Pakistan has been at the forefront in raising issues about Human rights violations in Kashmir and the state of minorities in India at every conceivable forum. However, it has been hiding its own pathetic record about human rights violations and the abysmal state of various minorities in its own backyard and the occupied territories. There has been an attempt over decades to put a veil of silence on Pakistan’s human rights violations, but with the advent of social media and construction of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), these issues are gaining prominence.
Baluchistan, which has over 43 per cent of Pakistan’s land mass has been in turbulence, with a significant majority demanding either autonomy or separation from Pakistan. With the initiation of construction work related to CPEC, which passes through Baluchistan, the repression of ethnic Baloch has increased manifold and the elections in 2018 saw a buildup of violence against the ethnic population and minorities.
Quetta has about 600,000 Hazaras, who are Mongoloids and adhere to Shia Islam. They have been at the receiving end of a systematic pogrom via targeted killings and bombings. The distinct facial features of Hazara Shias make them easy targets. As per Pakistan’s National Commission for Human rights (NCHR), at least 509 lives have been lost since 2013. The Hazara Shias are targets of the Sunni sectarian armed groupLashkar-e- Jhanghvi, an affiliate group of Islamic State. In March 2018 alone, seven people belonging to Hazara Shia community were killed in five attacks. The Hazara Shias live in two residential areas of Quetta, namely, Marriabad and Hazara Town. The neighbourhoods are surrounded by high concrete walls topped with barbed wire. Entry is strictly controlled via manned checkposts by paramilitary forces. Entry and exits are sealed after 8 pm barring one in each enclave.
Hazara Shias are imprisoned in their enclaves, as they are attacked once they leave their enclaves. With authorities questioning them every time they leave the enclaves, the residents have been virtually cut off from the city. They have sold off their businesses and pulled children out of schools. Shopkeepers have been forced to sell their shops under threats of being killed.
Quetta has a minuscule population of Christians numbering about 25,000. Since December 2017, the community has been under constant attack. In December 2017, a Methodist church was attacked by two suicide bombers killing scores of Christians attending service.Two more Christians were killed in targeted shooting.The Christian community fears being restricted like the Hazara community, as barriers are being constructed on roads leading up to their areas of residence. The church attack was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Violence in the run up to elections and during elections 2018
Unprecedented violence was witnessed not only in cities but in rural areas, targeting opposition and candidates from the ethnic communities of Baluchistan. The violence did not spare the paramilitary forces either.
On Friday, July 13, 2018, two deadly attacks took place. In the first attack four people were killed and 39 injured in a bomb blast, which targeted a Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) convoy in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Four hours later, a bomb blast at an election rally of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) in Mastung claimed the life of 132 people including BAP candidate Nawab Siraj Raisani, and injured 150 others. This was the deadliest attack in Pakistan after the
Army Public School attack in Peshawar. On July 16, 2018, Awami National Party (ANP) candidate from Chaman was injured in an attack on Dera. On election day itself booths were targeted along with voters.
Extra judicial Civilian killings and enforced disappearances
Through 2016, at least 251 civilians were killed in Baluchistan. About 138 of the killed civilians were attributed to various militant outfits, remaining 113 were attributed to Pakistani state apparatus.
From 2004 to March 2017, at least 3,815 civilians have been killed; about 1,051 killings have been attributed to various militant outfits. The remaining 2,764 fatalities have been attributed to Pakistani state agencies. Nearly 1000 bodies of political activists and supposed separatists have been found dumped in last six years. The bodies belonging to Baloch community have been found dumped in regions of Quetta, Kalat, Khuzdar and Makran areas where Baloch separatist movements have roots, pointing to large scale extra judicial killings.
Thousands of people have disappeared without trace in Balochistan since the separatist movement started. In 2005, military led operation was started against ethnic Baloch seeking autonomy. The Voice for Baloch missing persons has recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and asserts that there are many more which have not been documented. Forced disappearances of women in Balochistan is the latest worrying trend. Girls schools are also being targeted and two girls schools were burnt in Pishin area. Pakistan is conducting extreme human rights violations in Balochistan, pitting its military against an unarmed civilian population and letting sectarian groups persecute minorities. Need of the hour is to expose these violations and support Baloch groups in international fora.
Ms Nidhi Bahuguna is a social media activist and free lance writer focussing mainly on geopolitics and Kashmir