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What use are toothless and worthless conventions?

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The Baloch have suffered terribly at the hands of the state since 1948 but maintain their dignity and have shown resolute courage under fire. The Baloch consider crying over the dead a sign of weakness

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, also known as the United Nations Convention against Torture, is an international human rights instrument aimed at preventing torture around the world. The United Nations General Assembly adopted it on December 10, 1984; it came into force on June 26, 1987. June 26 is recognised as the International Day in Support of Torture Victims. Pakistan signed it on April 17, 2008 and ratified it on June 3, 2010. It observed this day by dumping Buland Khan’s tortured, bullet-riddled body in Dasht, Mastung, abducted five days before from Quetta.

The Pakistani state since signing this convention has decidedly trampled all over it in Balochistan. In 2010, 103 bodies were discovered, while 2011 saw this number rise to 203 and this year, so far, 80 bodies have been recovered. Kalat district heads the count, accounting for 133 victims; 60 bodies were discovered in Makran district and 102 victims were found in Quetta. Note: these figures are only for the past 18 months and many were victims before too, and it does not include people like Professor Saba Dashtiyari and other victims of targeted killings. No convention unless backed by sanctions is good enough to deter those who have enjoyed immunity for all past atrocities. Victims of the Frontier Corps (FC), intelligence agencies and their henchmen’s brutality litter Balochistan’s landscape but the Baloch persist with their struggle.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006 and came into force on December 23, 2010; 91 states have signed it and 32 countries have ratified or acceded it. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan remains one of the countries that refuse to sign it and even if it did, it will flout it as brazenly as it does the one on torture. August 30 is observed as the ‘International Day of the Disappeared’, which Pakistan observes by making even more people disappear.

This Wednesday the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights expressed displeasure over the increasing number of missing persons and adopted a resolution recommending the government to sign international conventions on the protection of people against forced disappearance. The Defence Secretary, Nargis Sethi, staunchly defended the intelligence agencies and stated that the whole world was hostile to the government agencies, which were doing their work in the country’s best interest. Some work! She deflected the indictment of the Supreme Court about the responsibility of the FC for 85 percent of disappearances in Balochistan by stating that the FC was under the interior ministry. This lame excuse would be laughable if only the matter was not that of hundreds of Baloch being abducted and killed by the state.

The Baloch have suffered terribly at the hands of the state since 1948 but maintain their dignity and have shown resolute courage under fire. The Baloch consider crying over the dead a sign of weakness; a picture on the internet showed the mother of my students, Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Nabi Marri, flashing a victory sign by their graves. The pain she must have undergone during their disappearance and then seeing their mutilated bodies can only be known to her. In Balochi, to express the sorrow of loss of the dead, they rightly say the fire heats most the spot it burns on.

I cannot claim that I am more hurt than those who have lost their loved ones in this ongoing dirty war against the Baloch, but I too am deeply hurt and saddened because among these dead are many persons whom I knew well and was associated with during our long exile in Afghanistan. Will someone tell how one condoles and commiserates with a person who has at once lost two brothers to state brutality? Should I tell him to accept it as destiny and ask him to show forbearance? If I do that, will he not think that Ustad with age has lost his marbles? Because I would not be speaking about unknown people, strangers, but persons I knew as flesh and blood, with a passion for studying, who patiently sat hours on the gravelly ground, summer and winter, to learn the three Rs I taught them.

Each Baloch who has fallen victim to state brutality, regardless of the fact whether the interior ministry, the defence ministry or their henchmen were responsible, deserves to be thanked and remembered for their dedication and commitment to the Baloch struggle, for had they succumbed to pressures or temptations they would be alive. Among these nearly 500 Baloch who have recently paid their debt of blood to their nation, I personally knew many. But I want to especially mention my students who have died gruesome deaths at the hands of the brutal enemies of humanity, who recognise no moral or religious norms, though ostensibly they do all this in the good name of Islam.

I feel honoured and privileged to be identified with those young men, my former students, who fell participating in the fight for a life of dignity and freedom for the Baloch people. I will name them with their sub-clans sobdar: Wahid Bakhsh, Shah Mir and Ahmad Murghiani. Zaman Khan and Ahmed Ali Chalgari. Arzu, Sherbat, Murad, and Zaman Sherani. Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Nabi Pirdadani. Faiz Mohammad, Nasir and Wazir Khan Mazarani. Gulzar Taingiani and Ghulam Qadir Pirukani. Some including Dr Akbar Pirdadani are missing. They died honourably and the Baloch owe them a debt, which can be redeemed only in struggle for a just and dignified life for the Baloch. My obituary for my student Zaman Khan is at: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010/09/09/story_9-9-2010_pg7_19.

There will be no change in the brutality towards the Baloch even if the Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is signed by Pakistan. The brutalities will continue; for after ratifying the Convention on Torture, they mercilessly continue to torture and kill in custody. Toothless and worthless conventions will not hinder those who are bent upon subjugating people and land for exploitation. Apparently, the world too does not take these conventions seriously enough, for had these meant anything, there would have been a reaction to Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan. At present, the only thing that can and is making the essential difference is the Baloch resistance to these atrocities but that needs support from all. Those silent at atrocities on the Baloch should remember that the perpetrators will sooner or later come for them too.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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