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DailyTimes editorial: HRCP report on Balochistan

Although the HRCP report blames the killing of non-Baloch settlers in the province on Baloch insurgents, the issue is highly controversial and far from clear.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report titled ‘Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos’ has come at a time when incidents of brutal violence in Balochistan are happening with an alarming regularity and there is a realisation in the national media that it can no longer bury its head in the sand in the face of this problem that refuses to go away.

The HRCP report has highlighted various dimensions of the violence that has Balochistan in its grip, including that perpetrated by the state, insurgents and extremist sectarian elements. According to the HRCP, the common strand among these adversaries is their disregard for human rights, with people getting caught in the crossfire.

The issue of missing persons, dumping of tortured bodies of the abducted Baloch nationalists, targeted killing of non-Baloch settlers and sectarian violence against the Shia Hazaras, violence against women and minorities are different layers of aggression that has gripped the province. Although the HRCP report blames the killing of non-Baloch settlers in the province on Baloch insurgents, the issue is highly controversial and far from clear.

The nationalists blame the security forces for killing non-Baloch insurgents to malign the Baloch, and the security forces accuse the nationalists or foreign elements. Therefore it is premature to make a conclusive statement. What is undeniable, however, is the discovery of bodies of people who are abducted by the intelligence agencies or other security outfits, tortured, killed and dumped on roadsides or other deserted areas all over Balochistan.

Perhaps the most important part of the report is the claim that there is evidence about the missing persons with the relatives of missing persons, which implicates the security forces. HRCP has urged the government to provide security to the witnesses of such incidents. With a credible body like the HRCP claiming evidence of the involvement of security forces in missing persons cases, the myth is exploded that this is being done by outside elements. Talking to a press conference, Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir blasted the government for claiming that whatever is going on in Balochistan is the work of a ‘foreign hand’. She challenged the government to present evidence if its claim is true.

Balochistan is a political issue, which the security forces are trying to solve through military means. The control of the province is practically in the hands of the military and paramilitary forces that have completely sidelined the provincial government in the decision making process. The issue has become so complicated that without sweeping changes in the way matters are being handled currently, there can no hope for redress.

The HRCP report’s recommendations largely focus on the wayward and unaccountable nature of the security forces in Balochistan, which must be brought under civilian control and dialogue rather than coercion employed to approach this problem. The majority of targeted Baloch are young people, who are victimised for being politically active. It is strange that the government is silently watching the security forces culling all the voices of reason within the Baloch opinion, pushing even moderates to adopt an extremist position. This approach has not worked in the past, nor is it going to do now. If the Balochistan issue is not solved politically, all the predictions of doom will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.