PAKISTAN: BBC correspondent attempting to investigate plight of seven women denied entry to army controlled district in Balochistan province

Mr. Nisar Khokhar, a correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) along with a local newspaper journalist was stopped from entering the district of Dera Bugti, Balochistan province where the Pakistan Army has been conducting military operations since 2001. Mr. Khokhar was assigned to investigate a report of seven women who were arrested at the end of April 2007 by the law enforcement agencies during a raid at a house in a village Sia Aff of Sangsila area of Sui town in district Dera Bugti. The women were detained for more than 20 days in an army camp at Sui and were released in the second week of May. When these women returned to their homes, the people of the area refused to take them back and declared them to be “Dishonored” women, as they had been in the camp with army personnel.

Mr. Khokhar tried to enter the district Dera Bugti from Punjab province adjacent to Kashmore city. Army personnel at the Sui check point, dressed and wearing the uniforms of officials of the Frontier Constabulary, stopped him and demanded his identity and his permission to enter the area from the local army camp office. He, along with a local journalist was ordered to stand outside the check point kiosk for thirty minutes, after that both journalists were taken into the kiosk and were not allowed to leave until the confirmation of their permission to enter the area was received from the commanding officer of Dera Bugti army camp. They were detained for about two hours inside the Kiosk until orders were received from the army commander of the area that permission to enter the district had been refused. They were subsequently ordered not to enter the area and turn back immediately.

Dera Bugti is the area in Balochistan province where the Pakistan Air Force used jets to bombard the residential area in 2006. This area is rich in natural gas and supplies gas to whole of the country but the people of the province are not paid royalties for the gas. There is strong resentment among the people of the area and to curb this the military has constructed cantonments there. The former governor and chief minister of the province were killed on August 30, 2006 during an aerial bombardment of their hide out. After this the area came under the virtual control of the army.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the denial of entrance of the BBC reporter and local journalist to the area by the Balochistan Regiment of the Pakistan Army, and terms it as a restriction on the movement of journalists. It is a blatant denial of the freedom of the press which is enshrined in the Constitution. Clearly the Pakistan army does not want the citizens of their country or the international community to know of the atrocities being perpetrated in the area. To all intents and purposes it now appears that Balochistan province has become a no go area for Pakistani citizens and especially for journalists. The AHRC urges the international community to intervene in this blatant denial of press freedom. Also the government of Pakistan must immediately investigate the plight of the seven women who have been made outcaste due to the actions of the military and provide all necessary assistance to them.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-124-2007
Countries : Pakistan,