Security forces are calling the shots in Balochistan while the provincial government “seems non-existent”, according the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday.
Releasing a report titled ‘Balochistan: Blinkered Slide into Chaos’ at a press conference, the HRCP painted an alarming picture of the situation in the restive province, warning that it could get even worse if immediate steps were not taken.
The report accused the security forces of being behind enforced disappearances in the province, and said that the bodies of 140 missing persons had been found, while 71 people were still missing in the province since July 2010 to May this year
“The Balochistan government seems non-existent…
They have surrendered their authority to security forces and they (forces) are calling the shots,” said HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusuf at the press conference, which was also addressed by HRCP Secretary-General IA Rehman, President Supreme Court Bar Association and former chairperson of HRCP Asma Jehangir, Council member Hina Jillani and Saleema Hashmi.
The report says that 18 people were murdered in target killings, while five innocent citizens became victims of sectarian killings during 2011 in Balochistan.
The mission observed that there were credible allegations of the involvement of security forces, particularly the Frontier Constabulary (FC), in the cases of enforced disappearances. “There was material on record to substantiate claims of the families that the victims were disappeared by the FC or had been killed while in custody,” says the report.
The mission learnt that agents of the state as well as the insurgents and extremists operating in the province share a common disregard for rights of the citizens. “The insurgents have murdered ‘settlers’ in target killings with impunity, while the extremists have treated the members of religious minorities as fair game,” the commission further observed.
“Enforced disappearances continue to be reported from all parts of the province and little headway has been made in ensuring the release of a large number of missing persons from unacknowledged custody of security agencies,” Jahangir said while quoting the findings of the report.
The HRCP chairperson said that there was a sense of alienation among the people of Balochistan. Yusuf added that there is a disturbing trend of bodies of missing persons being found with signs of torture.
Hina Jilani said that there was an imbalance between civil-military relations in the province, adding that there is no political space. “There is no mechanism of accountability of security forces and they do not interact with the public,” she said.
IA Rehman said that they should make it clear that the issue of Balochistan is not one of law and order, but a political issue.
The report says that the FIRs registered against personnel of security forces in enforced disappearances remained uninvestigated without exception and courts had failed to ensure compliance with their orders.
The fact-finding commission says that at least 78 organised gangs were reported to be involved in abduction for ransom in the province and there was a widespread perception that criminal gangs and individuals involved in heinous crime enjoyed support of politicians and security forces.
The commission observed that ‘Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances’ set up to investigate the cases of the missing persons had been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration.
The fact-finding commission says that use of forces rather than political engagement remained the preferred approach in Balochistan and the promises made in the Balochistan Package remained little more than promises.
The commission has recommended that the illegal practice of enforced disappearances stop and all security forces in the province be brought under civilian control. It recommended that the powers of decision making and governance must be restored to civilian political authorities in the province.
A detained person must be promptly informed about the charges against him and in accordance with the constitutional guarantees, should be produced in court within 24 hours and his due process rights should be respected and facilitated, the commission said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.
The full report can be read on the HRCP website here.