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Where are the men who fight monsters?

by Wendy Johnson

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

As extra-judicial killings in Balochistan start to receive international attention, words like "serial killers" are finally appearing in the coverage. In "Pakistan's secret dirty war," Declan Walsh writes, "The stunning lack of interest in Pakistan's greatest murder mystery in decades becomes more understandable, however, when it emerges that the prime suspect is not some shady gang of sadistic serial killers, but the country's powerful military and its unaccountable intelligence men."

I would argue that the prime suspects do, in fact, include serial killers. And regardless of whether the suspects wear army boots, the killings should attract the same attention and devotion to uncovering the identities of the offenders as any serial killer receives. Good people have devoted their careers, often at great expense to their psychological wellbeing, to gain insight into how and why people perform these monstrous acts. There is a wealth of background knowledge to draw upon in any investigation and in Balochistan, there is a wealth of evidence to sift through. These are murder mysteries that should not be all that hard to solve. And while the subject of serial killers is perhaps 'sexier' than military and state-sponsored violence, I think people need to ask why the brutal slayings in Balochistan are not met with the same international horror as greeted the confirmed gunning down by Pakistani army soldiers of six young men in 2010. Not all acts by a military are met with such "stunning lack of interest."

Two of the better known works on serial killings include Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas and Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler. These books outline in detail what is known of these types of killers. According to the FBI, a serial killer is an offender who unlawfully murders two or more persons in separate events and that "regardless of the motive, serial murderers commit their crimes because they want to..."(1)

The numbers cited in Balochistan vary. Some victims are unidentifiable due to the decomposition of the body and some will presumably never be found. Baseer Naweed of the Asian Human Rights Commission writes in early June 2011, "Since 2010 approximately 140 political activists, journalists, academics and students were killed in extrajudicial killings. Included in the lists are also those who were killed in target killings by unknown persons." More have died since. That the murders are unlawful and characterized by an element of "because they want to" is evidenced by the fact that the murders in Balochistan do not follow armed confrontations between Pakistan’s military/security agencies and Baloch insurgents. Rather, unarmed civilians are extracted from entirely non-threatening situations—plucked from public transportation, Frontier Corp (FC) check posts, homes, etc. Following the abductions, Pakistan’s authorities rarely produce these persons in courts of law. Their victims simply vanish from the face of Balochistan, some 2,000 to 10,000 persons—unless, of course, they reappear as corpses.

Zofeen Ebrahim of IPSNews details what is happening to the "cream of Baloch society" and it isn't for the faint of heart. In Balochistan the bodies "of students, teachers, political workers, rights activists, singers, poets, labourers, and shopkeepers...have been turning up in threes and fours every few days for the last ten months. Their skulls have been drilled, eyes pulled out from sockets, limbs snapped or sliced; some have been singed and seared beyond recognition."

One alleged motive for the abductions (when they are not denied) is intelligence gathering—the grabbing of Baloch citizens in an effort to gain intelligence on the leaders of this last of five insurgencies waged in Balochistan against Pakistan (the most recent beginning in 2005). Given the lack of headway made against the insurgents though, one can also assume that these tortured students, activists, journalists and poets have little or no information to share. And if intelligence gathering were the motive, authorities could simply arrest persons they suspected of possessing information and let the law run its course.

The sadism and brutality with which detainees are tortured and then killed implies something else is afoot. That something has been described variously as ethnic cleansing and a slow-motion genocide. Whether individual actors exhibit the single-minded intent of a genocide, are the product of a Stanford Prison Experiment type environment in the detention system, are mission-oriented, motivated by revenge or suffering from psychopathy--whatever the case turns out to be--clearly some persons have developed a taste for killing. And the easiest way to confirm the motive(s) is to apprehend the killers.

Gary Ridgway (AKA the American "Green River Killer" convicted of murdering 49 women in Washington state) said, "murdering young women was his 'career'." If the body count is any indication, apparently there are those in Pakistan who have elected new careers, as well, and these slayings urgently require investigation.

The abandon with which civilians are plucked from buses loaded with witnesses or from houses filled with family members in broad daylight by the FC and/or often unidentified actors (death squads, too?) is remarkable and suggests the actors are secure in their belief that these disappearances are sanctioned by people who will protect them. Ironically, this hubris accounts for the very long trail of evidence: There are witnesses to the abductions, there are identifiable getaway vehicles and there are mountains of forensic evidence left at crime scenes. Simply put, these crimes should be easy to solve.

Many of the bodies are found with pieces of paper in their pockets. Jotted are the names of victims or taunts. The paper should be tested for fingerprints. The handwriting should be compared and analyzed. Forensic photos should be taken at the crime scene to preserve any tire tracks of the vehicles dumping bodies and the direction from which they came and to which they subsequently head. Footprints can be photographed and preserved in the case that the body is carried to a point distant from the highway/road. The victim's clothing should be tested for fibers and shoes and sandals for soil samples. At a minimum, clothing should be preserved for future study. Most victims are shot. Entrance and exit wounds should be studied and photographed to determine if there is a commonality in weapon used, style of execution, etc. Signs of torture need to be logged and compared. The locations of abductions and where each person turns up can also establish patterns and leads. Balochistan is slightly smaller than the state of Montana in the USA. A person(s) could easily travel from one detention center to another to conduct interrogations and torture and just as readily dispose of the body in a variety of locations across the province. But given the sheer volume and the numbers of witnesses to each abduction, one can assume that this person(s) is known to many people and higher-ups.

Baloch citizens do their best to take photographs of the victims and log and record data about the crimes, but absent the help of local and national authorities and public pressure, not one killing has been solved. While one reason for the lack of public concern may be that people in the adjacent provinces happen to know very little about Balochistan (and The News devoted an entire June 2011 section to the reasons for this lack of awareness), the Baloch have published numerous lists, photos and videos of both the missing and the dead. As with the video of the executed boys, this information is readily available to anyone who cares to read more on the situation. The Baloch hold protests and demonstrations at press clubs. They shutterdown entire cities in Balochistan and yet somehow Pakistan's public remains uneducated about the scale of this crisis. The other side of the lack-of-interest equation was brought into stark relief with the killing of journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad: too active an interest in the wrong people can also sign one's death warrant in Pakistan.

With little or no internal judicial support and no realistic hope of bringing in international investigators like the FBI--the types of investigators well-equipped to fight monsters, seeking help from the International Criminal Court, which can investigate crimes against humanity when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so, may be the only recourse to solve these crimes against humanity.

Finally, the USA has provided Pakistan with military and security-related aid of US $14.2 billion dollars since 2002, with 1.6 billion more projected for 2012.(2) It should be of great concern to American taxpayers that some of this money is being used to support, or at a minimum, hide knowledge of the identities of the the 'kill and dump' slayers of noncombatant civilians in Balochistan. Both Pakistani citizens and American taxpayers should be asking: Where in Pakistan are the men and women who 'fight monsters'?

(End. With further editing on June 27, 2011)

Note: To get some sense of the numbers involved, please scroll through this database (incomplete) of recent Baloch missing and murdered. One can click on column headings to sort. At present, 334 persons (and counting) are included.

(1) From Serial Murder Symposium Working Group, Note: some experts define a serial killer as one who commits three killings or more.

(2) Direct Overt U.S. Aid Appropriations and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2012

(3) The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations, Jayshree Bajoria, Council on Foreign Relations, May 4, 2011