Stringer Asia Logo
Share on Google+
news of the day
in depth
Balochistan: the Long March against enforced disappearences
  • ?Balochistan: the Long March against enforced disappearences
    ?Balochistan: the Long March against enforced disappearences
For days they have been camped in Islamabad like a refugee camp, women and children and men patiently waiting to talk to 'someone'. 'Someone' who is supposed to represent the state, but they to that state, to the state that welcomed them to Islamabad with sticks, tear gas and water cannons as if they were terrorists instead of peaceful citizens, no longer believe. Not least because the same state, to the terrorists who take to the streets to destroy churches, burn Israeli or American flags and call for the beheading of French and Danish ambassadors and all blasphemous infidels, instead makes golden bridges. The Balochs, however, despite the cold and desperation of all those who have seen their loved ones disappear, are not giving up. They demand that the UN finally take charge and mediate between the Pakistani government and the relatives of the victims. Until then, they have no intention of leaving. They remain there, women and children first and foremost, with photographs of their missing loved ones, with placards, with anger shouted at the top of their throats even when, as has happened, the police try to seize the PA system. Enforced disappearances, they say, must end. For those unfamiliar with either the term or related practice, according to international law, "arrest, detention, seizure and any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization of, the support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to recognize the deprivation of liberty or silence regarding the fate of the missing person or his or her whereabouts, such as to remove that person from the protection guaranteed by law." Since March 2011, according to official figures, Pakistan's Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances has received 9,200 complaints, but activists estimate that the real number is much, much higher: more than double that, in fact. Since 2017, some 20,000 people have reportedly disappeared from Balochistan alone; citizen plus citizen minus citizen. Of those who disappear, only a very few return alive. The others, most, never return. Or, at least, not officially. Because the practice of enforced disappearances is connected, in Pakistan, to another chilling practice: the so-called 'kill and dump,' corpses dumped in the streets in various stages of decomposition and with assorted signs of torture. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Pakistan to "ensure that all measures are taken to immediately end the practice of enforced disappearance," but obviously no one is willing to listen. Because this practice, so well tried in Balochistan, has now become a standard way for the Pakistani government to treat activists, journalists, freethinkers and any political opponents across the country. According to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances, established in 2011 under international pressure, has not made any significant progress. The ICJ states that the practice, "It has become a tactic to suppress dissenting voices wherever they are present." Although Pakistan has in fact repeatedly assured its intention to join the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), the intention has remained a dead letter. The state continues to make people "disappear," and crackdowns against families of the disappeared exercising their right to peaceful protest are increasingly frequent and violent. "The government of Pakistan has a duty to respect, protect and realize the right to peaceful assembly, without discrimination of any kind, under international human rights law....In addition, Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan enshrines freedom of peaceful assembly as a fundamental right," reads a report by Amnesty International. Perhaps someone should give Islamabad's intelligence agencies, police and army members a copy of their country's Constitution.
Francesca Marino