincial government as saying: "Government of Balochistan intends to conduct a ‘judicial inquiry’ by a honourable judge of High Court of Balochistan into the killing of persons in Ziarat operation under ‘The Balochistan Tribunal of Inquiry Ordinance 1969’… It is, therefore, requested that nomination of a judge …. may kindly be conveyed to this department for the subject purpose".

On July 16, the Pakistani army had claimed to have killed nine 'terrorists' while searching for the kidnappers of Lt. Col. Laiq Baig Mirza—an army officer who had been kidnapped with his cousin while travelling from Ziarat to Quetta. He was found dead while his cousin's body was discovered later in a different place.

Rebels from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the senior Pakistani Army officer—an unprecedented act by Baloch rebels that demonstrated how the Baloch insurgency has only grown bigger despite Pakistan's heavy-handed tactics in curbing the nationalist movement.

In response to the kidnapping and killing of a serving Pakistani army officer, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations wing of the army, claimed to have killed nine "terrorists" in an encounter with the BLA.

The revenge killings by the Pakistani army has united the broad spectrum of Baloch society.

Baloch groups—rebels as well as political parties—have categorically said that five of the nine men were "forcibly disappeared persons"—the Pakistani parlance for people kidnapped by the army and intelligence agencies taken to torture cells without being produced before courts.

Even Baloch political parties, which are supposedly close to the Pakistani government, came forward to denounce the 'encounter'. Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal) told the media that he had even requested Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to order an inquiry into the Ziarat encounter, adding: "We have evidence of who was picked up where and when".

The Baloch National Movement (BNM) said that five of the assassinated persons "had been whisked away by Pakistan Army at different times. All of them were in torture cells of Pakistan. The State took them out of the torture cells and killed them in the fake encounter".

The information secretary of the BNM, Qazi Rehman told India Narrative: "Shams Satakzai was abducted five years ago, Shahzad son of Khudabakhsh Dehwar resident of Kalat was whisked away on 4 June this year, Engineer Zaheer Ahmed was abducted on October 7, 2021, Salim son of Karim Baksh residents Balgatar on April 18,  2022 and  Dr Mukhtiar Ahmed son of Abdul Hai, resident of Naal Khuzdar, was forcibly disappeared by the Pakistani Army from the Polytechnic College in Quetta Sariab Road on June 11".

Pakistan has literally handed over the province to the army besides imposing a total media blackout in the province. It has been using helicopter gunships in operations against the civilian population in a bid to intimidate the community.

This year Balochistan has witnessed high profile attacks including the Shari Baloch suicide bombing on China's Consucius institute in Karachi leading to the deaths of three Chinese including the director of the institute. In other attacks the Baloch rebels occupied the Panjgur camp of Pakistani forces for three days resulting in scores of deaths of Pakistani security personnel. 

Read More: In depth: How Baloch armed organisations are keeping Pakistani army on the tenterhooks