Article 6 of the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance describes enforced disappearance as “a crime against humanity” and Article 1 of the same convention says, “no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”
The language of the abovementioned articles are very clear. No ground, whatsoever, can legally be invoked as a justification for the enforced disappearance of any person, but Pakistan is unabatedly using enforced disappearance against the Baloch people in occupied Balochistan from the very inception of ongoing Baloch armed revolution for the independence of Balochistan.
The Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps (a paramilitary force), the intelligence agencies’ personnel, and the members of the state-sponsored armed militias are involved in the enforced disappearance of Baloch people. They arrest and abduct the people with impunity from anywhere whether it is a house, a hotel, hospital, hostel, train, airport, public bus, or any public place.
There are numerous instances in which the Frontier Corps and intelligence services have disappeared people even from the custody of police or the federal levies force. Here are two such incidences:
- A prominent human rights defender and journalist Mr. Siddique Eido and his friend Yousuf Nazar were abducted by the Frontier Corps personnel from police custody on December 21, 2010 when police were carrying them in a van after producing them in the sessions court Gwadar. Later the mutilated bodies of both Siddique Eido and Yousuf Nazar were found dumped on April 28, 2011 at Makran coastal highway near Ormara, occupied Balochistan. Neither police were ever investigated nor were the F.C. (Frontier Corps) personnel tried and held accountable for the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of Mr. Eido and his friend.
- A similar case of enforced disappearance is that of Mir Khan Muhammad Shahwani, who was the son of Juma Khan and resident of Kalat, Balochistan. Mr. Khan was arrested by the Zehri Levies personnel in daylight from a motorcycle mechanic’s shop in Zehri bazaar in the presence of public. Later the intelligence agents had taken Mir Khan Muhammad in their custody from Levies station and disappeared him for more than three years. Khan was found on December 7, 2021 in a seriously injured condition dumped in the Hong River across the Iranian border in western Balochistan.
Pakistan’s security forces have been using “enforced disappearance” as an instrument of war in their so-called counter-insurgency policy against the Baloch independence struggle. As the freedom fighters aren’t only armed and militarily trained but are also ready to resist furiously against any attempt by the security forces to arrest or disappear them. It is the hardest and most risky job for the Pakistani security forces to arrest and make them disappear. Therefore, the security forces mostly target civil society, patriotic political activists, students, intellectuals, journalists, human rights defenders and common people because targeting civilians is only easiest and riskless but also helps spread terror among the masses.
However, it’s evident from the available record of enforced disappearances that the nationalist political activists and the students are the prime targets of enforced disappearance in occupied Balochistan. In fact, Pakistan’s security forces are committing a preplanned intellectual genocide of oppressed Baloch people so as to turn Baloch society intellectually barren.
An intense surge in the enforced disappearances of Baloch from all walks of life erupted following the Balochistan Liberation Front’s (BLF) capture of Pakistan Army’s Sibdaan post on January 25, 2022 and BLA Majeed Brigade’s attacks on Pak Army camps at Noshki and Panjgur on February 2, 2022. Over a dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed by the Baloch freedom fighters in Sibdaan.
It’s very important to note that the Baloch freedom fighters not only captured Pakistan Army’s Sibdaan post and killed Pak Army personnel but also seized all their weapons and ammunition. It’s worth mentioning that the main army camp was about 12 furlongs away from the Sibdaan post but the Pakistan Army didn’t dare to go to rescue their colleagues.
Similarly, Baloch freedom fighters of the Majeed Brigade successfully entered the Pakistan Army camps at Noshki and Panjgur. Despite the enemy’s use of fighter jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and SSG Commandos; they maintained their control over Pakistan Army camp for seventy hours.
After the above mentioned attacks by Baloch freedom fighters, the Pakistan Army, as usual, started venting out its anger on the unarmed civilians. The Pak Army disappeared Ehtesham Baloch, a student of B.S. Biotechnology in the International Islamic University Islamabad on February 3, 2022 from Panjgur bus terminal. He was killed and dumped on the same day.
Later on Hafeez Baloch, a student of M Phil. Physics in the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad was abducted by the intelligence agents when he was delivering a lecture in a local academy at Khuzdar, Balochistan.
Not long after Dr. Jamil Baloch, a political and social activist, was arrested and disappeared by the security forces on February 23, 2022 when he was sitting at his medical store in Barkhan. Dilip Baloch, a student of MA English literature in the Islamic University, Bhawalpur, Panjab was arrested on February 28, 2022 by the Frontier Corps check post personnel at Rakhni when he was going home to spend his vacation. Dilip is lucky to have been released within two days of his disappearance.
Since February 2, 2022 Pakistani security forces have abducted and forcefully disappeared more than one hundred Baloch, and this evil practice by Pakistani state forces continue unabated.
Pakistan Army and intelligence services are using enforced disappearance as a tool of repression against Baloch people to suppress their struggle for independence, as well as to suppress their voice for basic freedom and rights. In fact, enforced disappearances has been rampant across occupied Balochistan since 2000 with the revival of armed struggle by the Baloch nationalists.
Pakistan has never categorically denied the use of enforced disappearance in occupied Balochistan. Instead, Pakistan’s stance on enforced disappearances has always been vague and self-contradictory. Sometimes Pakistani authorities try to justify the enforced disappearances in the name of national security or so-called combat against separatism. For instance, Major General Asif Ghafoor, the former DG ISPR, in a press conference on April 29, 2019 said while answering a question from Mr. Hamid Mir: “We know you have a great attachment to missing persons (issue). We too have. We don’t want any person to go missing but where there is a war, you have to do a number of (undesirable) things. It’s said that everything is fair in love and war. War occurs to be ruthless”.
The above-referred statement by the top spokesman of Pakistan Army is a clear confession of both, a war of liberation in Balochistan as well as the use of enforced disappearance by Pakistan Army and intelligence services.
Sometimes they even confess the disappearances in clearer words by claiming the recovery and release of the victims of enforced disappearances in huge numbers. For example, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa claimed in a meeting of the National Security Committee, while answering criticism from Mr. Mohsin Javed Dawar, a Member of Parliament that they have recovered thousands of the forcefully disappeared persons. However, he didn’t quote a single case of holding responsible the perpetrators.
The said statement of the Pakistan Army chief is quoted on July 2, 2021 in “Daily Intekhab” the largest newspaper of Balochistan. There are numerous such statements occasionally issued by different prime ministers and their ministers. The same army chief, during his visit to Panjgur, assured the local elders on February 12, 2022 in his speech that he would try his best to make sure the release of “Missing Persons”. Two things can be inferred from the above statement of the army chief; firstly the enforced disappearances are an issue of high concern in Balochistan, secondly, the Pakistan Army and other Pakistani security forces are responsible for enforced disappearances.
Sometimes Pakistani authorities try to infuse doubt on the veracity of reported cases of enforced disappearances by falsely alleging that the victims have either gone abroad, particularly to Afghanistan, India or Iran, or have joined freedom fighters in the mountains. Such false propaganda is usually disseminated by the army’s spokesman whose claims are repeated by the heads of so-called ‘Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances’, spokespersons for the puppet provincial and central governments. However, authorities have miserably failed to prove a single case of reporting a false enforced disappearance to substantiate their claim.
Similarly sometimes authorities, instead of denying, try to dispute the numbers of enforced disappearances. Such a job is also done mostly by Mr. Justice (Retired) Javed Iqbal, the head of the so-called Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, as well as spokespersons for the puppet governments.
Irrespective of the false propaganda of state authorities, the real number of all enforced disappearances is not ascertained. Although the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), the Human Rights Council of Balochistan, and BNM are doing their best to document and register cases of enforced disappearances. But the lack of resources to collect information or access to the victims’ families is a hurdle in the way of their task.
Similarly, the Pakistani regime has also created hurdles to reduce their ability to register and report all cases. While the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance is working only to deny, dispute, and hide the cases. However, the said organization complains that the victims’ families also don’t report the cases of enforced disappearances. That is why the number of registered cases is underreported. Now the question is why do the victims’ families don’t register the enforced disappearances?
Some conspicuous reasons, besides numerous others, are discussed herein bellow:
- With regard to enforced disappearances in occupied Balochistan, the Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, the agents of intelligence services, and their formed and sponsored militias and death squads enjoy total impunity. Civilian authorities like the police and levies lack the power to register cases, arrest and investigate the perpetrators. Police and levies aren’t only powerless but they also are compelled or induced to cooperate with the culprits. Such a situation prevents the victims’ families from filing complaints
- The police and levies, the courts have no power as well as the courage and the will to hold the mighty Pakistan military, Frontier Corps, intelligence agencies, and their death squads responsible. In such a situation, when victims’ families see no legal remedies or saviors they mostly opt to keep quiet.
- The police, levies and courts not only lack jurisdiction or willingness to register, investigate and entertain complaints against powerful perpetrators but also due to bias, intentional disrespect and mistreatment of the complainants with a view to discourage and disappoint thereby preventing them from filing and pursuing the complaints.
- The overwhelming majority of the victims’ families also don’t register complaints with the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance because the commission has no branches in the far-flung war-ridden regions of occupied Balochistan. Despite its inaccessibility, the head of Commission Mr. Justice (R) Javed Iqbal is notorious for his corrupt and immoral character. There are numerous complaints against him for misbehaving and harassing the complainants, particularly the women.
- With regard to enforced disappearances, the poor performance of police, levies, kangaroo courts, and the commission is apparent. Thousands of Baloch have gone missing during the last two decades of armed conflict in occupied Balochistan but the above mentioned authorities haven’t held a single perpetrator responsible. In view of such bitter facts, the victims’ families think the litigation against state organs is a futile exercise of wasting time and money.
- As soon as a person is abducted, the agents of intelligence approach the victim’s family and pressurize them to keep quiet. They threaten the family not to report the incident to any authority and media, otherwise the abductee would face dire consequences. They also intimidate and defraud the family to cooperate with agencies so that their loved ones could soon be released. Such tactics prevent people from reporting the enforced disappearances.
- Media blackout and creation of hurdles for human rights defenders is another reason for underreporting of the enforced disappearances in occupied Balochistan.
- Last but not least there is no ample amount of pressure from the international community and international human rights bodies against the Pakistan Army and its government to take the Baloch “Missing Persons” issue seriously.