Nearly 1,000 bodies of political activists and suspected separatists have been found in the restive Balochistan province over the past six years, according to the Pakistan Government's official figures. A media report noted, `According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies have been found in Balochistan since 2011.` Most of the bodies were dumped in the regions of Quetta, Kalat, Khuzdar and Mekran - areas where Balochistan's separatist insurgency has its roots. Rights activists said the figures pointed to large-scale extrajudicial killings, the report added. Relatives assert most of the victims were picked up by security agencies. Thousands of people have disappeared without trace in Balochistan since a separatist insurgency gained momentum in 2007. A military-led operation was launched in early 2005 to counter the uprising by ethnic Baloch groups, who want a greater say in decision-making and exploitation of the Province's abundant natural resources, such as minerals and gas.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) has recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and asserts that there are many more it has not been able to document. VBMP chief Nasrullah Baloch added that most of the bodies `are of those activists who have been victims of 'enforced disappearances' - people who are picked up by authorities and then just go missing`. His allegations were largely in line with a 2013 report by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that recorded `credible reports of continued serious human rights violations, including disappearances of people, arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings`.
Meanwhile, the claim of the Federal Government's 'Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances' added salt to the wounds of the Baloch people. The Chairman of the Commission, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, told a Senate standing committee on December 19, 2016, that only 96 people were missing in Balochistan and the matter had been politicised.
The representative of Balochistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and European Union (EU), Mehran Marri, stated, on August 13, 2016,
The situation in Balochistan is as grave as ever. Pakistan's military operations have been continuing unabated. The Army Chief, the Prime Minister and the stooge ministers, who are sitting in the Baloch Cabinet had a meeting and they agreed on a National Action Plan to further isolate Baloch activists, freedom-loving nationals and the population from the rest of Pakistan, and certain other elimination process of genocide through a plan called the National Action Plan.The pro-Government Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) also underlined the prolonged Baloch discontent. BNP-M president Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal asserted, on March 5, 2017, that successive rulers of the country over the preceding 70 years had given nothing to the people of Balochistan, except hunger, poverty, unemployment and lawlessness. He alleged that the rulers had deliberately kept Balochistan backward. The rulers had never paid attention to the development of Balochistan and deprived its people of their due rights, including their share in the natural resources of their own Province. He claimed that no development could be seen in Balochistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and that this project would not benefit the people of Balochistan, as not a single development project had been launched in the region as part of the mega project.
Dubbing China as a 'great threat' to the Baloch people, UNHRC Balochistan representative Mehran Marri said that `China really-really is spreading its tentacles in Balochistan very rapidly, and therefore, we are appealing to the international community. The Gwadar project is for the Chinese military. This would be detrimental to international powers, to the people's interest, where 60 percent of world's oil flows. So, the world has to really take rapid action in curbing China's influence in Balochistan in particular and in Pakistan in general.` Asserting that CPEC would convert the Baloch people into minorities in their own homeland, Noordin Mengal, a human rights campaigner from Balochistan, stated that, with an influx of outsiders as a result of the project, the identity of the Baloch was being threatened.
Concern about demographic changes in Balochistan was reiterated in a report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on December 28, 2016, which noted that, at the current rate of influx of Chinese nationals into Balochistan and after completion of the CPEC, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048. The report added that, conservatively, 0.44 persons per thousand migrate from china because of economic reasons, resulting in an inflow of more than 600,000 people per year in Pakistan. At present, the Baloch are 55 per cent of the total population of Balochistan. The current growth rate of Balochistan's population is 2.36 per cent. On the existing rate of migration from China at 0.44 persons per thousand and rate of population growth at 0.43 per cent, the share of Chinese in Balochistan's population is destined to accelerate with the completion of the CPEC. Incoming investors and settlers have better capacities to offer attractive prices for land acquisition - often exceeding the growing market value. The unskilled people of the province will face increasing challenges in maintaining their lives without land ownership, their only productive asset, the report observed.
Moreover, while Balochistan is the starting point of the CPEC, the lion's share of the project has been assigned to Punjab, according to Federal Ministry of Interior statistics shared with the Parliament on September 2, 2016. At present, 53 per cent of the total projects are assigned to Punjab. According to official statistics, out of the total of 330 projects, 176 are in Punjab while only eight projects have been allocated for Balochistan.
This has also upset the Baloch people. Balochistan Republican Party on September 3, 2016 alleged that Balochistan's abundant resources were being diverted for the benefit of Pakistan's dominant province, Punjab. Munir Mengal, the President of Baloch Voice Foundation, asserted, on March 13, 2017, that CPEC was a 'strategic design' by Pakistan and China to loot Balochistan's resources and eliminate their culture and identity.
The Federal Government is trying to 'solve' the problem of Baloch discontent through demographic re-engineering, instead of addressing the challenges of development and justice, settling large numbers of workers from the other Provinces in Balochistan, and providing land and a range of facilities to 'outsiders' there. On September 8, 2015, in a meeting of the Senate's Standing Committee on Interior, Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini observed:
The government settled four million people in various parts of Balochistan in the past three decades. With broader demographic changes in the province, the Government is converting the majority into a minority.The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (Beginning of the Rights of Balochistan) package, which was launched by then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani with much fanfare on November 23, 2009, has proved an eyewash. On its own admission, the Government has only been able to implement 15 of the 61 proposals contained in the package - and the success of these 15 has also been challenged.
Islamabad has pursued a predatory policy with regard to the people and resources of Balochistan for decades, and there is no present indication that this is beginning to change. If anything, things are getting worse.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
(Courtesy of South Asia Intelligence Review)