This good news and happiness at their fortunate return should not obscure the real issues at stake in Balochistan and any self-congratulatory messages of individuals or political parties should be weighed well and then lauded because the releases are for one of state’s choice and terms in which the Baloch have no say; moreover these releases raise more questions than they answer.
These releases prove that it is the Pakistani state that is solely responsible for the disappearances of those who returned and those thousands who are still missing. The questions as to who disappeared them, why were they disappeared, where were they kept, why were they tortured, who will be held responsible for the years they lost and trauma they and their relatives suffered, will anyone be punished for this crime against humanity or it will like always be business as usual with all those responsible for disappearances continuing to enjoy their lives while lives of victims and relatives remain scarred forever.
These questions demand answers for how after all these long-standing denials by all institutions about any state involvement in disappearances these people appear when the state decides to release them. Unless these questions are answered justice is not being served but is simply a tactic to obfuscate the real issues and the plight of Baloch. The wounds inflicted by the state are too deep to be healed or forgotten by the enactment of ‘bad cop’ (Federal government) and ‘good cop’ (Jam’s government) dramas.
The disappearances and denials are not a fiction created by Baloch activists or the media; these are as real as life itself. The Pakistani Supreme Court (SC) had held nearly a hundred hearings on the issue of missing persons a few years back; it was long on rhetoric but pathetically short on action. The former Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhary was very vocal but missing persons’ fate remained unchanged because the will to provide justice just wasn’t there. The Inspector General of Frontier Corps (FC) repeatedly refused to appear before the SC and once when CCTV showed FC personnel abducting Baloch activists, he claimed that persons impersonating FC had done this. During a hearing at Quetta Registry in July 2012 former CJ had said that the Frontier Corps is accused of picking up every third missing person still no action was taken. The Supreme Court didn’t have any intention of punishing the perpetrators as it could not ruffle feathers of those who matter here.
In June 2013 the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) recommended filing criminal cases against some 117 serving officials of law enforcement agencies allegedly involved in missing persons’ cases but no action followed. In January 2013 bodies were found in mass graves in Tutak; among them were some missing persons while many remained unidentified. Ironically the investigating commission set up to investigate Tutak graves did not hold anyone responsible; as if these bodies had rained down in freak occurrence. Such lame Commissions dutifully cover-up state crimes and leave people at mercy of death squads to which the state has outsourced its ‘dirty war’ in Balochistan.
The death squads were and are a reality in Balochistan, but they are sanitized by calling them ‘patriotic elements’. In July 2011 Gen Javed Zia talking to local editors and senior journalists at the Quetta Club dispelled a perception that the army, FC or any other agency was involved in such killings and said that it was not the policy of the army leadership. However, he went on to add that some Baloch youths had burnt the national flag just for the sake of money or carried out subversive activities. As a result, they were hit by patriotic elements. He said the army was trying to restore confidence of the people who were involved in the burning of national flag so that they hoisted the flag with respect”. So these ‘Patriotic elements’ were helping army to restore confidence of people ‘burning flags’ by abducting and killing Baloch activists. If such statements do not convince people that it is the state which is terrorizing Baloch by their systematic and organized ‘kill and dump policy’ then nothing ever will. Our asset Professor Saba Dashtyari was also killed by a state sponsored death squad.
The culture of impunity prevails here; two years back and sometime before these very recent returns quite a few disappeared persons returned, some were bloggers like Waqas Goraya, some were Baloch activists like Comrade Wahid Baloch others some Baloch students. The good thing was that they were released but the worst aspect is that they refuse to discuss their ordeals because of the fear that they may be made to suffer again or their relatives would be harmed. Although Waqas Goraya came out with details as he lives abroad no human rights organization, or the super active judiciary here has investigated these abductions to at least name those who abducted and tortured these people.
For Pakistan the Conventions and Protocols on human rights are not even worth the paper they are written on; Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture on June 3, 2010 but continues with barbaric inhuman treatment of persons in its custody. Despite efforts by the Amnesty International and others Pakistan has neither signed nor ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED) which came into force on December 23, 2010. The mutilated bodies dumped in Balochistan aren’t a figment of my imagination it is a stark reality which is denied in hope that the Pakistani flag is large enough to cover these crimes and that people will soon forget.
The relatives of the missing and killed persons have sought legal recourse but got no justice. Baloch have protested peacefully through the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) and Baloch Human Rights Organization (BHRO) but have gone unheard. Mama Qadeer has observed token hunger strike outside press clubs in Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad for nearly 10 years since 27th July 2009 and has now got a tepid response from the provincial government simply because too many families had started to join the protest camp and invited general condemnation of the state. Mama Qadeer, Banuk Farzana Majeed, other young ladies and young boys of affected families undertook a historical nearly 3000 kms and 106 days long protest march from Quetta to Islamabad in 2013-14 to highlight the issue of missing persons but not a soul was released instead not only were the Marchers regularly threatened but even those who hosted them were harassed.
Mama Qadeer Baloch has been instrumental in highlighting the issue of Baloch missing persons and one can only respect him for his persistent and unrelenting struggle therefore this piece should not be considered a criticism of his decision to talk to the provincial authorities but it is necessary for all to understand that it is not only the release of the abducted persons which is the end goal of Baloch struggle because the end goal is that justice is done to all affected by the enforced disappearances and the ‘kill and dump policy’ by pinpointing and punishing those responsible for these crimes against humanity. Unless this is done within a concrete framework the abductions will continue and the Baloch people will continue to suffer.
More importantly the Baloch people should understand that they have not only to own up those who have suffered at the hands of state but that they must own up the cause for which these brave Baloch put their lives on line and have suffered and continue to suffer immeasurably. It was for us that they suffered and continue to suffer therefore, mind you my dear friends, until and unless we own up not only them but their cause as well, we will be guilty of disrespecting their sacrifices and history will not forgive us for forsaking our friends.