Pakistan using grants received for COVID-19 to escalate military operations in occupied Balochistan

At a time when the entire world is busy fighting Coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies have escalated their brutal operations across occupied Balochistan. In fact, choosing such a time by Pakistan Army for escalation of military operations is an attempt to take advantage of world’s focus to Coronavirus pandemic and is aimed to escape any criticism.

Pakistan’s Army has a history of pursuing its military goals in the disguise of rescue operations in times of natural disasters. The new row of escalation in military operations is being witnessed following the policy statement of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan Army that was issued on Saturday, March 28, 2020. In above mentioned policy statement, ISPR announced dispatching more troops to 9 districts of war ridden occupied Balochistan including the regions of Awaran, Lasbela, Gawadar, Kalat, Khuzdar, Sibi, Naushki, Chaghi and Dukki.

Pro-independence Baloch organizations and leadership promptly denounced dispatching more troops in occupied Balochistan in the disguise of combating COVID-19 pandemic. They rightly maintained that combating Coronavirus pandemic requires more doctors, medical staff, personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and relevant medical staff, test kits, masks, medicines, sanitizers and ventilators and not brute troops of the Pakistan Army. They also maintained that there were already numerous military cantonments and camps and there are military checkpoints at small distances everywhere in Balochistan. So in view of the current situation, an increase in the number of troops seemed an attempt to intensify ongoing military operations amid COVID-19 pandemic in Balochistan. Though Pakistan’s authorities as usual rejected the apprehensions of pro-independence Baloch circle but current escalation in military operations proves the truthfulness of Baloch patriotic leadership and organizations.

A Baloch doctor has to wrap himself with polythene sheets while examining patients kept under quarantine in Balochistan.
A Baloch doctor has to wrap himself with polythene sheets while examining patients kept under quarantine in Balochistan.

Pakistan is known for its policy of denial. Pakistan never admitted running its nuclear programme for making weapons, Pakistan also never admitted its support for Taliban and similarly Pakistan has never admitted fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan and India but history proves its denials totally concocted and false. Similarly Pakistan’s authorities usually don’t admit military operations and human rights abuses in occupied Balochistan. They pursue same policy of denials aimed to demean the armed conflict in Balochistan and thereby avoid international attention and reaction to their brutality, human rights abuses and forcible occupation of Balochistan. But in this age of digital information it’s not possible to suppress the truth. Despite Pakistan Army’s persistent denial of military operations in Balochistan, the cases of brutal army offensives, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, blazing away of the dwellings of destitute civilians, plundering villages and forcibly displacing populations are continuously being reported by human rights organizations and numerous other sources on social media platforms.

In the month of April 2020, amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Balochistan witnessed a surge in military raids. According to monthly reports of Human Rights Council of Balochistan published on social media, 16 Baloch were killed and 45 were abducted in April 2020. As many as 73 Baloch people had been picked up by the Pakistani forces, including students, women, children and infants. Of these, 28 of them were later released. The whereabouts of the 45 Baloch people remains unknown even to this day.

Human Rights Council of Balochistan published a report about atrocities committed by Pakistan Army during April 2020, in occupied Balochistan.

At midnight on April 26, 2020 Pakistan Army and mercenaries of a local armed proxy of theirs laid siege on Yar Muhammad Bazar Khalag Kaur, a village in Parom, Balochistan which resulted in a fierce exchange of firing between army and the Baloch freedom fighters. After a long exchange of firing Pakistan Army finally managed to martyr four Baloch freedom fighters with the help of gunship helicopters. According to the reports, after killing the Baloch freedom fighters, Pakistan Army personnel tied the corpses of four freedom fighters with vehicles and dragged them to army garrison. Such savagery of Pakistan Army was widely condemned.

On May 2, 2020 two brilliant Baloch youths, Shahdad Baloch and Ehsan Baloch, embraced martyrdom in a skirmish with Pakistan Army and its proxy mercenaries in the mountainous area of Paarod. Both of them were former students of QAU (Quaid-e-Azam University), Islamabad. This incident was widely discussed among the intellectuals and social media users.

Shahdad Baloch attained martyred on May 1, 2020 while fighting the Pakistan Army and their locally armed mercenaries in Paarod, occupied Balochistan.
Shahdad Baloch attained martyred on May 1, 2020 while fighting the Pakistan Army and their locally armed mercenaries in Paarod, occupied Balochistan.

Pakistan’s armed forces abducted Faqir Dilwash from Askani Bazar, Aapsar Turbat, on May 3, 2020 and Yasir Pir Mohammed on May 5, 2020 from his house in Jemadi Panwan, Gwadar.

On May 2, in yet another case Frontier Corps (FC) personnel opened fire on a vehicle in the Mand area of district Kech, near the border with Iran at western Balochistan, killing Sayad Mohammad. It was the third incident in a row where the FC opened fire on cars carrying civilians. In a similar case, the FC had killed a teenage boy, Imam Sher, in the same area three days ago.

The Frontier Corps (FC) raided mosques in Balochabad, Mand and abducted several people after they had found wall chalking against CPEC in the village. They whisked away Javed Gwahram, Latif Haji Adam, Hasan Hamid, Majid Hussain and Javed Baloch. In a separate raid, the FC abducted Sadiq from another mosque.

On May 6, 2020 Nadeem Bhatti, a Major in Pakistan Army was killed in an IED attack along with 5 other Pakistan military personnel, near the border with Iran in Western Balochistan. This incident also drew attention of a wide segment of media and political circles.

Major Noora's body being dragged by Pakistani vehicle in occupied Balochistan. A soldier of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Major Noora was martyred while fighting with Pakistan Army.
Major Noora’s body being dragged by Pakistani vehicle in occupied Balochistan. A soldier of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Major Noora was martyred while fighting with Pakistan Army.

On May 10, 2020 a news circulated in media about the abduction of Nazir Doda and Wali Muhammad both brothers along with Tangai. A relative of them Nazir Doda who once before went missing and was released after remaining “disappeared” for fourteen months in 2014 has been abducted again. They are residents of Maher Mand in Kech.

After martyrdom of Shahdad Baloch and Ehsan Baloch, former students of the QAU, Islamabad, Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies are once again targeting Baloch youth, particularly students. Nasir Pullan and Jahanzeb Rafiq were abducted from Apsar area of Turbat on May 10, 2020. Nasir is a student in Bahauddin Zakaria University Multan and Jahanzeb, in Lasbella University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Science.

Sana Syapad, a student of M.Phil in Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and the president of a literary society, Naseer Kubdani Labzaki Diwan, Kharan has been abducted by personnel of Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, from his home-town, Kharan on May 12, 2020.

In another operation four people namely Ali Haider, Behroz, Shah Dost and Muslim have been abducted by Pakistani forces on May 15, 2020 from Sirenkin, Tump, a village near the border with Iran in western Balochistan. There are also reports of massive military offensives in Mashkai, Jhau, Awaran, Kolwah, Bolan, Dera Bugti and other regions of Balochistan. The new brutal offensive commenced when America, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and China extended billions of dollars in an aid to help Pakistan fight COVID-19 pandemic. The US on Thursday, March 20, 2020 announced an initial aid of $1 million to Pakistan in order to help the country in combating Coronavirus outbreak. According to an official statement, the World Bank would provide $238 million and the ADB $350 million to Pakistan in support to fight the COVID-19 emergency and in a response to address the socio-economic disruption associated with it.

In a statement on April 16, 2020 IMF Executive Board approved a US$1.4 billion disbursement to Pakistan to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The global lender said the disbursement under its Rapid Financing Instrument will enable Pakistan “to meet the urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.” State Bank of Pakistan, in a tweet confirmed the aid from International Monetary Fund.

Interestingly, at the beginning of Coronavirus outbreak in neighboring Iran, Pakistan’s authorities denied the reports of Coronavirus pandemic cases in the country but surprisingly they changed their stance when some international donor institutions and countries announced providing aid and loans to destitute countries for combating COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing about aid schemes, Pakistan took its begging bowl and started reporting the Coronavirus cases.

Pro-independence Baloch organizations and leadership immediately expressed their opposition to any monetary help to Pakistan by international monetary institutions and lenders. They suggested that any help to Pakistan fighting Coronavirus pandemic should be in the form of medical equipment and medicines necessary for combating the pandemic and must not be in cash because Pakistan will obviously use international monetary aid on its military campaigns against the Baloch people. They reminded the world of 2013’s earthquake in Balochistan and said Pakistan’s Army used earthquake as an opportunity to increase its brutal operations against earthquake hit helpless Baloch people. But none of the lenders paid heed to voiceless Baloch people.

Pakistan’s own economy is not in a condition of affording such military offensives and escalation. It’s the old policy and practice of Pakistan Army that uses natural disasters, terrorism and politico-military alignments for begging grants, loans, monetary and military aid and assistance from world community, international monetary institutions and allies, then uses such funds for building its military capabilities, fighting proxy wars in Kashmir, Afghanistan and combating Baloch freedom movement in occupied Balochistan.

Pakistan is well known for such duplicity. Whenever world’s attention is drawn to an international issue or emergency situation, Pakistan’s Army immediately takes the advantage of such a situation and escalates brutal military operations in occupied Balochistan. Ongoing escalation in military operations in occupied Balochistan is a direct result of recent monetary aid extended to Pakistan by the US, ADB, IMF and World Bank. Are the said donors not helping Pakistan in its military campaigns against voiceless Baloch people in one or other way?

Rahim Baloch
Rahim Baloch
Rahim Baloch is an Advocate, former Secretary General of Baloch National Movement (BNM) and ex-Chairman Baloch Students Organisation.

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