On the same day that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced an All-Parties Conference to discuss the Balochistan issue, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights urged both the government and the judiciary to do more to stop the gross violations of human rights by the military in the province. Unfortunately, the National Assembly as well as the civilian leadership, has paid little more than lip service when it comes to Balochistan. That was the case in 2008, when Gilani, amid much hope and publicity, announced the Balochistan package — a fairly sensible document that spoke of real reform. However, this document has been gathering dust, never to be spoken of and never to be acted on again. Instead, the National Assembly found it more useful to pass a resolution condemning the US Congress for daring to discuss the situation in Balochistan last week. Challenging the US is all well and good, but when it comes to investigating or even simply condemning, the Frontier Corps’ policy of extrajudicial killings and illegal abductions, the legislative body suddenly loses its tongue.
There is slightly more hope that the judiciary may be more effective than the legislature at forcing the military to mend its ways in Balochistan. On January 27, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the heads of the ISI and MI to produce a report documenting the killings in the province. As in Gilani’s contempt case and in the case of the Adiala Jail prisoners, who were abducted by the intelligence agencies, the Supreme Court has shown that it is capable of holding the powerful accountable. The chief justice himself has ties to Balochistan so this might also spur him into further action.
The problem, however, is that it may already be too late. Separatist sentiment in the province is now already widespread and nationalist groups have no problem with responding to military violence with violence of their own. As long as this cycle remains unbroken there is little hope of a peaceful resolution to Balochistan’s woes. Meanwhile, the scores of people who have been spirited away to some military torture cell, or killed for no reason other than their provincial identity, will continue to be denied justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2012.
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