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Threats to Defenders of Democracy in Balochistan

The February 2012 hearing on Balochistan at the U.S House of Representatives brought rare public attention to a longstanding conflict in Pakistan’s mineral-rich southwestern province. While high-level discourse has focused on issues of national sovereignty, security, and secession, the gross violations of human rights in the region have received little international coverage, due in part to government censorship and the threats faced by journalists. Since its accession to Pakistan in 1948, Balochistan has been the scene of periodic uprisings that have resulted in the extrajudicial killing, torture, and enforced disappearance of countless civilians, professionals, and political leaders. Despite judicial and parliamentary initiatives on the part of Pakistan’s civilian government, the conflict remains unresolved.

In his presentation, award-winning journalist Malik Siraj Akbar offered insights into the origins of the human rights crisis in Balochistan, and an account of the threats faced by defenders of democracy in the region, as well as preliminary recommendations for how best to move forward. Brian Joseph provided comments.

About the Speakers

Malik Siraj Akbar is a Pakistani journalist who has risked his life covering enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, assaults on journalists, and other human rights violations, particularly in his native Balochistan. The founding editor of the Baloch Hal, Pakistan’s first online local newspaper, he previously served as the Balochistan bureau chief of the Daily Times, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper (2006–2010). A recognized regional expert, he is the author of The Redefined Dimensions of the Baloch Nationalist Movement (2011), as well as numerous articles on press freedom, human rights, religious radicalism, and the war on terror in Pakistan.

Brian Joseph is the senior director for Asia and multi-regional programs at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Faiz Baluch