For the country’s largest and most-volatile province, there is little respite.
A recent fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Balochistan reveals that Talibanisation is growing in several areas of the province and, as Quetta becomes a haven for militants, there is palpable fear that security forces are patronising the militancy.
The observations were noted by the mission in a report launched on Thursday.
The HRCP mission visited the province from May 15 to 19 to assess the impact of recent measures taken by the government with respect to the province, and to hear suggestions from stakeholders on a way out of the lingering crisis.
Talibanisation is growing in several areas and, unlike in the past, religious fanaticism is not merely being exported to the province from elsewhere – it is now being bred in Balochistan, the report notes.
A growing network of madrassas has contributed to aggravation of sectarian tensions and militant training camps are reported in the province, findings suggest.
While the government’s strategy vis-à-vis quelling the unrest in the province has largely failed, the report says there is a general opinion that if there is a genuine will and commitment to find solutions, the numerous challenges could be addressed.
The mission met members of the executive, representatives of political parties, civil society organisations, relatives of missing persons, religious and ethnic minority communities, businessmen, lawyers, journalists, teachers, students and senior government officials.
According to the report, the situation in Balochistan, in many fundamental respects, has not changed since HRCP’s last fact-finding mission to the province in 2011. Enforced disappearances continue in the province as does the dumping of bodies and impunity for perpetrators.
Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies are generally believed to be involved in enforced disappearance; in some cases their involvement had been proved beyond doubt, the report says.
Multiple layers of violence
According to the report, there are multiple layers of violence and tension in Balochistan.
The crime wave that has engulfed urban Balochistan and the main highways is either a mark of collusion or utter incompetence of the authorities, the report notes.
It further says that kidnappings for ransom have become a profitable enterprise in the province and no perpetrator has been arrested or tried.
The provincial home minister had spoken of fellow Cabinet members’ involvement in this crime but no action was taken.
Target killings and crime on the basis of religious and ethnic identity has grown, the report says, adding that the continued persecution of the Hazaras is as ruthless as it is unprecedented.
The state abdicating its basic responsibility and NGOs retreating for fear of abduction of their staff has further aggravated the crises, the report says.
The government and development agencies have abandoned the troubled areas and the provincial government is nowhere to be seen in the crises. The chief minister is mostly away from the province and the provincial government holds meetings regarding Balochistan outside the province, findings reveal.
The report also mentions that there is a widespread feeling that the national media has abandoned Balochistan and has not given the province adequate coverage. Even when whole cities were shut down during a strike, the media did not report that. Journalists in the field feel threatened from the security forces, militants and insurgents, the report adds.
Armed to the teeth
Members of the mission were shocked at the glut of sophisticated firearms in Balochistan and the easy access to them, according to the report.
It defies belief that huge quantities of weapons could pass through a series of check-posts when the common citizen was stopped even for carrying a knife, the report says.
Had there been sincere efforts to curtail the flow of weapons, they would certainly have made a difference, the mission noted.
On a related note, findings reveal that the people generally express faith in the Levies force, because it is a local force, while the police is not well-regarded.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012.