An overview of Human Rights Situation in Month of July 2023
- Statistical Analysis: Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and military aggressions
- Wad (Khuzdar) Crisis: Shafiq Mengal, a state terrorist, using terrorism for territorial control
- Army Brutality in Dera Bugti, rampant enforced disappearances, and numerous cases of enforced missing persons
- Commemoration of CPEC’s 10th anniversary and the surge in human rights violations
- Utilizing enforced disappearances as a tool to manipulate elections in Balochistan
- Alarming cases of child sexual abuse perpetrated by FC personnel in Hazara Town Quetta
Statistical Analysis: Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and military aggressions
July 2023 has witnessed a concerning surge in cases of enforced disappearances, marking it as the most alarming month of the year thus far. The number of reported enforced disappearances has peaked, with 57 individuals forcefully disappearing following extrajudicial arrests. After enduring torture in undisclosed detention centres, 22 individuals were released without explaining their alleged crimes.
Dera Bugti has recently become the primary focus of the Pakistan Army, with 15 cases of enforced disappearances reported in this region alone. Regrettably, significant damage was inflicted upon their properties and livestock during the military onslaught on the local population.
The Pakistan Army has relentlessly pursued a “kill and dump” policy in Balochistan for the past twenty years. This strategy involves staging fake encounters and falsely claiming that the detained victims of enforced disappearances were killed during these encounters. Such deceptive tactics aim to conceal the severe crime against humanity committed by the Pakistan Army, thereby downplaying the gravity of the enforced disappearance crisis.
In the preceding month, seven mutilated bodies were discovered in Balochistan, comprising two from the Dalbanden district, one from Nushki, one from Barkhan, one from Kech, and an unidentified body from Gwadar.
Wadh (Khuzdar) Crisis: Shafiq Mengal, a state terrorist, using terrorism for territorial control
The Pakistan army has implemented similar tactics in Bangladesh to suppress the Baloch War of Independence. By using religious organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami, they formed death squads named ‘Al-Badr’ and ‘Al-Shams’, which not only divided the Bangladeshi society but concealed the brutalities committed by the Pakistan army. These actions were portrayed as a civil war to deceive the public.
Since Pakistan’s creation was based on religious divisions, the powerful military establishment believes in occupying lands of subjugated nations under the guise of Islam. They consider themselves guardians of ideologically defined borders, which justifies their interference in public affairs and society. As a result of this disconnect with Baluchistan’s community, the Pakistani army employs ‘non-state elements’ to exert influence. These elements include religious extremists and individuals with criminal backgrounds, thereby undermining the genuine Balochistan independence movement.
The Pakistani army’s network of facilitators operates under various names in Balochistan, with the ‘Aman force’ being the most popular. It is openly supported by the Pakistan Army, as evidenced by photographs showing their patronage. This heinous policy has created an environment of fear in Baloch society, where criminals roam freely while ordinary citizens face constant risks to their lives and property.
The recent terrorist attack by Shafiq Mengal, the leader of one of Pakistan’s most notorious armed groups, again highlights the negative role of these death squads, which operate under the protection of the Pakistani military.
Shafiq Mengal, a notorious terrorist with pending cases in Pakistani courts, poses a significant threat to regional peace. In 2008, he formed an armed group called Difa-e-Balochistan. With the full support of the Pakistani military, Shafiq’s death squads have been given free rein to suppress Baloch freedom fighters using arms and state support forcefully. He has even targeted his mother’s clan, the ‘Qalandrani’, to ensure his unchallenged power in the area.
The Pakistan army is known to protect Shafiq Mengal, considering him a valuable asset to the state. However, there is undeniable evidence suggesting that he holds religious extremist and sectarian views separate from the agenda of the Pakistan army. Areas like Mastung, Washuk, and others have become safe havens for religious extremists. Due to their association with Lashkar- e-Jhangvi, the Shia community in Balochistan, particularly the Hazara community, has been subjected to brutal acts of terrorism.
Several notable incidents exemplify this, such as the attack on Imam Bargah in Shikarpur in January 2015, the suicide bomb attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in February 2017, and the killing of 11 Hazaras miners belonging to the Hazara tribe in Mach’s Geshtari Pandalgad area on January 3, 2021. It is suspected that Shafiq Mengal also facilitated the kidnapping and killing of labours.
In February 2014, mass graves containing 169 human remains were discovered in the Tutak district of Khuzdar. However, only two individuals who had forcibly disappeared from Awaran district were identified. Over 20 eyewitnesses confirmed Shafiq Mengal’s involvement in these mass graves during the tribunal formed under Justice Noor Mohammad Miskanzai of Balochistan High Court. Former puppet Chief Minister of Balochistan, Abdul Malik Baloch, also stated in various newspapers that Shafiq Mengal’s armed organization, Defa-e-Balochistan, was involved in the Tutak mass graves. In 2014, a case was also registered against him for the murder of 8 Levies officials. However, no legal action was reportedly pursued against him in this case.
Shafiq Mengal aims to gain control over Khuzdar, challenging the authority of the Mengal tribe’s current leader, Akhtar Mengal. The supremacy over the tribe and region has been the traditional bone of contention between the Mengal factions. Akhtar Mengal’s father, Attaullah Mengal, played a significant role as a nationalist leader. Thus, he became a channel for the Pakistani army to weaken Attaullah Mengal’s hold on Khuzdar politics and the people. To achieve this, the Pakistan army enlisted the help of Naseer Mengal, a rival family member, against Attaullah Mengal. Shafiq Mengal is the youngest son of Naseer Mengal.
The tribal conflict between Naseer Mengal and Attaullah Mengal has been further intensified by the Pakistani establishment, with political motives underlying their actions. Naseer Mengal received state patronage and power to eliminate Attaullah Mengal’s political influence, and Shafiq Mengal was involved in this conflict. As a result, the security situation in the Khuzdar district has reached an alarming level, posing a significant threat to peace.
Shafiq Mengal has displayed religious extremist tendencies and actively opposes pro-national politics in Balochistan, using force against those who support it. On July 2, 2023, he launched a lethal attack against Akhtar Mengal and his supporters, disrupting the peace in the area.
The most concerning aspect of this incident is the attempt to portray Shafiq Mengal as a political and tribal leader rather than a terrorist to mediate and reconcile between him and Akhtar Mengal. Shafiq Mengal should be held accountable and face severe punishment. In the past, a secret reconciliation between Akhtar Mengal and the Pakistan army forced Shafiq Mengal into hiding. As the general elections approach, the Pakistani establishment is once again empowering Shafiq Mengal to maintain control of the puppet government in Balochistan after the upcoming election, as it faces a threat from Akhtar Mengal’s Balochistan National Party, which is part of the current coalition government of Pakistan.
The Paank wants to caution political and tribal figures in Balochistan against supporting the outdated tribal system. Instead, they should strive to unify Baloch society nationally and actively prevent human rights abuses. Rather than assisting criminals like Shafiq Mengal in hiding behind tribalism, they should work towards ensuring justice is served. Any attempt to reach an agreement with Shafiq Mengal will only further the state’s agenda, worsening the human rights situation and tightening its control over the land.
Army Brutality in Dera Bugti, rampant enforced disappearances, and numerous cases of enforce missing persons
Last month, the Dera Bugti district in Balochistan again experienced severe aggression from the Pakistan Army. On August 26, 2009, Shaheed Akbar Khan Bugti, a prominent Baloch National leader, was killed in a significant military raid by the Pakistan army. Following his death, his supporters in Dera Bugti faced violence as the area was cordoned off, and thousands were forced to leave their homes. Control of Dera Bugti was then handed over to pro-Pakistan death squads, who have been committing serious human rights abuses in the region.
During the past month, the Pakistan army employed indiscriminate force against civilians, launching direct attacks on the population and subjecting dozens of people to enforced disappearance after arrest. One such incident occurred on July 12, when Roshan Bugti’s house near Sui Airport was attacked, leading to his forcible disappearance along with his son Ahmed Ali, an employee of the Levies Department. During the raid, the Pakistani Army stole two motorcycles, two mobile phones, and a licensed shotgun. Women and children were subjected to torture as well.
On July 13, the Pakistani army fired mortar shells at villages in Rais Tok, Gopat, and Kech areas, burning houses and causing property damage.
Further enforced disappearances occurred on July 16, when the Pakistani army arrested SawaGull (son of Punhal Bugti) and Hussain (son of Bakhtiar Bugti) and forcibly disappeared.
Similarly, on July 17, levies official Dadain (son of Shaheed Shahan Bugti) forcibly disappeared after being called to the Sui army cantonment by an army brigadier. Dadaan’s father, Shahan Bugti, had been kidnapped by the Pakistan army and was later killed in custody in the Mutt area of Dera Bugti.
According to a report received on July 19, the Pakistan army arrested five civilians, namely Taro Bugti, Ahmed Ali (son of Karbhari Bugti), Aasu Bugti, and his two sons, Khaira Bugti and Mari Bugti, from Gopat and Sui areas before forcibly disappearing them.
On the same day, Inayatullah (son of Kohi Bugti) and Usman (son of Razo Bugti) were detained and forcibly disappeared by the Pakistan army from Chinna Post Sui.
Furthermore, as reported in July, Rozi Bugti forcibly disappeared by the Pakistan army with force.
Expressing deep concern over the surge of military aggressions and enforced disappearances in Dera Bugti, Paank appeals to human rights organizations to prioritize the deteriorating human rights situation in the region. The issue of enforced disappearances in Balochistan must receive extraordinary attention. The tribal areas provide fertile ground for the violation of human rights, as the Pakistan army exploits tribal conflicts to gain support from its opponents or neutral individuals. Last month, such people were also targeted, and the targeting is expected to intensify with the announcement of upcoming elections in Pakistan, particularly for those whose loyalties are perceived to be changing.
Commemoration of CPEC’s 10th anniversary and the surge in human rights violations
The situation in Balochistan has worsened over the past decades, with the implementation of megaprojects in Gwadar by Pakistan’s military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf. This has led to extensive exploitation of the mineral-rich eastern regions of Balochistan by foreign companies. Meanwhile, the people of Balochistan continue to suffer as they are denied access to the gas resources extracted from their land. This has resulted in a stark contrast, where the industrialization of Pakistan has flourished in Punjab, while Baluchistan’s citizens still rely on wood for fuel. Additionally, around 80% of the Baloch population is involved in border trade, which lacks legal protection and exposes individuals to dangerous situations, including fuel transaction. Unfortunately, many precious lives are lost due to accidents and actions by Iranian security forces. Despite these ongoing struggles, the Pakistani government launched a 10-year celebration of CPEC on July 4, 2023, completely disregarding the dire situation faced by the Baloch population. Throughout this period, forced disappearances have intensified, with dozens of villages along the CPEC route already being evacuated due to continuous killings and disappearances by the Pakistan army. Numerous families have been forced to migrate to West Balochistan and Afghanistan, facing significant health, education, and economic stability challenges due to the lack of legal refugee status. It is crucial for the international community, particularly companies involved in Balochistan projects, to acknowledge the severe human rights violations taking place. Their participation in these projects only contributes to the ongoing turmoil in Balochistan. These companies should play a role in recognizing and respecting the fundamental rights of the Baloch people, including their sovereignty and control over resources. Failure to do so will only result in further bloodshed and undermine any positive impact their investments may have.
Utilizing enforced disappearances as a tool to manipulate elections in Balochistan
The Baloch National Movement has raised concerns regarding the potential increase in violence within Balochistan during Pakistan’s forthcoming mock elections. It appears that this tactic has been employed to manipulate public sentiment.
Reliable sources indicate that the current situation in Wad (Khuzdar), including the killings and enforced disappearances in Dera Bugti, can be linked to the upcoming elections in Pakistan. The Pakistani military has resorted to coercion to sway opponents’ opinions and compel their followers to switch allegiances. Moreover, the utilization of enforced disappearances in various districts of Balochistan, particularly Kech, Awaran, and Panjgur, has been employed to secure votes. The concerned individuals’ families are coerced into guaranteeing their voting support.
Alarming cases of child sexual abuse perpetrated by FC personnel in Hazara Town Quetta
The Hazara community of Balochistan is an integral part of society. After enduring genocide in Afghanistan, the Hazara community sought refuge in Quetta central city of Balochistan. Despite condemnations from the Baloch National Movement, the Hazaras in Balochistan face further marginalization due to the colonial policies of the Pakistani state, which seek to create division and prevent unity between Pashtun and Baloch communities. This policy not only facilitates religious extremists in targeting the Hazara community but also implicates the state of Pakistan in its suffering and genocide.
In a bid for security amidst continuous terrorist attacks, Hazara elders requested the establishment of security check posts in Hazara Town and other Hazara areas in Quetta. However, despite the situation stabilizing, the FC failed to address these demands. Consequently, these check posts became a source of fear and concern for the residents, as they did not effectively prevent crime.
Under these circumstances, FC personnel stationed in Hazara Town took advantage of their position on the 8th day of Muharram when they brought a girl into their outpost room. Volunteer scouts entered the room and discovered the girl had been subjected to inappropriate sexual assault. The incident was suppressed and kept quiet out of fear.
On July 31, FC personnel reportedly attempted to assault a boy sexually. When caught, his brother was taken to the police station, and an FIR was registered against him. In response to these incidents, the following demands have been made:
- FIRs must be registered against the FC officials involved in both incidents.
- Unnecessary FC check posts should be removed from Hazara Town and Alamdar Road.
- The mini headquarters of FC within Hazara Town and Alamdar Road should be relocated away from residential areas.
- During Muharram and the month of Safar, FC personnel should be replaced by local police personnel in Imam Bargahs and Women’s Majlis Khanahs.
Paank fully supports the demands of the Hazara elders and urges them to take the threats facing the Hazara community seriously, deploying local and credible forces to ensure their protection and prevent further incidents of this nature.
It is important to note that instances of sexual violence as a psychological weapon against the Baloch population have been observed in Balochistan for some time. Many cases of unexplained sexual abuse of both men and women during detention have been reported, although victims often hesitate to come forward for various reasons. Women have even been subjected to gang rape in front of their families during military aggressions aimed at forcefully evacuating communities along the CPEC route.
Pakistani military personnel have faced allegations of sexual abuse wherever they are deployed, from Bangladesh to Haiti, as part of UN peacekeeping missions. Incidences of sexual abuse by military personnel are prevalent throughout Balochistan, although only a few make it to the media.
One notable incident occurred on January 1 and 2, 2015, when Captain Asim, a Defence Security Guard (DSG) soldier and four colleagues sexually assaulted Lady Doctor Shazia Khalid continuously for four hours. Despite incontrovertible evidence, no action was taken against Captain Asim. Instead, a campaign was launched against Shaheed Akbar Khan Bugti and his supporters, ultimately leading to his martyrdom on August 26, 2006.
In April 2021, a thirteen-year-old child named Amir Murad was sexually assaulted by military personnel stationed at a post in Hoshap, district Kech. In June 2021, dozens of women were sexually assaulted by the Pakistani army during offensive aggression in Kelkor, Panjgur district, resulting in the migration of nine villagers. During this brutality, the father of a girl named Peri, son of Ahmed, was shot and killed by Pakistani military personnel for resisting.
These incidents, highlighted in media reports, have significantly impacted Baloch society. However, the limited engagement of international human rights organizations on these matters has heightened the urgency for holding the Pakistani army accountable. It is crucial to address this by considering the removal of check posts.