Despite tall claims by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the humiliation, rights violations and systematic oppression of ethnic groups is in full swing. From Lahore, we receive glossy pictures of shows, ceremonies and concerts, including visits of high dignitaries of foreign countries; but Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi, the blood-capitals of oppressed provinces, represent a very grim story. A country envisioned to address the grievances, inequalities and suppression of oppressed Muslims and other communities is now becoming a symbol of mass oppression.
This country is currently ruled by an ethnically-dominant establishment and anyone who dares to speak or demand truth, justice and fair treatment is deemed a ‘traitor’, ‘foreign agent’ and an ‘enemy of the state’, and treated with brute and inhuman methods, such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing and collective punishment.
Balochistan, being the least populated province, has suffered immensely. Contemporary accounts of human rights violations and killings of political activists, leaders, human rights defenders and journalists are shocking. From 2002 to 2013, thousands of people have gone missing in Balochistan and nearly 800 tortured bodies of Baloch activists have been recovered from different parts of the province. In stark contrast, the number of missing persons reported from Punjab is negligible, even though the province is home to some of the deadliest extremist outfits.
On December 20, 2013, Pakistan’s interior minister, in a written reply to the Senate, tried his best to conceal the facts when replying to Dr Karim Ahmed Khawaja’s question concerning the number of missing persons in the country since 2001 with a province-wise break-up and mutilated bodies found during the said period. A vague reply was prepared by the interior ministry, with no substantive data given. Despite the tall promises made by this government of ending brutal practices, it is complicit in hiding shocking facts related to extra-judicial killings.
It seems that ending enforced disappearances is not a priority for the government and the security establishment because Punjab is unaffected by them. Enforced disappearances are a socio-physiological trauma not limited to affected family members but are also used as a method of collective harassment to create mass fear. Our country has turned into a hell for religious minorities, sects and ethnic groups. Unrepresented in the country’s powerful establishment, the Baloch are on receiving end when it comes to human rights violations. To some extent, Sindhis and Pashtuns are also bearing the brunt.
Today, Balochistan with its cosmetic government is nearly a volcano of human sufferings and emotions. Although countless women and men are not part of the rallies and the long marches because of unprecedented intimidation and threats, each and every Baloch family has been affected.
As hopes for the recovery of ‘disappeared’ persons fade, relatives of individuals subjected to enforced disappearances continue to suffer hardships, isolation and despair, in some cases made worse by threats and false promises from government officials. Causing such sufferings to family members of disappeared persons is also a human rights violation.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2013.
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