PAKISTAN: The army chief must be stopped lobbying against Baloch at international level

Since the Peshawar carnage, touted to be Pakistan’s 9/11, the Chief of Army Staff General (COAS) Raheel Shareef has been on a spree of visits to garner international support for the war on terror. The army’s confused stance on issues of terrorism and militancy has received a skeptic response from the international community who believe that army is being selective in targeting Taliban and the militancy in general. COAS’s recent visit to UK is a case in point where the Army chief asked the British Government to take actions against the Baloch separatists living in London, including Hyrbyair Marri, who Pakistani officials say is the leader of the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA.) The General requested that the BLA be listed as a terrorist organization and that legal measures be taken against its leaders based in London.

General Raheel’s visit to the UK and other ally states speaks volumes about army’s political ambitions, what is intrinsically the domain of the foreign ministry is now being taken over by the army. Perhaps it has escaped the attention of the army that request for legal actions against the citizen of another state can only be made through political channel. Logic fails to explain the wisdom behind the move.

General Raheel did not have the mandate to involve international community and to lobby for support for the war against terror the right vest with the head of the state. Perhaps he has vented out his pent up anger against the Balochs, who have been fighting an insurgency for self determination and against atrocities committed by the army, like continuous military operations, disappearances of hundreds of activists including women and children, extra judicial killings, discoveries of mass graves, custodial torture and arbitrary detentions.

The agenda of the meeting was to lobby for support from the UK government, and there was no mention of the Baloch insurgency yet General brought on the issue out of the blues. The army is portraying to the world that Baloch nationalist movement for self determination is a terrorist movement and their leadership is terrorists. General Raheel is diverting the real issue of ‘religious terrorism’ in mixing with secular movements so that partners of the “strategic depth” policy of Pakistan army must be protected in a move to save the “good Taliban”. The war on terror is rooted in religious ideology and including Baloch organisations in the list of terrorist makes no sense what so ever.

Since the 2001 the Pakistan Military establishment and its spy agencies are involved, directly or indirectly, in the massacre of Baloch people including aerial bombardments and abductions but have totally failed to get ‘positive’ results by controlling the insurgency. It is alleged that more 8000 persons are disappeared, hundreds were extra judicially killed. Two judicial commissions were formed who blamed the military establishment and its spy agencies were involved in killing of the Baloch after their arrests. According to the Daily Dawn, after learning that 4,557 bodies were found in the country over the past four years, the Supreme Court has asked the federal government to effectively address in a coordinated manner the handling of unclaimed bodies as well as the issue of missing persons.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, on February 10 took up an application of Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, who has invited attention of the court towards lack of a proper system for handling of mutilated or unclaimed bodies found at different places in Balochistan.

“We do not need protective walls around our cities for defence purposes provided citizens are fully protected,” observed Justice Khawaja, adding that “we are creating difficulties for ourselves by not facilitating our citizens”.

The state of Pakistan is allegedly engaged in the ‘genocide’ of the Baloch people, while plundering the vast mineral and other resources of the province. The downtrodden and oft-neglected people of Balochistan have suffered at the hands of successive federal governments that remained oblivious to the genuine needs of the people of Balochistan. Pakistani government has never made a serious move to develop Baluchistan and to understand or rectify the sufferings and root problems of the Baloch nation. Instead, they have strengthened their military yoke to further suppress the Baloch people. There have been many brutal incursions into the province since its incorporation in 1948 – these have been in 1948, 1958 and 1973. These have resulted in many human rights violations. Balochistan was founded in 1666, but was divided in the 19th Century by various arbitrary colonial borders, including the Durand line. The desire amongst Balochs to protect their language, territory and lifestyle led to the armed resistance. They have been excluded from political power. Despite having vast amount of natural resources, and providing natural gas to the whole of Pakistan, 80% of Baloch people lack access to safe water, and many children have no access to education. No royalty is ever paid to Baluchistan which remains the poorest province of the country

The Pakistani army has 69 Para-military cantonments, 6 heavy weapon cantonments, 6 naval bases and three nuclear, biological and chemical weapons testing facilities in Baluchistan. The worst kind of torture is taking place in Pakistani Army’s private torture cells. The Pakistani army has conducted five military offensives in Baluchistan that killed 85% of the women and children in Dera Bugti.

Baloch leaders have tried to engage in dialogue with the Pakistani rulers but they want to keep them as third class citizens. The heads of tribe that Pakistani army blame for atrocities are the patriotic leaders of the Baloch nation who have strived hard and have given personal sacrifices for the progress of Baloch people. Baluchistan has suffered the worst form of subjugation, oppression, and occupation in the past and are still suffering at the hand of Pakistan’s army.

The latest amendment of 21 in the constitution authorizes the government of Pakistan to eradicate “religious terrorism” with specific the word of religious not with any other kind of peoples struggle. The government must understand that Pakistan army wants to misinterpret the constitutional amendment on its own agenda to provide protection to the “good Taliban” so that through confusion and misinterpretation the fight against the religious terrorism can be achieved on the wishes of army.

In the presence of a civilian government and elected parliament the army must not have any other role except to follow the it’s constitutional duties rather to act like foreign minister.

The government has still not initiated any inquiry in the case of attack on army public school where more than 145 children were massacred with staff. The government must ask the chief of army staff for its gross negligence in providing security and protection to the children.

The only amicable solution to this problem is the right of the Baloch people to self-determination which is a basic human right and the only solution to resort to achieve stability and peace in the region. We urge western countries particular to stop providing weapons to the Pakistani army unless the Baluchistan issue is resolved. Otherwise the support which Pakistan gets from the international community in the name of the war on terror is being used to kill Baloch civilians.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-030-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice, Military,