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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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January 1, 2012

Murder of Dr Shah highlights the insurgency
in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

In an apparent attempt to erase key forensic evidence in the Kharotabad, killing of five unarmed foreigners by Army led para-military force, Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down Thursday in Quetta, the capital of the strife-torn Balochistan province where a nationalist insurgency is underway.

According to police, Dr Shah, a police surgeon, was on his way back from the hospital when the armed assailants opened fire on his vehicle. He passed away before reaching the hospital.

On May 17, in Kharotabad, Quetta, five foreigners, including three women, approaching a para-military Frontier Corps check post were gunned down by the security personnel. An army Colonel also took part in the shooting of the unarmed foreigners. A video clip showing the Colonel shooting at the foreigners was uploaded at Youtube.

As a police surgeon, Doctor Baqir Shah performed autopsy on the bodies of the five foreigners and determined that all died from bullet wounds, and found no trace of explosives on their bodies.

He contradicted the police version that the five had died as a result of a grenade blast that they had themselves detonated.

Tribunal Report

In June 2001, the judicial tribunal on the Kharotabad incident found Col Faisal Shahzad of Frontier Corps, former Quetta police chief Daud Junejo and other FC and police personnel guilty of killing five foreigners and recommended legal action against them.

The report said that FC and police exceeded their powers in taking action against the four Russian and one Tajik national. Videos presented before the tribunal showed that the foreigners had received terrorism training. But, the report said the five foreigners were unarmed, had no suicide jackets and had no plan to attack police and Frontier Corps when they were killed. They could have been arrested, the report said adding that the firing by security personnel was unjustified.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights criticized in Oct 2011 the judicial report and the Chairman of the Committee, Riaz Fatyana, said that both Russian and Uzbek embassies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had cleared all those killed in the incident of having any links with any criminal or terrorist organization.

Insurgency in Balochistan

Dr Baqir Shah’s assassination highlights the insurgency in Pakistan’s largest and restive province, Balochistan bordering Afghanistan and Iran.

According to the Daily Times of Pakistan, the fifth military operation of our history is underway against the people of Balochistan but it seems that the rest of Pakistan remains oblivious to it. “The apathy of the government and the nation is something that has further alienated the Baloch from the Pakistani state. Thus a new wave of separatism has found resonance in Balochistan.”

The Daily Times pointed out that the Baloch insurgency started only to ask for their just rights but in order to quash their nationalism, the military under General Pervez Musharraf started using force. Even after the ouster of General Musharraf, the same policies are being carried out.

The Baloch are only 3.57% of Pakistan’s 165.8 million people. Yet they identify themselves with ethnic homeland that cover 72% of Pakistan’s territory. Interestingly, most of Pakistan’s natural resources are in Balochistan, including natural gas, uranium, copper and potentially rich oil reserves. Although 36% of the gas produced in Pakistan comes from the province, Balochistan consumes only a fraction of production because it is the most impoverished area of the country. For decades, the central governments have denied Balochistan a fair share of development funds and paid only 12% of the royalties due to it for its gas.

It is not surprising that an eminent Baloch nationalist leader, Sardar Ataullah Mengal said on Dec. 25 that the Pakistan Army has taken Balochistan to the point of no return. In 1972, Mengal became the first Chief Minister of Balochistan. However, then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed his government on February 13, 1973, leading to a bloody insurgency and fanning anti-Pakistan feelings in Balochistan.

In an exclusive interview with Dawn TV, Sardar Attaullah Mengal has said that the Baloch youth climbed on mountains for fighting and not for surrendering arms. He said that the Interior Minister Rehman Malik is always saying that the government would hold talks with those who would surrender arms before the government, adding that the Baloch people cannot surrender arms and honor before him.

He said that he is unable to do anything to return the Baloch youth back from the mountains, adding that the only solution is to address the grievances of Baloch youth and return the missing Baloch people to their families.

Sardar Attaullah Mengal said that the responsible should be punished so that the people saw them as punished, adding that instead of punishing them the government is showering flowers on them and telling the bereaved people to surrender.

Kidnappings and Killings of Balochs

According to the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), during the first four months of 2011, as many 25 journalists, writers, human rights defenders, students, and political activists have been killed extra-judicially. 24 of the victims were arrested or abducted, disappeared and then killed. For example, prominent human rights defender and journalist, Mr. Siddique Eido and his friend, Mr. Yousaf Nazar Baloch, were allegedly arrested by the Frontier Corp and police on December 21, 2010. Their mutilated bodies were found on April 28, 2011 having been dumped next to the Makran coastal highway near Ormara, Balochistan province. The other victim, human rights defender Mr. Naeem Sabir Baloch, the district coordinator of Human Right Commission of Pakistan, was killed outside his house by unknown persons. He was working to compile a list of victims of forced disappearance, intended for the Supreme Court of Pakistan and High Court of Balochistan.

The ALRC called on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings should seek an opportunity to visit the region and to inquire into the matter. Local and international human rights organizations should demand immediate action from the government and the international community to deal with this extraordinary situation.

In a comment on kidnappings and killings in Balochistan, Daily Times wrote on November 7, 2011: The entire nation should be ashamed of the brutalities unleashed by the military against its own people in Balochistan. Javed Naseer Rind, a young journalist, was abducted in September and his tortured, bullet-riddled body was found the other day in the province. More than a dozen Baloch, including women, were killed last week in less than 24 hours during a military campaign in Balochistan.

US gives asylum to Baloch journalist

Tellingly, Siraj Ahmed Malik, a journalist from Balochistan was given political asylum by US in October 2011 on the plea that his life was threatened in Pakistan in view of abductions and killings in Baluchistan.

On August 19, Malik, who is on a fellowship at the University of Arizona, applied for political asylum in the United States. In his petition, he said that his work as a journalist and ethnic activist in Balochistan, where he had exposed military abuses, made him likely to be arrested, tortured, abducted and “ultimately killed by the government” if he returned.

“The threat of disappearance was always lurking in the back of our minds,” Malik wrote in his asylum petition. “My friends, colleagues and I lived with the knowledge that yesterday it was him that disappeared; today it is someone else; tomorrow it could easily be me.” According to his asylum file, agents accosted him in airports and hotels, detained and questioned him, and repeatedly threatened to “teach me a lesson.”

Reporting about Malik’s political asylum, Pamela Constable of Washington Post wrote: “Activists including Malik assert that more than 5,000 Baloch have vanished in the past decade, but the issue has never been seriously addressed, while the government has both co-opted and persecuted Baloch tribal chiefs. In 2007, Pakistan’s military president fired the head of the Supreme Court, who sought to probe the disappearances. In 2008, a civilian government took office and an investigative commission was established, but little action has been taken.”

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America