Defining the scope of the military’s engagement in Balochistan, Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on Monday said the army cannot directly hold talks and negotiations with “angry Baloch nationalists” since it is the job of the democratic government.
Gen Kayani also defended the much criticised role of intelligence agencies and the Pakistan Army in Balochistan and said that the armed forces were not involved in killings and dumping of mutilated bodies in the province.
The army chief was speaking to journalists at the inauguration of the Garrison Sports Academy and Institute of Medical Sciences in Quetta on Monday.
“The army has nothing to do with mutilated bodies being recovered in Balochistan and no military operation is being carried out in any part of the province. It is the responsibility of the provincial government to maintain law and order in the province and the army is there to assist them,” he told reporters.
Baloch nationalists, as well as family members of the ‘missing persons’, usually blame security forces and spy agencies for whisking away political opponents whose bodies are later found in desolated parts of the province.
Besides nationalists, human rights group have also criticised the role of security forces in Balochistan. In a report published in June this year, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan blamed Frontier Corps for the abductions and killings in the province and said the provincial government seemed non-existent.
New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, in a report this week, also reported that security agencies are involved in abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings in the province.
(Read: “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”)
Gen Kayani said the people of Balochistan are patriotic and the army will leave no stone unturned to develop the province. “Strengthening Balochistan is linked to a strong Pakistan and all efforts are being made to protect the rights of the Baloch people,” he added.
The army chief said the sports complex and institute of medical sciences is a gift for the people of Balochistan, adding that 80% of the students admitted to the institute will be Baloch.
Kayani’s was the second statement from the Pakistan Army in two weeks in response to the allegations of target killings. Earlier, Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Jawed Zia also defended the military and said the army and intelligence agencies were not responsible for the killings and dumping of bodies of Baloch missing persons.
However, the judicial commission on missing persons in its report said: “In order to put an end to the issue of enforced disappearances/missing persons, the intelligence agencies should be restrained from arbitrarily arresting and detaining anyone without due process of law.”
Responding to Kayani’s statement, Information Secretary of Balochistan National Party (BNP) Agha Hassan said: “The denial of the security forces’ involvement is regrettable.”
“The army is taking a defensive position to deter Baloch nationalists from taking these war crimes to the international courts,” Hassan told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.