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GENERAL APPEAL (Pakistan): Four persons burned alive in hot coal tar while other abuses reported during military operation in Balochistan

August 26, 2008

[NOTICE: The AHRC has developed this automatic letter-sending system using the "button" below. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of some of the Pakistan authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Pakistan authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal General: AHRC-UAG-011-2008

26 August 2008
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PAKISTAN: Four persons burned alive in hot coal tar while other abuses reported during military operation in Balochistan

ISSUES: Torture; right to liberty and security; disappearance; extrajudicial killing; internally displaced persons; women; children; law and order
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained information that military officers arrested four people on 5 April 2008 and put them in hot coal tar after failing to get a confession, where three died and one later died in custody in Zainkoh area in Dera Bugti district. This is yet another incident caused by military operations out of the deaths and displacement of hundreds despite the prime minister's public apology and decision not to take military action in the Balochistan province.

CASE DETAILS:

According to the information received, during the months of July and August 2008, more than one hundred persons were killed and more than 20,000 villagers in Balochistan province were displaced during military operations by the Pakistan Army. Cobra helicopters that were delivered to combat the war on terror after September 11 to crush the terrorist activists of Al-Qaida have been used on different occasions. 

Even though the Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani rendered apologies on May 1, saying, "It has been decided that no army action will be carried out in the province until a strategy is formulated in consultation with representatives of the provincial government to deal with the issue of law and order in the province", the military operation has continued over the past nine years.

On April 5, just six days after the formation of the civilian government, four people were arrested in the Zainkoh area in Dera Bugti district by military officers and were taken to torture cells there.  They were asked to name the persons who are working with "Balochistan Liberation Army" (BLA). After failing to get a confession from the victims, the officers put four people in hot coal tar. Three died instantly while the fourth person, Mr. Jaffer Khosa died in custody seven days later. The army was searching for persons involved in the blasts of the natural gas pipelines which provide gas to different parts of the country, and other subversive activities.

According to local newspaper reports, the military started to use heavy force in Dera Bugti, Bairoon Pat and border areas of Jafferabad district again and searched the houses without warrant from court. During this operation, army officers killed 12 persons on July 19, 23 persons on July 20 and 36 persons on July 24. It is also reported that 30 persons were killed and seventy were injured on July 27 and 28. Villagers claim that the military used chemical gas against the villagers and when they fainted, they were taken to unknown places where they were shot dead. Their bodies have not been handed over to their relatives. The affected areas are known as Pat Feeder, Bhawan, Baroon Pat, Shameen, Gwar, Chouber, Sari Darbar, Rustam Darbar, Baranjan, Khawar, Sand Curry, oacgh, Pir Koh and Sui Filds.

The Daily Jang, the largest circulated newspaper, reported on August 21 early that morning, the army deployed a fresh contingents of troops in the areas of Bareli, Tukhmarh, Jhabro, Sano gari, Andhari and Nisao cheera. Seven innocent persons were killed and 18 persons were injured due to a whole-day aerial bombardment in the said areas. After a lapse of one day, the military started bombardments again which killed several, including 13 women and children. The federal in charge, the minister of interior, visited the area on August 20 and announced that the military operation would continue if separatists were protected by the people. The newspaper also reported on August 24, the military operation began in the areas of the Balochistan, the Kohistan-e-Marri again. Several groups claimed that about 250 persons have been missing since the military operation started on July 19.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Balochistan province continues to remain under military operation since 2001 by the strict policies of former president General Musharraf. During that period, the Pakistan Army used gunship helicopters and armored cars against the civilian population of the province and the Pakistan Air Force was even used to bombard F-16 jet planes. After the formation of the newly elected government in April, an announcement was made to halt the operation.  The prime minister and parties in the government apologized openly before the people of Balochistan.

It has been alleged that more than 3,000 persons have been killed due to this operation. The military government wants to construct several cantonments in Balochistan. However, there is serious resistance to this among the residents in the area. Several districts in the province had been bombed by F16 jets of the Pakistan Air Force. A former governor and a chief minister of the province, Sardar Akbar Bugti, died with several other important persons in a series of aerial bombings in past years.

It is also reported that more than 200,000 people have been displaced and have had to move to shelters in different districts of Balochistan due to the bombardments. More than 4,000 people have also disappeared after their arrests, allegedly by law enforcement agencies, particularly by military intelligence and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Federal interior minister stated before the national assembly of Pakistan on December 5, 2005 that more than 4,000 persons had been arrested in Balochistan province due to their involvement in anti state activities. However, he did not clearly mention where those arrested persons were being held and why none of them had been produced before the courts for trials.

According to the testimonies of persons who returned after they had been missing for several months and the research conducted by some human rights organizations, it has been revealed that the abducted persons were detained in military camps in different cities. The former detainees have also testified that they have seen many of his friends and their family members who have also been missing for long time.

Please refer to previous statements issued by the AHRC.

AHRC-STM-120-2008: PAKISTAN: Government issues false statements about missing persons
AHRC-STM-158-2008: PAKISTAN: 52 illegal torture and detention centres identified 
AHRC- AS-204-2006: PAKISTAN: EARLY WARNING--Pakistan approaching catastrophe; UN Security Council intervention needed now

Please also refer to previous Urgent Appeals issued by the AHRC.

UP-014-2007: PAKISTAN: Fifteen political activists are missing after their arbitrary arrest and detention
UP-001-2007: PAKISTAN: A politician allegedly abducted once again by secret service agents after giving his statement in Sindh High Court

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send letters to authorities listed below, demanding them to stop the military operations in the Balochistan province that have caused several forms of human rights violations.

Please be informed that the AHRC has sent letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism calling for intervention in this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear _________,

PAKISTAN: Four persons burned alive in hot coal tar while other abuses reported during military operation in Balochistan

I am shocked to learn that the military of Pakistan has started operations in different parts of the southern province of Balochistan again despite an assurance by the Prime Ministar Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani on May 1, 2008 that there would be no military action against the Balochi people. It is of grave concern that the military is not following the pledges made by prime minister and considers Balochistan its colony. It is also very disturbing that innocent citizens including women and children have been targeted by the army in pursuit of miscreants and secessionists.

According to the information I have received, on April 5, just six days after the formation of the civilian government, four people were arrested in the Zainkoh area in Dera Bugti district by military officers and were taken to torture cells there. They were asked to name the persons working with the "Balochistan Liberation Army" (BLA). After failing to get a confession from the victims, the officers put four people in hot coal tar. Three died instantly while the fourth person, Mr. Jaffer Khosa died in custody seven days later. The army was looking for persons involved in the blasts of the natural gas pipelines which provides gas to different parts of the country, and other subversive activities.

According to the local newspaper reports, the military started to use heavy force in Dera Bugti, Bairoon Pat and border areas of Jafferabad district again and searched houses without warrant from court. During this operation, army officers killed 12 persons on July 19, 23 persons on July 20 and 36 persons on July 24. It is also reported that 30 persons were killed and seventy were injured on July 27 and 28. Villagers claim that the military used chemical gas against the villagers and when they fainted, they were taken to unknown places where they were shot dead. Their bodies were never returned to their relatives. The affected areas are known as Pat Feeder, Bhawan, Baroon Pat, Shameen, Gwar, Chouber, Sari Darbar, Rustam Darbar, Baranjan, Khawar, Sand Curry, oacgh, Pir Koh and Sui Filds.

The Daily Jang, the largest circulated newspaper, reported on August 21 early that morning, the army deployed a fresh contingents of troops in the areas of Bareli, Tukhmarh, Jhabro, Sano gari, Andhari and Nisao cheera. Seven innocent persons were killed and 18 persons were injured due to whole-day aerial bombardments in the said areas. After a lapse of one day, the military started bombardment again and killed several including 13 women and children. The federal in charge, the minister of interior, visited the area on August 20 and announced that the military operation would continue if separatists were protected by the people. The newspaper also reported on August 24 that the military operation began again in the areas of the Balochistan, the Kohistan-e-Marri. Several groups claimed that about 250 persons have been missing since the military operation started on July 19.

I urge you to investigate the death of four persons including Mr. Jaffer Khosa who were burned alive by the military in Zainkoh area in Dera Bugti district so that those responsible are prosecuted and punished according to law. Human rights abuses such as killings, disappearance and torture against civilians by the military are never justifiable during military operations in the province. If law and order by the Prime Minister do not abide by, there is much less that will be followed. In light of this, I further urge you to stop military operations in the province that has already caused the death and displacement of hundreds so far.

Yours sincerely,

________________
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Mohammad Mian Soomro
Acting President
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see-> http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)
 
2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister
Prime Minister House, Islamabad,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: webmaster@infopak.gov.pk or makhdoomyrgillani@hotmail.com
 
3. Mr. Rehman Malik
Advisor for Ministry of Interior
Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block,
Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2624
Tel: +92 51 921 2026
E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk

4. Mr. Farooq Naik
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
S Block Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2628
E-mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk or naelaw786@hotmail.com
  
5. Nawab Aslam Raisani
Chief Minister of Balochistan
Chief Minister House, Quette,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 81 920 2240
Tel: +92 81 449582 / 440661
E-mail: mirlashkari@yahoo.com

6. Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi
Governor of Balochistan
Governor House Balochistan,
Quetta- Balochistan province,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 81 920 2992
 
7. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
Co-Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party
H. No. 8, St. 19, F-8/2, Islamabad
PAKISTAN 
Fax: +92 51 2282741
Tel: +92 51 2282781 or 2255264
E-mail: ppp@comsats.net.pk

8. Ch. Ahmad Mukhtar
Minister for Defence
Ministry of Defence
Prime Minister Secretariat,
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 51 9271107 or +92 51 9271108
Fax: +92 51 9271113
E-mail : amservis@hotmail.com

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)


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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.