As the world celebrates the Human Rights Day, the United Nations Sunday kicked off in Paris, France, a year-long campaign to honor the foundational human rights document, which next year marks its 70th anniversary. But in Balochistan, a France-sized territory, languishing under Pakistan military bayonets for nearly seven decades, in southwest Asia human rights remain two forgotten words.
According to the UN News Centre, since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, “human rights have been one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and development,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his message for Human Rights Day, annually observed on 10 December.
As “one of the world’s most profound and far-reaching international agreements,” the Universal Declaration proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.
Out there in Balochistan Pakistan army, Military Intelligence, Inter Services Intelligence and the para-military Frontier Corps– among the army-run country’s other security and intelligence services– have thrown at least two dozen of the 30 items on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the winds. Balochistan, or the land of the Baloch, also remains the world capital of enforced disappearances where at least 8,000 Baloch remain victims of enforced disappearances– some accounts say more than 20,000 where forcibly disappeared since 2005. A ruthless kill and dump policy of the Baloch continues unmitigated as former senator Muheem Khan says the locals are being Red Indianized in the wake of the $62 billion controversial China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Khan says the Baloch will be pushed to the fringes of their homeland with the influx of Chinese and Punjabis from the dominant province of Punjab, the army’s stronghold, in the near future.
Last month, Balochistan home minister Sarfraz Bugti, who is alleged to be a key henchman of the infamous ISI, reportedly said “genocide” was the only way for peace in Balochistan– the minister later denied he ever said that. According to the pro-freedom, Baloch National Movement, Pakistan forces intensified aerial operations against civilians in many areas of Balochistan after the home minister’s statement.
Extrajudicial killings by Pakistan army and security agencies are a daily routine. Balochistan is one of the few areas in the world where aerial power is being used against common citizens. Burning of homes and villages by the Pakistan army, abduction of women and children, looting of property, extreme torture include inflicting cuts on sensitive parts of the body, sodomy and feeding of feces to Baloch youths. Brutality of the state security agencies has resulted in throwing off of mutilating corpses of Baloch freedom fighters and political activists on roadside or in the wilderness. Mass graves of freedom activists have also been found in Balochistan. Pakistan media completely blacks out news about Pakistan army brutalities like the way it did during the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971. Foreign journalists who tried to report on Balochistan including Carlotta Gall, Declan Walsh and Willem Marx have all been barred from Pakistan. Since 2010, at least one Baloch journalist or writer has been killed each month in Balochistan.
For his part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein– a member of the Jordanian royal family– said “we should be under no illusions: the legacy of the Universal Declaration is facing threats on many fronts.” As Mr Hussein is from Jordan one had wished he had taken the same keen interest in Balochistan, which is in the greater Middle East, as he had shown in the case of Rohingyas of Myanmar in southeast Asia. But seems like Balochistan has evaded the radar of Guterres and Hussein alike. Former Balochistan fisheries minister Kachkol Ali Advocate says the UN silence is because of a design: Pakistan provides cheap UN peacekeeping soldiers to the world body which in turn looks the other way in Balochistan. This transactional arrangement between the UN and Pakistan has put Balochistan on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
There can be no arguments that the resistance put up by the Baloch liberation factions is a legitimate struggle. I hate to write this but for the sake of historic objectivity it has to be mentioned here all the resistance outfits Baloch Republican Army (BRA), allegedly led by Swiss-based Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti, United Baloch Army (UBA) led by Dubai-based Mehran Baluch, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) led by London-based Hyrbyair Marri, and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) led by Dr Allah Nazar– closely allied with Baloch National Movement (BNM)– have reportedly committed war crimes against unarmed citizens and political opponents in Balochistan. According to a list provided by the National Party spokesman Jan Buledi, who himself escaped an assassination attempt by the BLF, more than 100 Baloch locals, including activists of his pro-Islamabad party, were targeted by Bugti’s BRA and Dr Nazar’s BLF in recent years. In Dera Bugti alone, Bugti’s BRA militants have allegedly killed more than 300 Bugti tribesmen who are close to home minister Sarfraz Bugti. On the other hand, fratricide between Marri brothers Mehran Baluch and Hyrbyair Marri have left nearly four dozen Marri tribesmen dead.