- Statistics: 64 enforced disappearances, 24 tortured detainees, a teacher falsely accused of blasphemy murdered, a migrant couple slain in West Balochistan, a farmer killed in Jhal Magsi, and the body of another detainee found
- False Accusations of Blasphemy, Murder of Teacher Abdul Rauf, and State-Sponsored Religious groups
- The brutal murder of human rights activist Rukhsana (Hani Baloch) and her husband Sameer Baloch and its motives.
- Killing of Imdad Joyo Leaves Lasting Injustices
- Noor Khatoon and Her Kids Enforced Disappearance Deeply Alarming
- Enforced Disappearance and Custodial Killing: The Tragic Case of Ghulam Farooq
- Conspiracy to Implicate Iman Mazari in Cases
The situation in Balochistan has taken a grim turn as the August 2023 report reveals an increase in enforced disappearances and state-sponsored religious attacks. Pakistan Army has forcibly disappeared 64 individuals this month after extrajudicial arrests, surpassing the previous month’s record of 57 cases. These figures highlight the alarming rise in enforced disappearances, signalling a worsening human rights crisis.
Additionally, 24 detainees were subjected to torture and subsequently released without explanation. Concerns are growing that Pakistan, under economic pressures and foreign investors’ influence, particularly China for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), aims to weaken potential opposition or resistance forces in Balochistan. This sinister agenda may facilitate resource exploitation by multinational companies, raising severe human rights concerns for the foreseeable future.
Makuran Division, crucial for the CPEC project, has become a prime target for Pakistan Army operations, with 22 reported cases of enforced disappearances. Disturbing incidents of violence have occurred in Hairabad, Hotabad, Balicha, and Nasirabad of Tump Tehsil in Kech district, where people have been detained, tortured, and subsequently released.
The body of Ghulam Farooq, son of Muhammad Waris, forcibly disappeared from Mastung on October 27, 2022, and was discovered on August 31, 2023, in a vineyard on Kili Qambrani Road.
Tragic incidents from last month include the wrongful murder of language teacher Abdul Rauf Barkat on false blasphemy charges in Turbat, the killing of farmer Imdad Joyo by influential people, and the abduction and burning of migrant couple Samir and Rukhsana (Hani Baloch) in Phara (Iran Shaar), West Balochistan, which have heightened insecurity within the Baloch society.
Moreover, the arbitrary arrest and targeting of human rights activist and Baloch woman lawyer Iman Mazari, who raises a strong voice against enforced disappearances, represent an oppressive attempt to silence Baloch rights advocates – an action that we vehemently condemn.
The detailed incidents mentioned here are part of Paank’s comprehensive August 2023 report, ensuring these grave human rights violations are recorded and acknowledged.
False Accusations of Blasphemy, Murder of Teacher Abdul Rauf, and State-Sponsored Religious groups
On August 5, 2023, a tragic incident occurred in Malik Abad in Turbat, where Abdul Rauf Barkat, a resident of Dasht Tehsil in Kech District, was ambushed and fatally shot. Abdul Rauf and his friends were visiting local scholars to defend himself against false accusations of blasphemy.
Abdul Rauf, an 18-year-old student who had just completed his 12th-grade exams, was hardworking to support his education and that of his younger brother. He taught English at a language centre to make ends meet. Unfortunately, he became a target of blasphemy accusations. Abdul Rauf was also an aspiring poet known for his expressive views on national matters among hisclose friends. Tragically, his brother, Samir Baloch, who was associated with a Baloch Freedom Movement armed organization, was also brutally murdered following this incident. Samir and hiswife were kidnapped and killed. There are suspicions that they were targeted due to social mediacriticism of certain scholars involved in Abdul Rauf’s murder.
The police have shown reluctance in investigating the murder and holding the individuals involved in the conspiracy accountable. One of the key accused, Mufti Shamir, is associated with a death squad operating under the protection of the Pakistan army. His father, Aziz Bizenjo, and brother, Miran, are known to be involved in anti-Baloch armed groups in the region. Numerous photographic evidence suggests their connections with armed groups. Authorities have shown hesitancy in prosecuting them.
Mufti Shahmir has significantly promoted religious hatred within the region, expanded his influence, and protected religious extremists who openly propagate bigotry against those with differing beliefs. Disturbing reports have surfaced from Kech, mentioning using Minbars and Mihrabs of mosques as tools to spread religious hatred.
The killing of Abdul Rauf Barkat in the name of blasphemy has raised concerns among civil society, moderate religious figures, and political parties. This incident has resulted in an increase in religious extremism among the youth. Additionally, the growing activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in Balochistan indicate a deliberate effort to divert the youth’s attention from the Baloch movement by allowing the spread of religious extremism.
Despite being implicated in the triple murder of members of the same family, Shahmir continues his activities with the support of the powerful Pakistan army. In August of last year, serious charges were filed against Mufti Shahmir, as Radio Zrumbesh reported, which detailed their terrorist activities disguised as religious fervour in Tehsil Dasht District Kech.
Mufti Shahmir has utilized religion to create a network of individuals with a jihadi mind-set receiving full support from the Pakistani army. It is worth noting that Mufti Shahmir’s father, Aziz Bizenjo, is associated with the National Party, though his influence was previously limited to Pidrak. Mufti Shah Mir has expanded his influence on Turbat and other areas of the Kech District.
In June 2019, a religious organization called ‘Ulama-wa-Sulha Committee Kech’ was founded by a group of 8 people led by Mufti Shamir Aziz. Mufti Shamir has taken on this organization’s coordinator role and made political statements in its name. He has also been involved in meetings and discussions with the local administration.
Concerns have been raised by the local administration about the group’s intentions, suspecting that they aim to seize mosques and acquire land in the name of religion to build shelters. In addition, Mufti Shamir Aziz operates a website called ‘Balochi Bayan’ and is known for issuing blasphemous fatwas against musicians.
There is a list of individuals who have been murdered, and Mufti Shahmir Aziz is being blamed for their deaths. These victims include Dad Bakhsh r/o Shadi Kaur, Master Maqbol, Ghous Bakhsh r/o Jamak, Wahag Son of Khudadad, Paulat r/o Shadi Kaur, Bahot, son of Pir Muhammad r/o Kalag, Wali Muhammad, son of Shikari Yusuf r/o Solani, Wahid, son of Sawali r/o Darmkol, Faizal, son of Fazal r/o Darmkol, Hassan, son of Zahoor r/o Pidrak, Waqar, son of Manzoor r/o Pidrak,Shujaat son of Nimatullah s/o Darmkol, Khuda Bakhsh son Pullan r/o Pidrak, Javed son of Pir Bakhsh r/o Darmkol, Abdul Rauf Barkat, Hani Gull (Rukhsana), and Sameer Baloch son of Abdul Barkat.
The murders of Abdul Rauf Barkat, Hani Gull, and Sameer Baloch were carried out due to religious sentiments. Hani Gull and Sameer Baloch, who were living as emigrants in Western Balochistan, were abducted after speaking out against Mufti Shahmir following Abdul Rauf’s murder. It is believed that Mufti Shahmir, who holds influence among religious extremists in the region,played a role in these killings.
Paank is deeply concerned about the activities and growing influence of Mufti Shamir. The allegations against him must be thoroughly investigated, and immediate action should be taken.If these individuals are allowed to continue operating freely in Balochistan, it will only worsen the humanitarian crisis and create a dire situation for the public.
The brutal murder of human rights activist Rukhsana (Hani Baloch) and her husband Sameer Baloch and its motives.
On August 9, just four days after the killing of Abdul Rauf Barkat in Turbat, his brother Sameer and his wife Hani Gull (Rukhsana) were abducted. Sameer had resided in western Balochistan for several years due to the situation. Hani Gull, a human rights activist in Balochistan, was the fiancée of Naseem, who had forcibly disappeared, and she had been a victim of enforced disappearance in Pakistani torture cells. After getting married to Sameer, she had temporarily refrained from participating in human rights protest activities and had moved to West Balochistan. However, she continued to advocate for human rights on social media. Even after Abdul Rauf’s murder, she continued to speaspokee. It is suspected that his strict statements were the cause of Mufti Shahmir, who used his sources to kill both spouses.
Following their torture and murder, the bodies of Hani Gull and Sameer were burned, with Hani Gull being pregnant at the time. On August 23, their bodies were discovered in the Sarawan area of West Balochistan, sparking widespread chaos in Balochistan. This incident shed light on Baloch
refugees’ grave challenges, especially concerning their precarious lives.
Before this incident, Pakistani forces and intelligence agencies had faced serious accusations of assassinating their opponents abroad. Prominent figures such as BNM leader and BSO Azad’s ex-chairperson Shaheed Banuk Karima and renowned Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain have been
among those who were assassinated abroad. The Pakistani army has also been responsible for the deaths of numerous Baloch refugees in neighbouring countries such as Iran and Afghanistan.
It is worth mentioning that Paank has previously drawn attention to the predicament of Baloch refugees in Iran and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, domestic and international organizations had afforded these refugees protection during the previous government. The current Afghan
government should also take steps to safeguard the refugees and facilitate their engagement with international institutions.
Furthermore, Baloch refugees in Iran have also been subjected to violence, as they lack official or legal protection. As a result, many of them stay hidden locally as they lack proper documentation to reside there, making them vulnerable to arrests by law enforcement agencies.
They are also deprived of necessities like education and healthcare. Therefore, we strongly urge Iranian authorities to prioritize humanitarian concerns and provide protection to Baloch refugees.
The killing of Hani Gull and Sameer has exposed the severity of this issue. The agents of the Pakistan Army in Western Balochistan are well-organized and influential. Individuals such as Mufti Shamir can potentially manipulate these elements to achieve their objectives while aligning with Pakistan’s interests. Pakistan is displeased with the presence of peaceful Baloch refugees in neighbouring countries, Iran and Afghanistan. These refugees were compelled to migrate to safer areas due to the brutality of the Pakistani military and the constant attacks on their residents.
Countless villages along the CPEC route in Makuran were forcefully evacuated, causing many residents to migrate to urban areas. However, even there, they faced ongoing oppression by the Pakistani army. Consequently, many Baloch individuals chose to emigrate. Given their roots and
connections in Western Balochistan, it was relatively easier for them to settle there. However, the Pakistan army has continued pursuing these non-combatants, resulting in dozens of casualties.
The situation regarding Baloch refugees has raised significant concerns and created anxiety among the local Baloch community. It is crucial for Iran and Afghanistan to strongly protest the Pakistani army’s terrorist activities on their territories and hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Hani Gull Baloch was targeted and murdered due to his human rights activism, particularly his efforts against forced disappearances in Quetta, Sindh, and Islamabad. Pakistani agency personnel arrested him on May 14, 2019, along with her fiancé Naseem. While Hani Gull was eventually released after enduring a month and a half of forced disappearance and torture, Naseem Baloch remains forcibly missing. After her release, Hani Gull Baloch revealed the details of her ordeal at a press conference held at the forced missing persons’ camp in Quetta. His emergence as a prominent voice against forced disappearances made her a target for those involved in such acts.
Hani Gul had expressed fears for her safety and had even survived a murder attempt where she was targeted by a car. Although she survived the attack, she sustained significant facial injuries requiring medical treatment.
Paank gathered information about the case from multiple sources. According to the victim’s family, they have no suspicions towards anyone except Mufti Shahmir. Sameer strongly believes Mufti Shamir was involved in his brother’s murder and is openly expressing his anger. Due to this, he was targeted in West Balochistan.
It is imperative to investigate and gain access to the perpetrators responsible for these heinous murders. Serious steps must also be taken to ensure the protection of Baloch refugees.
Killing of Imdad Joyo Leaves Lasting Injustices
Imdad Joyo was assassinated on August 4, 2023, against the backdrop of influential individuals occupying the lands and his long struggle for his rights. The land ownership disputes between farmers and the influential class of landowners in Jhal Magsi are deeply rooted in past injustices in Balochistan. It is crucial to examine this issue and reach a permanent resolution critically.
However, in Jhal Magsi, like other areas of Balochistan, the administration and government seem to neglect the safety and justice of the vulnerable.
The family of Imdad Joyo is also facing an arduous and dangerous battle for rightful ownership of their land. Even after Imdad Joyo’s murder, influential figures refuse to acknowledge their land possession and seek to seize it through illegal and extrajudicial means forcefully. Such actions cannot be accepted. All disputes should be resolved through laws, collective harmony, and the judicial system, hallmarks of civilized societies. Failure to do so will lead to social division and widespread human rights violations.
In Arbab Joyo’s account of her family’s struggle for justice, she explains that their land in ‘Mauza Kirmani’ is legally registered under her father, Imdad Joyo’s name in revenue records. However, before 2017, the land was under the unlawful possession of ‘Rahija Magsi’, acting on behalf of the Jhal Magsi Nawabs, and belonged to their tribe; repeated requests were made to the concerned authorities, including meetings with the Assistant commissioner and the commissioner of Jhal Magsi, to regain possession. Finally, on November 30, 2017, they repossessed their land.
Despite acquiring the necessary paperwork, Arbab Joyo states that the administration failed to grant them physical possession of the land. In their attempts to resolve the issue, they repeatedly met with the relevant authorities. They even resorted to three months of peaceful protest in front of the Islamabad Press Club, the capital of Pakistan, but no responsible parties showed any interest in meeting them.
In Jhal Magsi, according to Arbab Joyo’s assessment, the “Nawabs” have established their quasi-state in ‘The Kingdom of Jhal Magsi’. Those who resist or challenge them are met with violence or death. Unfortunately, the district administration seems to facilitate these illegal actions, and despite protests, state institutions did not assist. Whenever the family tried to return to their land, armed individuals attacked them daily to evict them forcibly. The district administration failed to protect them, resulting in serious injuries sustained by Arbab Joyo’s sister, Khair-Nisa, currently undergoing treatment. Later, Ali Gull (son of Faqir Muhammad), Hazar Khan (son of Ali Gull), Salim, Hidayatullah, Deen Muhammad (son of Ahmad Nawaz), Rahija Magsi, Jehan Khan Bugti, Bakhtiar (son of Balach Khan), and three other armed men, on the invitation of Nawab Khalid Khan Magsi and Nawabzada Tariq Khan Magsi, attacked and murdered our beloved father, Imdad Joyo, on August 4, 2023.
Paank supports Arbab Juyo’s account of the situation in Jhal Magsi concerning the Sardari system. This system has given influential individuals in most districts of Balochistan the ability to suppress other tribes and vulnerable individuals by force and tribal bias. As a result, these people’s lives, property, and dignity hold no value. The Pakistani state has little interest in establishing control over these areas, as these elements are helpful in facilitating the Pakistani army’s occupation of Balochistan. These individuals are given free rein to engage in criminal activities and atrocities against the vulnerable population with little to no accountability. In such an environment, the fight for justice by Imdad Joyo’s family is brave but incredibly tragic. It is concerning that they have received little to no support and are constantly under threat. Immediate justice and protection must be provided to this family.
Arbab Joyo explains that when they took their father’s body to Dera Murad Jamali, the division headquarters of the NaseerAbad region, to stage a protest, the Deputy Commissioner of Jhal Magsi prevented them from entering Dera Murad Jamali. Consequently, the body was placed under police custody and shifted to Ustah Muhammad via a rugged and rough road. This route extended the journey from the standard two hours to an exhausting eight hours. As a result, their father’s body was mistreated, and they were subjected to police brutality during a peaceful protest.
According to Arbab Joyo, no legal action has been taken against the individuals her family nominated.
Noor Khatoon and Her Kids Enforced Disappearance Deeply Alarming
On August 28, 2023, Pakistani forces detained Noor Khatoon and her two kids, Banari and Abdul Ghaffar, in Quetta, the central city of Balochistan. Noor Khatoon had gone to Quetta for medical treatment and was kept in enforced disappearance for six days, during which she was mentally tortured.
Noor Khatoon is not involved in political or anti-state activities, as she is a housewife. However, her family has connections to Baloch nationalist leader Khair Bakhsh Marri, which led them to migrate to Afghanistan to escape state violence. While in Afghanistan, the family lived there until 1992, when they returned to Balochistan with thousands of refugees. Due to their political affiliation with Khair Bakhsh Marri, the family was repeatedly targeted by Pakistani state institutions once back in Balochistan.
The forced disappearance of Noor Khatoon and her kids is seen as collective punishment targeting people associated with the Baloch movement. In the past, women and children have also been victims of collective punishment in Balochistan.
Baloch leader Sher Mohammad Marri has claimed that in the 1970s, Baloch women were kidnapped and sold as sex slaves in Punjab. He stated that he played a crucial role in freeing numerous women from sexual slavery and enabling them to return to their homes. He achieved this by paying for their liberation from slavery abroad. As a result, these women were able to escape their harrowing circumstances and live a life free.
Enforced disappearances have unfortunately become a regular occurrence in Balochistan and are frequently reported in the news. However, when the news highlights enforced disappearances of women, it becomes an even more alarming issue. The Pakistani army in Balochistan utilizes enforced disappearances as a tool to discourage individuals from participating in Baloch national politics.
Mama Qadeer Baloch, Vice Chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, has revealed a distressing statistic indicating that hundreds of women have been abducted and forcibly disappeared in Balochistan since 1970. Specifically, he highlights that enforced disappearances were resumed during the Musharraf regime, and women were not spared from this horrifying trend. According to Mama Qadeer, approximately 300 women and children have fallen victim to these forced disappearances.
The lack of accurate data regarding the women who have been forcibly disappeared is a distressing aspect of this situation. It is important to note that the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) only compiles a list of individuals whose families have reported their enforced disappearances. Therefore, the actual number of forcibly missing women may be much higher. During the military crackdown in Balochistan, the villagers residing in remote hilly areas were forcefully evacuated. Unfortunately, many women and children were taken to military camps, and many could not return.
During the military massacre in Dera Bugti, many Bugti victims were forced to flee to Sindh and other areas due to the violence. Unfortunately, they were subjected to further attacks even in these new locations. Men faced fatal consequences, while women and children were detained, leaving them victims of unimaginable atrocities. Shockingly, these specific incidents have not been fully recorded by any human rights organization.
Noor Khatoon’s case is not unique, as there exists a lengthy list of women and children who have been forcibly disappeared as a means of collective punishment. Disturbingly, many of these individuals are eventually released after enduring severe torture. The organization Paank strongly advocates for an immediate cessation of this policy of collective punishment, emphasizing the urgent need to halt the ongoing forced disappearances of women and children. Failure to address this alarming trend will result in the insecurity of all women and children in Balochistan, as they are consistently vulnerable victims in times of conflict.
Enforced Disappearance and Custodial Killing: The Tragic Case of Ghulam Farooq
On 31 August 2023, the lifeless body of Ghulam Farooq Zehri was tragically discovered in a vineyard in Quetta. Before this, on 27 October 2022, Ghulam Farooq Zehri had forcefully disappeared following his detention by the Pakistan Army. After enduring an extended period of enforced disappearance, his mutilated remains were callously discarded due to custodial killing. Disturbingly, this pattern repeats itself in Balochistan, where disappeared individuals are either kept missing for agonizingly long periods or their mutilated bodies are unceremoniously dumped, thus terminating any hope of seeking justice or holding law enforcement accountable for their actions.
The Pakistani military has officially designated their so-called operation as ‘Operation Silence,’ but it is more commonly known as the ‘kill and dump policy’ due to its systematic and protracted nature. This policy has not only been implemented in Balochistan but has also extended to different regions of Pakistan. It is employed as a tool to suppress public resistance. While Pakistani forces view extrajudicial killings to maintain peace, in Balochistan, these tactics are used unjustly against innocent individuals and political activists advocating for their national rights. The campaign began with the arrest of BSO Muttahida and Baloch National Movement leaders, resulting in their enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings or they remain missing for an extended period. Some individuals who have been forcefully disappeared are confined within Pakistani army torture cells for decades, while others have had their bodies disposed of, leaving their families in perpetual uncertainty.
In the past, enforced disappearances in Balochistan have resulted in brutal killings, with the bodies being callously dumped in deserts and along roadsides. Following public outcry, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) was established within the police under the direction of the Pakistan Army. However, the CTD’s claims of ‘fake encounters’ are widely disputed by local media and the Baloch community, who provide substantial evidence to refute these assertions. Regrettably, Ghulam Farooq, who had been forcibly disappeared, fell victim to the Pakistani army’s outrageous ‘kill and dump ‘ policy.
For the past two decades, a relentless pattern of extrajudicial killings has plagued Balochistan, resulting in the deaths of thousands of individuals who were held in custody following arbitrary arrests. These figures specifically pertain to approximately 250 members of BSO and BNM and do not include members from other peaceful organizations such as BRP and BRSO. It is worth noting that the number of Baloch freedom fighters who lost their lives in armed conflicts with the Pakistan army in Balochistan is lower than those subjected to enforced disappearances or the kill-and-throw policy. Among those who have suffered enforced disappearance or death under this policy, the number of political activists is relatively more minor compared to the general population. Numerous writers, teachers, and artists who propagated nationalist ideas in Balochistan have also fallen victim to this policy.
The policy of custodial killing in Balochistan can only be described as nothing less than genocide, as it targets explicitly individuals who uphold their national identity. International organizations must exert continuous, unwavering pressure on Pakistan to end this genocidal policy of enforced disappearances and custodial killings. It is crucial to explore the possibility of prosecuting the Pakistani army for crimes against humanity in the International Court of Justice, as the domestic courts in Pakistan are incapable of delivering justice, particularly in cases involving the army.
Conspiracy to Implicate Iman Mazari in Cases
Iman Mazari is a committed human rights activist who relentlessly advocates for the recovery of Baloch people subject to enforced disappearances. As a Baloch herself, she actively participates in the protests held by affected families and works toward advocating for their cases. Recently, she attended a Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) rally in Tarnool, Islamabad, where she joined other PTM leaders, including Ali Wazir, in appealing for the rights of Pashtuns. However, Iman Mazari and Ali Wazir were arrested on August 20 after the rally.
Iman Mazari is a committed advocate for human rights who actively supports the Pashtun Protection Movement, a prominent organization that works to uphold the rights of Pashtuns. Recently, she participated in a PTM rally where she spoke candidly about the state atrocities that Pashtuns have been subjected to, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The involvement of Pakistan’s powerful army in these abuses is widely known.
As a passionate human rights activist, Iman Mazari wholeheartedly supports the PTM, a well-known organization that defends the rights of Pashtuns. She attended a PTM gathering and courageously addressed the issue of state-sanctioned atrocities against the Pashtun nation, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. It is widely acknowledged that the Pakistan army has played a significant role in such incidents.
Renowned lawyer Iman Mazari spoke out boldly against state terrorism during the said gathering. This is not the first-time human rights violations have been brought up against the Pakistan army, as cases of extrajudicial arrests have been registered in Pakistani courts. Pakistani political figures
from across the political spectrum have accused the army of being complicit in enforced disappearances on multiple occasions.
Paank holds the view that Iman Mazari is facing discrimination because of her vocal stance on the issue of enforced disappearances. It is worth noting that Ms. Mazari is the daughter of Shireen Mazari, a former Federal Minister for Human Rights in Pakistan. Shireen Mazari was subjected to police brutality during a state crackdown against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, her political party. After her mother’s arrest, Iman Mazari criticized the military’s political interference.
Despite this, the Jag (Legal) branch of the Pakistan Army has booked Iman Mazari for allegedly defaming the army and its leadership. This case proves that Pakistan’s powerful army has overwhelming control over the state and is willing to take action against those who speak out against it. There are concerns that the army will use different cases to discredit Iman Mazari and prevent her from carrying out her human rights work, much like they pressured her mother to withdraw from politics.
It is worth noting that Ali Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and a former elected representative of the National Assembly of Pakistan, has also been a target of the Pakistani army’s hostility for a considerable period. Despite being relieved and released by the court, he has been arrested and charged in multiple cases.
Paank thinks that the military authorities are employing the law and their administrative power to deprive Ali Wazir and Iman Mazari of their civil liberties, a tactic they have used against previous political and social activists. This strategy involves fabricating baseless cases in various jurisdictions to entangle the victims in prolonged legal proceedings, causing them mental anguish. Panak argues that Ali Wazir and Iman Mazari are targeted in a coordinated plot. This targeting of individuals who raise their voices for human rights demonstrates Pakistan’s disregard for human rights, as all political rights and freedoms have been stripped away, and military dominance is increasing.