Balochistan: Silence of the courts

Published: March 7, 2012

The writer is a professor at the University of Bradford

Balochistan has been burning in the background for sometime, but what made Congress — to the embarrassment of the State Department and the Government of Pakistan — take up this issue now? Some say this was just a stunt but there is a growing frustration in Washington that Pakistan is double-dealing with the US; taking substantial aid dollars and then pursuing a strategy in Afghanistan which is costing lives of US soldiers. American troops have now been in Afghanistan longer than the Vietnam War, and there is considerable unhappiness with Pakistan for the grief it has caused them and an increasing desire, in some quarters, to hit back.

What is interesting is that for the first time, the international community is now reflecting on the possibility of an independent Balochistan, is being sold to them as a package, which would break-up Iran and Pakistan and give over Gwadar as a facility for the US fleet. Let’s be clear that this is a minority view; it is more of an attempt to embarrass Pakistan, but such developments can generate their own momentum and with time become a reality. Who would have thought that South Sudan or East Timor would become independent states? But those who live by the sword die by the sword and, this could easily be applied to countries.

Pakistan of all countries should be familiar with this theme after resorting to military force to deny the Bangladeshi people their democratic rights. Military solutions to political problems results in disaster and invite foreign intervention and we are repeating these mistakes again in Balochistan. Failure to resolve the human rights situation is creating opportunities for foreign intervention. From the extrajudicial execution of Akbar Bugti to the deaths of activists (1,100 according to Human Rights Watch and 10,000 according to Baloch activists) and their torture and disappearances are — in eyes of those critical of Pakistan, evidence of — crimes against humanity. Pakistani generals were fortunate that they weren’t dragged into an international court and prosecuted for war crimes after the Bangladesh civil war, mainly because such bodies could not function during the Cold War. However, in the unipolar world of today, we have seen Ratko Mladic of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, President of Liberia, Charles Taylor and Nuon Chea, of the Khmer Rouge all end up in court to get their comeuppance.

Our political leaders are in a huddle, trying to figure out how to respond to the crisis in Balochistan; idle resolutions condemning foreign interference are being passed but our judiciary remains inactive and silent on this issue. It is tragic that our activist judges have not seen the abuse of fundamental rights in Balochistan to be given priority, particularly since the Baloch disappearance case was an important reason for the clash between former General Pervez Musharraf and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Why cases about presidential corruption are considered more important than cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances beats me? It only resonates with the Baloch nationalist argument that they are not treated like Pakistani citizens and hence, want independence, even if it means becoming a satellite of the US. The best possible response to the Congressional hearing is for the judiciary to demonstrate that it actively safeguards the fundamental rights of all the citizens of Pakistan.

The judiciary needs to investigate the killing of Akbar Bugti and if necessary charge Musharraf, reopen the case on disappearances and threaten contempt charges against the agencies for ignoring their orders. The Supreme Court cannot sit idle and ignore these issues by risking greater foreign interference in the matter. It needs to demonstrate to the Baloch people and the world that they are, in fact, citizens of Pakistan and their rights are protected.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2012.

Reader Comments (11)

  • Khan jr
    Mar 8, 2012 - 12:09AM

    A most valid viewpoint. A failure to resolve the disastrous human rights situation is creating opportunities for foreign intervention AND NOT the other way round – a view that is regularly promulgated by the Establishment’s denial writers.

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  • Babloo
    Mar 8, 2012 - 1:11AM

    They can flex muscle against democratically elected governments but are abject and impotent in face of the agencies. So as to hide their sub-servient role they prefer to not mess with agencies and thus get exposed. They too have to save face and maintain the face of bluster against those they can. Dont they ?

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  • beenish aftab
    Mar 8, 2012 - 1:51AM

    Why are the courts silent over the deliberate murders of punjabi civilians in balochistan? why no suo motu notice of these murders.hundreds of teachers,doctors,barbers,workers have been deliberately killed because of their being punjabi but the courts are completely silent over this.The families of the punjabis killed in balochistan also want justice for their loved ones,the murderers of these civilians should also be punished by the courts.

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  • ayaz naveed
    Mar 8, 2012 - 1:54AM

    The cases of the missing persons are just as important as the cases of the genocide of punjabi settlers in balochistan.but the media is only highlighting the missing persons case and ignoring the plight of punjabis in balochistan.

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  • arshad jamali
    Mar 8, 2012 - 2:00AM

    There are double standards at work.The missing persons are being portrayed by the news channels as innocent victims,while the FC is being vilified and shown as the evil villains.
    why aren’t the leaders of the terrorist groups working in balochistan ever held to account for killing punjabi and urdu speaking civilians in balochistan.
    The courts have a duty to treat all people fairly but it’s only the case of the missing persons that gains all attention.

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  • Nisar Hussain
    Mar 8, 2012 - 7:43AM

    @author nice and trueRecommend

  • Baloch
    Mar 8, 2012 - 11:28AM

    An excellent piece on the subject – especially the reference of “Pakistani generals were fortunate that they weren’t dragged into an international court and prosecuted for war crimes after the Bangladesh civil war, mainly because such bodies could not function during the Cold War”.

    I guess some of the comments above, prove their case that Judiciary is not ready to face or challenge the security agencies over their conducts. No one has done it before and few will dare to raise this point – making the case of military superiority in Pakistan amongst all institution. Hence the Baloch uprising against the aggressor – it is a natural phenomena and happens everywhere in the world, where there unnecessary force is involved against the will of ‘People of the Land’.

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  • wonderer
    Mar 8, 2012 - 11:41AM

    The Government, Judiciary and the civil society of Pakistan could hardly get better advice.

    I wonder why there are no protest demonstrations by the general public in Pakistan.

    Wake up and get to work. Not a moment to lose.

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  • baloch
    Mar 8, 2012 - 12:06PM

    @Beenish Aftab
    @Ayaz Naveed
    @Arshad Jamali

    All of you are absolutely right. Why don’t they take notice of killings of innocent settlers in Balochistan – they should and the Balochi’s should support it.

    But a question comes to our mind – when did this start? The settlers have been living in Balochistan for more than 50 years, till 2008, we did not used to hear such news coming out of Balochistan. What went wrong? Did the army operation start in 2005? Can you connect the dots backwards? When innocent people are murdered, where their family will take out their anger/vengeance on? These are the questions you should be asking from the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

    For a fact, in May 2008, there were more Urdu speaking killed in one day in Karachi then in whole year in Balochistan. As per interior minister’s report there were 276 killings of settlers in Balochistan last year. Now compare this figure to Urdu speaking being killed in Karachi – the figure runs higher than 3,000. So a settler is better off in Balochistan than in Karachi or in Fata or in any other part of Pakistan apart from Punjab Province – now ask CJ to take a notice of that.Recommend

  • Atta-ur-Rehman
    Mar 8, 2012 - 5:56PM

    The author correctly pointed out that Our political leaders are in a huddle, trying to figure out how to respond to the crisis in Baluchistan; idle resolutions condemning foreign interference are being passed. At the same time, they are using this resolution as a tool of evidence that behind unrest of Baluchistan, there is foreign hand like Americans as they have presented a resolution in congress for self determination of Baluchistan. But reality is different. This is a point of view of a few American congressmen. Soon after this, America declared its official position about it clearly that America is not interested in Free Baluchistan… Our politicians instead of thinking causes which sparked unrest in Baluchistan, totally concentrated that this resolution is an act of interference in our internal affairs. At same time they should also think remedies for unrest in province. The situation can not be tackled until both parties (Establishment and Baluch nationalists) do not bring flexibility in their strategies. The policy makers of Islamabad will have to change their mindset that Baloch are traitors and secondly they will have to accept the right of people of Balochistan over its resources. On other hand Balochs will have to accept that they are integral part of Pakistan and they have rights as well as some duties for state.

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  • Maryam
    Mar 8, 2012 - 6:50PM

    @beenish aftab:
    no one has condoned the killing of settlers in Balochistan. but no one wants to address those issues because they are away from Islamabad….they don’t affect the daily life of rich Pakistanis.

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