Human rights violations in Balochistan

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Human rights violations in Balochistan
Balochistan in Pakistan.svg
Location Balochistan
Date Ongoing
Target Civilians and combatants
Perpetrators Pakistani security forces
Baloch separatist groups
Motive Military clampdown

Human rights violations in the Balochistan province of Pakistan have drawn concern and criticism in the international community,[1] being described by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as having reached epidemic proportions.[2] The violations have taken place during the ongoing Balochistan conflict between Baloch nationalists and the Government of Pakistan over the rule of Balochistan, the largest province by land area of modern-day Pakistan.

Brad Adams the director of the Asia branch of HRW has said that the Pakistani government has not done enough to stop the violence,[3] which include torture, enforced disappearances of those suspected of either terrorism or opposing the military, ill treatment of those suspected of criminal activity, and extrajudicial killings.[4] Marc Tarabella, the vice-chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), has called reports of the human rights situation "alarming" and stated that the "main victims" of the violence are Balochistanis who "are being systematically targeted by paramilitary groups, allegedly sponsored by the Pakistani authorities."[5]

Violations have a fairly low profile in Pakistan. According to Declan Walsh in The Guardian newspaper, "newspaper reports" in Pakistan about civilian killings in Balochistan are "buried quietly on the inside pages, cloaked in euphemisms or, quite often, not published at all".[6] Journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that "so many journalists have been killed in Balochistan" that "journalists are too scared" to cover the issue.[7]


Before joining Pakistan, Balochistan consisted of four princely states: Makran, Las Bela, Kharan, and Kalat. Three of these, Makran, Las Bela, and Kharan willingly joined Pakistan in 1947 during the dissolution of the British Indian Empire.[8] However, Kalat, led by the Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yaar Khan, chose independence as this was one of the options given to all of the princely states by Clement Attlee at the time.[9] In April 1948, however, Pakistan deployed armed forces to Kalat, and the Khan was forced to accede to Pakistan.[10] The Khan's brother Prince Kareem Khan declared independence and fled to Afghanistan to seek aid and begin an armed struggle that failed. By June 1948, Baluchistan in whole became a region of Pakistan.[11]

There were a further three insurgencies in the region after 1948: 1958–1959, 1962–1963 and 1973–1977, and a fifth nationalistic movement began in 2002.[12] The 1958–1959 conflict was caused by the imposition of the One Unit plan which had been implemented in 1955. This led to further resistance, and by 1957 Nauroz Khan announced his intention to secede; Pakistan declared martial law one day later.[13] Pakistan bombed villages and deployed tanks with support from artillery. Nauroz was arrested and died while in prison, his family members were hanged for treason.[14] According to Dan Slater, pro independence feelings in East Pakistan and Balochistan increased in parity with continuing military intervention in the political arena.[13]

Missing persons[edit]

According to journalist Ahmed Rashid writing in 2014, estimates of the number of disappeared in Balochistan "are between hundreds and several thousand."[7]

According to an 8 December 2005 statement, by the then Pakistani interior minister Aftab Sherpao, an estimated 4000 people from Balochistan in the custody of the authorities[5] having been detained in the province between 2002–2005.[15] Of this number only 200 were taken to court and the rest were being held incommunicado according to author Manan Dwivedi writing in 2009.[15]

However, in early 2011 The Guardian newspaper reported that "several human rights groups, including Amnesty International" had documents "more than 100 bodies" found dumped in Balochistan, many "mutilated corpses bearing the signs of torture" – "lawyers, students, taxi drivers, farm workers."[6] According to EU MP Marc Tarabella, based on collated newspaper reports, the number of those "killed after abduction ... exceed 2000".[5] According to Ashraf Sherjan, president of the Germany Chapter of the Baloch Republican Party, "families of enforced-disappeared Balochs" report that between 1999 and 2015, "more than 20,000 Balochs have disappeared".[16][17]

On June 3, 2012, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani directed Balochistan's chief minister to take special measures to trace the missing persons.[18]

Military and paramilitary abuses[edit]

The Frontier Corps, the anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,[19] Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency[20] and other groups have been accused of "a decade-long campaign" of "pick up and dump" in which "Baloch nationalists, militants or even innocent bystanders are picked up, disappeared, tortured, mutilated and then killed".[19] Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has been accused of massive human rights abuses in Balochistan by Human Rights Watch, with the enforced disappearance of hundreds of nationalists and activists. In 2008 alone, an estimated 1102 people were disappeared from the region.[20] There have also been reports of torture.[21] An increasing number of bodies are being found on roadsides having been shot in the head.[22] In July 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a report on illegal disappearances in Balochistan which identified ISI and Frontier Corps as the perpetrators. According to journalist Malik Siraj Akbar, as of May 2015, "dozens of people are losing their lives every day" in "extra judicial killings committed by the Pakistani security forces" in the province of Balochistan.[23]

In 2012 statement to the Supreme Court, the Pakistani government denied allegations of the use of secret operations, or death squads in Balochistan.[24] According to Major General Obaid Ullah Khan Niazi, commander of the 46,000 paramilitary Frontier Corps stationed in Balochistan, militants impersonating his soldiers are killing civilians. "Militants are using FC uniforms to kidnap people and malign our good name."[6] However, Balochistan’s former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, in a statement to the Supreme Court, claimed the current civil disturbances in Balochistan were a direct result of enforced disappearances.[25]

Religious Persecution of Minorities[edit]

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)[26][27] and Al Jazeera,[28] there has been a surge in religious extremism in Balochistan, with banned terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Pakistani Taliban targeting Hindus, Shias (including Hazaras) and Zikris, resulting in the migration of over 210,000 Shias, Zikris, and Hindus from Baluchistan to other parts of Pakistan.[29] A further 90,000 ethnic Punjabis have also fled due to campaigns against Punjabis by Balochi militants.[30]


Shia Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds make up at least 20% of the total population of Pakistan. The Hazara ethnic minority has been facing discrimination in Balochistan Province for a long time, and violence perpetrated against the community has risen sharply in recent years.[31][32][33] Since the year 2000, over 2000 Shia Hazara community members, including many women and children, have been killed or injured in Quetta.[34] Most of them have been the victims of terrorist attacks by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which is a Sunni Muslim militant organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Taliban.[35] Repression against the Shi'ite Muslims began in 1998 with the assassination of Gen Musa Khan's son Hassan Musa in Karachi,[36] and worsened in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks and the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan.[37][38]

Many hundreds of Shia Muslims have been killed in northern areas of Pakistan such as Gilgit, Baltistan, Parachinar and Chelas. In 2002, 12 Shia police cadets were gunned down in Quetta. In 2003, 53 people died and 150 were critically injured in a suicide attack on the main Shia Friday mosque in Quetta.[36] On March 2, 2004, at least 42 persons were killed and more than 100 wounded when a procession of Shia Muslims was attacked by Sunni extremists at Liaquat Bazaar in Quetta.[39] On October 7, 2004, a car bomb killed 40 members of an extremist Sunni organization in Multan. 300 people died during 2006.[40] On December 28, 2009, as many as 40 Shias were killed in an apparent suicide bombing in Karachi. The bomber attacked a Shia procession which was held to mark Ashura.[41]

Many young hazaras have had to flee to Europe and Australia, often illegally, in order to escape the oppression.[36]

Baloch separatist groups[edit]

Baloch insurgent movements have also been accused of human rights abuses in Balochistan,[citation needed] including targeted killings of ethnic non-Baloch civilians. This has caused an economic brain drain in the province. According to the Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani, "a large number of professors, teachers, engineers, barbers and masons are leaving the province for fear of attacks. This inhuman act will push the Baloch nation at least one century back. The Baloch nation will never forgive whoever is involved in target killings." Raisani noted that these immigrant settlers had been living in Balochistan for centuries and called their targeting by Baloch insurgents "a crime against humanity".[42]

Journalists, teachers, students, and human rights defenders have been targeted in Balochistan according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.[43] The U.S. Department of State estimates that in 2012 at least 690 civilians were victims of violence in Balochistan. A report from the Interior Ministry in 2012 stated that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem, and the Baloch Liberation Army were involved in violent disturbances. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that these groups and others killed 2,050 innocent persons and injured another 3,822 in 2012.[43]

Human rights activists suspected of being abducted/assassinated by military intelligence[edit]

Amongst the human rights activists that have campaigned against the military operations in Balochistan that are suspected of being killed by the ISI and/or other intelligence agencies include:

  • Sabeen Mahmood was shot dead by unidentified gunmen just minutes after leaving an April 2015 event she hosted for individuals suspected of being abducted/killed by the intelligence agencies. She was an ethnic Punjabi human rights activist who had campaigned against the Pakistan military's policies in Balochistan.[44][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Akbar, Malik Siraj (12 December 2011). "Balochistan – a human rights free zone". Dawn. 
  2. ^ "Pakistan: Upsurge in Killings in Balochistan". Human Rights Watch. July 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ Walsh, Declan (28 July 2011). "Pakistan's military accused of escalating draconian campaign in Balochistan". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ World Report 2012. Human Rights Watch. 2012. p. 362. ISBN 978-1-60980-389-6. 
  5. ^ a b c Tarabella, Marc (23 June 2015). "EU cannot ignore dire human rights situation in Balochistan". The Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Walsh, Declan (29 March 2011). "Pakistan's secret dirty war". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Rashid, Ahmed (22 February 2014). "Balochistan: The untold story of Pakistan's other war". BBC News. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Hasnat, Syed F. (2011). Global Security Watch—Pakistan (1st ed.). Praeger. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-313-34697-2. 
  9. ^ Bennett Jones, Owen (2003). Pakistan: eye of the storm (2nd Revised ed.). Yale University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0300101478. 
  10. ^ Malone, David; Rohan Mukherjee (2010). T. V. Paul, ed. South Asia's Weak States: Understanding the Regional Insecurity Predicament. Stanford University Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-8047-6221-2. 
  11. ^ Singh, RSN (2009). The Military Factor In Pakistan. Lancer. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-9815378-9-4. 
  12. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (2008). Descent into Chaos: How the War Against Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Allen Lane. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-7139-9843-6. 
  13. ^ a b Slater, Dan (2010). Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-521-16545-7. 
  14. ^ Khan, Adeel (2004). Politics Of Identity: Ethnic Nationalism And The State In Pakistan. Sage. p. 116. ISBN 978-0761933038. 
  15. ^ a b Dwivedi, Manan (2009). South Asia Security. Delhi: Gyan Publishing House. pp. 103–4. ISBN 978-81-7835-759-1. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Iaccino, Ludovica (March 11, 2015). "Balochistan: 'Hundreds of people abducted and murdered by Pakistan army' activists warn". International Business Times. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Raising his voice: 21,000 missing in Balochistan, says Mama Qadeer". The Express Tribune. April 17, 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  18. ^ PM Gilani orders Balochistan CM to trace missing persons, The News, June 03, 2012
  19. ^ a b Rashid, Ahmed (22 February 2014). "Balochistan: The untold story of Pakistan's other war". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Jackson, Richard (2011). Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. Chapter 9. ISBN 978-0-230-22117-8. 
  21. ^ "Pakistan: Security Forces ‘Disappear’ Opponents in Balochistan". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  22. ^ Walsh, Declan (28 July 2011). "Pakistan's military accused of escalating draconian campaign in Balochistan". The Guardian (London). 
  23. ^ Akbar, Malik Siraj (17 May 2015). "Betrayal in Balochistan". The World Post. Retrieved 25 June 2015. In Pakistan, everyone says they have incontrovertible evidence about India's involvement in destabilizing Balochistan. They only won't share the evidence with you because they insist that when evidence is already too evident then why should one make the evident, evident? 
  24. ^ "Balochistan case: SC rejects chief secretary’s report on province". Dawn.Com. 2012-09-28. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  25. ^ "‘Enforced disappearances cause of unrest’: Mengal submits six-point plan on Balochistan". Dawn.Com. 2012-09-28. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  26. ^ "Human Rights Commission of Pakistan worried over mass migration of Hindus from Balochistan". dna. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Gunmen target minority sect in Pakistan". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  29. ^ shiapost. "Pro-Taliban takfiris hail ISIS: Zikri-Balochs, Hindus threatened to death". The Shia Post. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Gunmen kill 11 in Pakistan sectarian attack". Samaa Tv. 2011-07-31. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  32. ^ Saba Imtiaz (2011-09-21). "The Quiet Killing of Pakistan's Shi'a Continues". The AfPak Channel. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  33. ^ Yousafzai, Gul. "Suspected sectarian attack in Pakistan kills 13". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  34. ^ Siddique, Abubakar and Nasar, Khudainoor Pakistan's Tiny Hazara Minority Struggles To Survive October 04, 2011, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty |
  35. ^ B. Raman (26 September 2011). "Pakistan: Another Massacre of Hazaras in Balochistan By Pro Al Qaeda Elements"
  36. ^ a b c "Insight: A brief history of Hazara persecution by Dr Saleem Javed". Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  37. ^ "Pakistan's Shia-Sunni divide". BBC NEWS. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  38. ^ "Pakistan's Shia-Sunni divide". BBC News. June 1, 2004. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  39. ^ "Carnage in Pakistan Shia attack". BBC News. March 2, 2004. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  40. ^ "Shiite-Sunni conflict rises in Pakistan". David Montero. February 2, 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  41. ^ "Karachi in grip of grief and anger as blast toll rises to 43". S. Raza Hassan. Dawn News. December 30, 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  42. ^ Baloch, Shahzad (9 August 2010). "Raisani seeks mandate for talks with insurgents". Express Tribune. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  43. ^ a b U.S. Department of State, Pakistan 2013 Human Rights Report.
  44. ^ Hashim, Asad (25 April 2015). "Pakistani rights activist Sabeen Mahmud shot dead]". al jazeera. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  45. ^ "Director T2F Sabeen Mahmud shot dead in Karachi". Dawn. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 

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