Balochistan: 480 went missing, 177 killed in 2020

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Mother and Father of Hayat Baloch crying over the body of their son. Hayat Baloch was a student and was murdered in cold blood by the Pakistani security forces in occupied Balochistan. (Photo: News Intervention)
Mother and Father of Hayat Baloch crying over the body of their son. Hayat Baloch was a student and was murdered in cold blood by the Pakistani security forces in occupied Balochistan. (Photo: News Intervention)

The Human Rights Council of Balochistan revealed the details of “enforced disappearances” and “extrajudicial killings” that were carried out in Balochistan in 2020. The numbers are shocking – 480 individuals were “forcibly disappeared” and 177 were killed and their dead bodies were thrown in the wilderness. The rights group added that these “conservative” numbers were derived from the information accessible to them from various areas of Balochistan. The actual toll might be higher.

The rights group said that 2020 was no different than any other year in Balochistan – human rights violations were carried out as usual. As the pandemic raged on, academic institutions throughout Pakistan were shut off and the Baloch students studying in these institutions had to travel back home. Many of these students were either “forcibly disappeared” or shot dead in broad daylight.

The speakers then detailed the story of several individuals who were subjected to the “cruelty” of the Pakistani forces. Hayat Baloch, a young student at the University of Karachi, was shot dead in front of his parents in broad daylight in Turbat by the Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers. Murad Jan, a resident of Mashkay, was beaten to death by the security forces for his inability to communicate in Urdu. Javed Gohram, a native of Mand, was detained by the Pakistani forces and subsequently beaten to death.

The speakers said that 2020 was also not a particularly good year for women. In May of that year, a gang of bandits breached into a house for the purposes of a robbery. The materfamilias of the house – Malik Naz – was shot dead when she resisted the burglars. Her four-year-old daughter Bramsh was wounded in the attack. One of the burglars was cornered by the neighbours who then found a military card in his pocket. He confessed that his gang abducts and kills political activists on the behest of the Frontier Corps. In return, the FC has given them a free hand in the area.

Another woman named Kulsoom Baloch was killed by two burglars in front of her children. The culprits were later identified but never apprehended. In October of 2020, a woman named Asiya Bibi was shot dead by police personnel – the culprit is yet to be prosecuted.

Shaheena Baloch, a journalist, artist and women’s rights activist, was killed by her husband Mehrab Gichki in Turbat in the name of honour. Despite the heavy presence of the Pakistani security forces in almost every city of Balochistan, Mehrab somehow managed to escape and has not been arrested since. The forces have not even tried to trace him down and apprehend him.

The rights group also mentioned several incidents where minors were killed by the security forces. 14-year-old Hamza was among the seven people who lost their lives to a devastating air operation in Panjgoor. In Turbat, the forces fired several shots on a vehicle, and a 17-year-old boy named Imam Sher was shot twice. He was dragged to a nearby check post and left on the road to bleed to death. Haneef Mehran and Ameer Baksh – 7 and 16 years old respectively – were abducted when they were on their way to Turbat. Their mutilated dead bodies were found a day later.

The speakers said that Baloch dissidents and activists, who had fled Balochistan after threats on their lives, were hunted down and killed in foreign countries. Sajid Hussain, a Baloch journalist and writer, went missing in Sweden in March of 2020. A month later, his dead body was hauled out of a river. A similar fate befell Karima Baloch, a human rights activist and the former chairperson of the BSO-Azad, who went missing in Toronto and her dead body was found in a river a day later.

The rights group said that per the information accessible to them, 480 individuals went missing and 177 were killed in Balochistan in 2020 alone. 17 of the missing 480 were women who were later released and a considerable number of them are students.

The speakers said that some missing persons were also released during that period, but the rate of disappearance vastly outstripped the rate of recoveries. The security forces conducted numerous large-scale operations during the year throughout Balochistan. As a result of these operations, hundreds of individuals have whisked away, houses were set ablaze and possessions were looted. Countless Baloch families had to relocate as a result of these atrocities.

The rights group said that human rights violations have not ceased in 2021. Only a few days ago the Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan executed five Baloch missing persons in a fake encounter, labelling them as “terrorists.” The CTD also tried to coerce the elderly mother of the missing Rashid Hussain to sign a false and misleading statement, and when she refused to comply, the forces locked her up in a room.

The speakers concluded by saying that for the past several years, Balochistan has become a hotbed of the grave human rights violations of the Pakistani state. They said that if these “oppressive” policies are not repealed or replaced, the violence and conflict will only increase in Balochistan.

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