The issue of missing persons in Balochistan is a long-standing humanitarian crisis that remains unresolved, it is the most nerve-racking, draconian experience that thousands of families have fallen victim to.
In order to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal, the leader of Balochistan National Party (BNP), in 2012, presented a six points plan before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The concerned civil and military powers showed no interest in such a plan and from some quarters it was termed as a replica of Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman’s six-point of the 1960s. Backed by overwhelming public support from the Baloch masses (although, the party has expressed its belief that its mandate has been stolen by the those ruling Balochistan by proxy), the party has this time strenuously taken up the case of Balochistan with the newly elected Government of Pakistan in order to get some kind of relief for the people of Balochistan.
The most urgent and pertaining among the six point’s demands signed by the representatives of Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf (PTI) and BNP is the issue of enforced disappearances aka “Missing Persons”, which has impacted the lives of people in Balochistan in various ways, damaged social and political harmony in the state and presented a dark image of Pakistan internationally.
Historically, the Baloch relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment and successive Governments has not been pleasant. The state institutions’ response to Baloch demands for equal rights as guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan, often resulted in bloody conflicts affecting adversely their mutual trust, harmony, and the fabric that weaves up a federation together. The establishment under various pretexts, resorted to measures outside their constitutional ambits to contain the Baloch dissent. The cases of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings of political opponents, patronizing of non-state actors are some startling examples of the state pursued strategies in Balochistan.
Although the Article 9, and Article 10 clause (1) & (2) of the constitution of Pakistan prohibits the unlawful detention of a person and asks of such a person to be produced before a Magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of his/her arrest, nevertheless, People from Balochistan are being whisked away in broad daylight and for years their whereabouts are not known.
One of the major drawbacks of such measures in which its institutions disrespect and violate the law with impunity is that the state itself loses the moral ground to instruct its subjects to adhere by the constitution and state laws. In Baloch case, this has damaged their trust in the state institutions including judiciary as a protector to uphold their rights and dignity, compelling them to look for remedies to their problems elsewhere. As a consequence, a general hatred took roots among the Baloch masses against the majority ethnic group forming the backbone of the establishment. Unfortunately, exploiting the genuine demands of the people of Balochistan as a threat to its national security, the security establishment has been trying to neutralize any political or peaceful opposition against its actions in Balochistan.
However, human rights as they are, transcend beyond the ‘territorial integrity’ or jurisdictions of a state. The situation in Balochistan has caused much damage to the country among the community of nations. UN and various other independent Human Rights bodies have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to keep its pledge of respecting the rights of its citizens and to refrain from violating the human rights instruments it is a signatory to. This has tarnished her international image and Pakistan is being seen as an abuser of human rights.
The issue of missing persons in Balochistan is a long-standing humanitarian crisis that remains unresolved and is one of the most nerve-racking experiences a family can endure. Thousands of families have fallen victim to this draconian practice. Even the most conservative of the estimates provide a count of victims in thousands. Members of these families including men, women and children have been campaigning for years for the safe and sound release of their loved ones exhausting all the available means in the state.
The psychological repercussions of this are beyond one’s comprehension. A situation has developed in which all hopes are lost by the affected families and what is left in their lives is a visualizationof all incomprehensible things happening to their loved ones, a psychological state they can never recover from. Delays in resolving this issue will give rise to more hatred against the state institutions and will cause more damage to Pakistan’s standing in the internationalarena. There is high time the concerned authorities in Pakistan revisit the past outcomes of such policies in Eastern Pakistan now Bangladeshand revise their attitude and policies towards Balochistan.
The issue of “Missing Persons” under the MOU signed between BNP and PTI should be given priority and be taken as an incentive by the new government of PTI to bridge the existing trust-deficit and as a way forward to a peaceful conflict-resolution. Legislations should also be charted to bring an end to such practices. Any talks of economic development remain meaningless when an individual’s personal and family’s right to existence is endangered. For any sort of societal development, a particular political atmosphere without fear, interference and with some sort of freedom is essential. It is now up to the leadership of PTI to demonstrate whether the dream of ‘Naya Pakistan’ they have been selling to the masses in Pakistan is translated into reality or will it also go “Missing” in Balochistan.
The writer is a UK based Baloch socio-political activist who hails from Panjgur, Balochistan. He was the Ex chairperson of Baloch Students Action Committee, BUITEMS and Baloch Students and Youth Association UK. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org