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Pakistan accused of systematic custody killings in Ziarat encounter in Balochistan

Families of people killed in the fake encounter at Ziarat protest against 'enforced disappearances' (Photo: Twitter)

Baloch National Movement (BNM), the Baloch nationalist organisation seeking independence from Pakistan has said that security forces kidnapped 46 people, of which 28 were released after torture. In its July report it also said that the most egregious violation of human rights was the Ziarat killing in which Pakistani agencies killed 11 people in custody.

Talking about the excesses in Balochistan, which is witnessing a powerful insurgency since 1948, the human rights secretary of BNM, Dr Nazir Noor said: "a new chapter was added regarding custodial killings of forcibly disappeared persons… Earlier, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the police under the Pakistan Army had killed many forcibly disappeared persons in fake encounters. But it is for the first time that in immediate response to the action of a Baloch pro-freedom organisation, 11 forcibly disappeared people were killed in custody and termed attackers".

In an unprecedented attack on the Pakistani army, rebels from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) had kidnapped Lt. Col. Laiq Baig Mirza of the Pakistani army along with his cousin when they were travelling from Ziarat to Quetta. He was later found dead while his cousin's body was discovered in a different place.

In response, a vengeful Pakistani army claimed on July 16 that it had found and killed nine 'terrorists' who were directly involved in the kidnapping of Lt. Col. Laiq Baig Mirza. However, Baloch families recognised seven of the dead 'terrorists' as people who had been missing after having been kidnapped by the security forces, leading to an uproar among the Baloch community. After an uproar by relatives, the provincial government in Balochistan announced the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Ziarat encounter.

However, Noor alleged that the Pakistani government and the State institutions have shown a total "lack of interest and non-cooperation" in identifying the persons killed in custody.

Among the other notable incidents of violence against the Baloch, the BNM alleged that they believe that a Baloch asylum seeker in Azerbaijan Saqib Karim Baloch "died under mysterious circumstances", adding that "his family members expressed fears that the cause of his death could be murder".

BNM said that a Baloch refugee Jalam Khan living in Afghanistan was "publicly killed by paid agents of the Pakistani army. We demand the Afghan government to expose the killers and take concrete measures to protect the Baloch refugees living in Afghanistan".

The BNM alleged that construction projects by the Pakistani government "designed for foreign interests in Balochistan also lead to diversion of flood and rainwater towards the population". It alleged that under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of roads across Balochistan have been constructed but the natural flow of rivers has not been taken into account due to which the floods badly damaged agricultural lands, crops, gardens, livestock and plantations.

The organisation said that the residents of Gwarast, Girishag, District Khuzdar held a protest against the CPEC.

The BNM blamed the devastation on the CPEC and appealed to international organisations to evaluate the quality of construction of infrastructure and dams built under the massive project. 

Read More: Interview: The Baloch struggle is consolidating and there will be surprises for Pakistan and for the region – Mir Suleman Dawood