ISLAMABAD: Soldiers, police and intelligence agencies in Pakistan torture and kill abducted activists in a campaign to quash a separatist movement, a rights group said Thursday.
Hundreds of so-called “enforced disappearances” have been committed since 2005, Human Rights Watch said in a new report into alleged abuses in the southwestern province of Balochistan.
Victims told HRW that they had been picked up from their homes at night by gangs of armed men, questioned and beaten without being told who was holding them or why.
“Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear,’ and in many cases are executed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW.
The rights group’s report, entitled “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”, documented cases of uniformed paramilitary troops, police and the much-feared ISI intelligence agency being involved in the abductions.
The government in Islamabad has cracked down on dissent in Balochistan since rebels rose up in 2004 demanding autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s oil, gas and mineral resources.
“Pakistani security services are brazenly disappearing, torturing, and often killing people because of suspected ties to the Baloch nationalist movement,” Adams said. “This is not counterinsurgency, it is barbarism.”
One victim, Mazhar Khan, told how he was at a friend’s house in Noshki district in December 2009 when armed men stormed in, blindfolded both of them and drove them to different locations.
Khan was questioned about Baloch political activity and held alone in a dark room for nearly two months before being released on the side of a road near Quetta, the provincial capital.
His friend’s whereabouts are still unknown despite his family fighting a high court battle in which judges have asked the ISI, police, and federal and state authorities to provide information about any charges against the men.
HRW said the number of abductions and executions was unknown but that in 2008 Interior Minister Rehman Malik said there had been at least 1,100 victims of “disappearances” in Balochistan. Other officials have disputed the figure.