Global Watch | Facade of Pakistan Elections in Balochistan
Global Watch | Facade of Pakistan Elections in Balochistan
The purportedly democratic electoral process in Balochistan, orchestrated by the Pakistani government, is obscured by an extensive history marred by persistent allegations of human rights transgressions spanning seven decades

Pakistan’s enduring control over Balochistan has been maintained through a formidable display of state force, as the government employs an extensive apparatus to suppress the aspirations of the Baloch people. The prevalence of forced disappearances within the Baloch population underscores the extent to which dissent is met with coercion. Despite pervasive aspirations for independence from Pakistan resonating throughout every section of Balochistan, the country persistently conducts elections, ostensibly to project an image of democratic governance in the region.

The palpable resentment harboured by the Baloch people towards Pakistan manifested in a recent bomb explosion at an election rally in the southwestern Baluchistan province. This heinous attack resulted in the tragic loss of at least four lives and numerous individuals sustained injuries. The incident unfolded in the aftermath of intense overnight clashes between security forces and separatist insurgents across various parts of Balochistan. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a prominent separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting that it had inflicted significant casualties on Pakistani security forces. It is crucial to note, however, that the BLA has a track record of exaggerating the number of casualties resulting from their attacks, adding a layer of complexity to the assessment of the incident.

This sequence of events paints a vivid picture of the complex dynamics between Pakistan and Balochistan, where the exercise of state force collides with the persistent aspirations of the Baloch people for autonomy. The recent violence, including the bomb explosion and clashes, not only highlights the volatile nature of the region but also emphasises the deep-seated tensions and grievances that continue to shape the Balochistan narrative.

Illusion of Elections in Balochistan

The purportedly democratic electoral process in Balochistan, orchestrated by the Pakistani government, is obscured by an extensive history marred by persistent allegations of human rights transgressions spanning seven decades. The protracted nature of these transgressions suggests a longstanding policy, with the government facing consistent accusations of involvement in widespread killings and illicit executions in the region. Notably, the gravity of these actions has intensified since 2002, as collaborative efforts between military and civil intelligence agencies, militias, death squads, and religious groups have led to the forced disappearance and detention of numerous Baloch intellectuals, political activists, and social figures. Reports underscore a disconcerting regularity in the discovery of lifeless bodies of Baloch activists exhibiting evident signs of torture.

Over the past 17 years, the toll of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in Balochistan has reached staggering proportions, with over 15,000 confirmed cases and nearly half a million people displaced, seeking refuge in countries such as the UK. The Baloch people of Pakistan have borne the brunt of severe human rights abuses, encompassing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, ostensibly orchestrated by state security forces and their allies. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has disclosed that between 2003 and 2019, a minimum of 7,000 individuals—comprising political activists, students, and intellectuals—went missing or were killed in Balochistan. Similarly, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asserted that approximately 8,000 Baloch individuals have disappeared since 2001, with many presumed dead.

Amnesty International’s report has laid bare the toll exacted by state security forces, claiming the lives of over 1,000 Baloch people between 2010 and 2016, while more than 600 remain missing. The report has also unveiled the widespread torture and inhumane treatment of Baloch detainees, resulting in fatalities. These cumulative accounts paint a harrowing portrait of a protracted history of human rights abuses in Balochistan.

Renowned Baloch activist Munir Mengal delivered a poignant address to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 19, 2023, providing a comprehensive exposé on the severe injustices inflicted upon the Baloch people. Citing a report from a non-governmental organisation, Mengal underscored the harrowing details of enforced discipline suffered by 787 individuals, a group that included 101 women and 63 children below the age of 13. Furthermore, he brought attention to the grim discovery of 31 mutilated corpses of missing persons, serving as a grim testament to the extent of the atrocities perpetrated. Regrettably, only 96 individuals were released, leaving a multitude enduring unimaginable hardship. Mengal’s impassioned plea aimed to draw attention to these alarming statistics, shedding light on the relentless persecution faced by the Baloch community. These disconcerting figures underscore the dire human rights situation in Balochistan, emphasising the urgent imperative for accountability and justice for the victims of these heinous crimes.

Within the intricate context of Balochistan, Pakistan’s actions transcend mere allegations of targeting militants, giving rise to an intricate tapestry of criminal activities. Despite ostensibly being framed as counterinsurgency operations, these endeavours conceal a nuanced and multifaceted reality. In stark contradiction to the official narrative, individuals subjected to interventions by the Pakistani military are not only innocent of militant associations but are actively engaged in advocating for equitable governance in Balochistan. A meticulous examination of available data unveils a disconcerting pattern of systematic repression, evident in the deliberate suppression of dissenting voices within Pakistan and the unexplained disappearance of a considerable number of young individuals.

The violence experienced by the populace of Balochistan needs immediate attention from the international community. The daily scenes of brutality unfolding in the region demand not merely passive acknowledgement but rather necessitate prompt, decisive, and concerted action.

The gravity of the situation in Balochistan, as elucidated by Mengal’s revelations, underscores the imperative for collaborative endeavours and the pressing need for justice and accountability. The recurrent incidents of violence and egregious human rights violations can no longer be relegated to peripheral concern; proactive measures must be expeditiously implemented before the situation deteriorates irreversibly.

The writer is an author and columnist and has written several books. His X handle is @ArunAnandLive. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.

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