HRCP calls for immediate demilitarisation of Balochistan

Press Release, 11 October 2009

Quetta: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls for immediate demilitarisation of Balochistan as the first confidence-building measure to start a political dialogue in the province and warns if corrective actions are not taken immediately with the concurrence of Balochistan’s people, the country may dearly regret the consequences.

The full statement reads as follows:

After a week-long visit of Balochistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is of the firm view that the largest federating unit of the state can only be likened to an active volcano that may erupt anytime with dire consequences. The situation is alarming and worsening by the day.

It is apparent from the information received by the HRCP, from various sources, government and non-government, political parties and individuals that the decision-making is firmly in the hands of elements that were in command before February 2008. It is the military that still calls the shots. The provincial government is isolated and made dysfunctional in critical areas. An over-sized cabinet, absence of an opposition and wide-spread corruption have all contributed to a political vacuum. There are deep concerns of governance in the entire country but in Balochistan the crisis is deeper.

In this crisis, a large section of the people of Balochistan has been driven to the conclusion that they are being viewed as enemies of the state. They feel abandoned by the people as well as political forces in the rest of the country. There is a sense of isolation, rejection and dejection.

The incidents of human rights’ violations in Balochistan are wide-spread and harrowing. Regrettably, the state has not addressed these complaints and the media, either under pressure or on account of its own failings, has been unable to probe and report the dreadful reality on the ground. The most hair-raising are the continuing incidents of enforced disappearances. In addition to a large number of cases already taken up by HRCP, the Commission has been able to document 30 new cases during its present mission to Balochistan. This appears to be only the tip of the iceberg as a large number of families do not have access to any forum of protest or redress. Moreover, the Commission is bound by its method of work to verify each and every case brought before it in accordance with accepted international standards of reporting.

HRCP has ample evidence to support the allegations of victims’ families that the perpetrators of enforced disappearances are intelligence agencies and security forces. This has been conceded by high officials and politicians in authority. The mission learnt in number of incidents, even public figures in power were unable to secure relief or assurances that such incidents will stop. These public figures cited a number of incidents of disappearances in which, on the basis of credible evidence, they approached the intelligence agencies and the security forces only to be met by a bland denial. This amounts to rubbing of salt into the raw wounds of the victims.

The existence of check posts causing inconvenience and humiliation was reported by people from all over Balochistan. Incidents were reported where the FC personnel manning these checkpoints insulted the people by shaving their moustache, tearing the Baloch shlawar and making other gestures derogatory to their culture and bearing.

The mission also received information about arbitrary arrests and reports of endemic torture at unauthorised cells whose existence was confirmed by knowledgeable people.

A history of neglect and betrayal over the decades coupled with systematic human rights abuses carried out with impunity has made a vast number of Baloch people desperate. No wonder, in this situation the Baloch youth has been driven into repudiating their allegiance to the state. Indeed, the voice of the youth is so strident that even those who disagree with them do not dare to express their views. The refusal of the Baloch youth to fly the Pakistani flag or play the national anthem in many areas and the insistence of the authorities to the contrary is only aggravating the situation. When the people’s will is being broken, their voice ruthlessly stifled and their bodies charred in torture cells; where mothers die every second waiting to hear from their disappeared child – the state cannot expect any other reaction but one of rebellion. In such circumstances the youth particularly is vulnerable to manipulation. It is imperative for all national leaders act with responsibility and to exercise a positive influence so that facts are not distorted.

HRCP abhors violence both as a means and as an end, perpetrated by any party. It regrets that target killings have also been attributed to militants and nationalist forces. An important number of people have fallen victims to target killings simply because of their ethnic origin or belief. HRCP unreservedly condemns such abuse of right to life and expects all political forces to do the same publicly. The sins of the federal government must not be visited on unarmed and innocent citizens.

The government’s obligation to investigate and punish the culprits is manifest and any failure in this regard fuels discontent and mistrust. In this climate of fear, a large number of government employees, academics, skilled people and members of intelligentsia have migrated from Balochistan to other areas. Many more are following. This has seriously affected the quality of services available to citizens, especially in education and health sectors. It is also causing serious imbalances in the community’s social structure.

An additional factor of insecurity and tension is the uninterrupted sequence of sectarian killings for the last six years. The representatives of Hazara community have claimed that 270 of their members have been killed since 2004. They have accused the security agencies of colluding with the criminal elements. As an example, they have presented the case of two notorious criminals who were arrested and kept in the anti-terrorist lock-up from where they mysteriously fled. The government had set up tribunals – one in 2004 and one in 2008 – to investigate two separate incidents of sectarian killings but the findings of these tribunals have yet not been made public.

The representatives of Pakhhtoon community list a long series of grievances relating to denial of rights, discrimination in the allocation of resources and non-acceptance of their demand to be an equal unit of the federation.

A large number of people expressed concern over the influx of so-called Taliban and other categories of militants in Pakhtoon-dominated areas. There are serious allegations that these elements are operating within Pakistan and across the border with impunity. This is particularly worrying for the Pakhtoon community itself.


HRCP is convinced that ill-imagined, ill-informed and belated measures by the federal government will not improve the situation in Balochistan. The patronising manner in which “Balochistan package” is being promoted will only add insult to injury. There is an urgency to create a climate of confidence and trust where wider consultation with all stake-holders is made possible. As a first step, demilitarisation of Balochistan is essential. All those held under illegal custody be freed and compensated. Political prisoners be released and perpetrators of human rights violations be brought to justice. In the long run, all political forces of the province should be brought in the mainstream. The people of Balochistan be assured that they will have full authority to decide their affairs including the management and control of their resources.

HRCP warns that if corrective actions are not taken immediately with the concurrence of Balochistan’s people and to their satisfaction, the country may dearly regret the consequences.

Asma Jahangir



Another Baloch victim of extra-legal killing

Press Release, 1 September 2009

Lahore: Strongly condemning the brutal murder after abduction of another Balochistan leader, Rasool Bakhsh Baloch, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reiterated its demand for earnest efforts to prevent killing of dissidents and to resolve the cases of missing persons. In a statement issued today the commission said:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal murder of Mr Rasool Bakhsh Baloch, an important office-bearer of the Balochistan National Party and a well-known human rights defender and social activist from Khuzdar. He had been abducted by armed men on August 23 and on August 30 his son had accused “some intelligence agencies” of abducting him. He had also expressed the fear that Mr Rasool Bakhsh might be killed. A day later the abducted activist’s dead body, bearing marks of torture, was found hanging from a tree in Bela.

This incident needs to be seen in the context of the tension in Khuzdar caused by the disclosure of their abduction and torture by two Khuzdar activists, Qadir Qalandrani and Naeem Baloch, and the disappearance of several other Baloch activists.

HRCP reiterates its view that the killing of prominent political activists cannot be countenanced on any account. These incidents have been a major cause of the Balochistan people’s alienation from the state. The government must demonstrate its earnestness in preventing such target killings. At the same time the task of tracing the large number of people reported missing must be pursued with diligence. The cost of dilly-dallying in these matters will be too horribly high to be imagined.

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

ICJ: Fight against impunity must be continued on International Justice Day

For immediate release     17 July 2009
ICJ: Fight against impunity must be continued on International Justice Day

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes International Justice Day 2009. “The fight against impunity and for international justice has made positive progress in the last decade, not least with the commencement of the first cases at the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, international justice continues to encounter obstacles in its development. The ICJ, the legal community and all the human rights movement must continue their efforts to attain universal justice and an end to impunity”, the ICJ said.

The ICJ reiterates that all States have the right under international law to prosecute and try people responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and other crimes under international law, such as torture, extrajudicial execution and enforced disappearances, regardless of the nationality of the victim or the alleged perpetrators or the territory where the crimes were committed. The ICJ also recalls that, in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction, the State has the imperative international obligation to extradite or to bring the accused to its own national courts.

The ICJ is deeply concerned at the African Union’s decision inviting Member States not to enforce the Arrest Warrant delivered by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. “Such a decision encourages African States, which are Members of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, to defy their obligations under the UN Charter and the Rome Statute”, said the ICJ, “The ICJ calls on the African Union and its Member States to retract this position and re-align themselves with their international law obligations.”

“The ICJ encourages States to enact laws allowing their national tribunals to prosecute, try and punish those responsible of crimes under international law in application of the principle of universal jurisdiction”, said the ICJ. The ICJ is concerned at the recent initiative of the Spanish Parliament to limit its universal jurisdiction.

The ICJ commends the ratification by 109 States of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The ICJ invites all remaining States to ratify or accede to the Rome Statute. “The International Criminal Court is an instrument of paramount importance for international justice. The ICJ supports the Court’s work and welcomes the commencement of its first cases”, said the ICJ, “Universal ratification of the Rome Statute is fundamental in contributing to end impunity.”

For further information contact + 41 22 979 3800

Musharraf’s stance on disappearances is wrong: HRCP

Press Release, April 28


Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has rejected as “absolutely untenable” the claim made by former president Pervez Musharraf that most of the “disappeared” persons had gone missing on their own.


In a statement issued on Tuesday following the former president’s recent interview with Al-Jazeera TV – in which he denied the role of state agencies in “enforced disappearances” and claimed the missing persons had voluntarily disappeared to join jihad, the Commission said: “That loss of power causes dementia and other disorders is amply demonstrated by General Musharraf’s recent interview and denial of state agencies’ well documented role in the illegal practice of enforced disappearance.


While some individuals may have gone away on their own, the statement that all victims of enforced disappearance had gone missing voluntarily to join the jihad without informing their families is absolutely untenable. It contradicts undeniable evidence and numerous accounts of those who have regained freedom after being missing for various periods.


It is ironic that the former president should deny the role of state agencies during his rule, which was acknowledged by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights in February 2007, when it urged the government to present all ‘missing’ persons before courts and give them an opportunity to defend themselves. The committee had observed that the response received from the government had been ‘inadequate and too little’ and it had taken ‘too much time’. It had said it was not sufficient for the government to say that a missing person was wanted in a case. ‘The civilised world no longer buys such versions. Whatever be the charges, they should be properly probed and documented and a legal course of action should be resorted to,’ the committee had said.


It was during the Musharraf regime that the Supreme Court expressed dismay at the lack of government’s cooperation in the missing persons case. If his government had nothing to hide, why did he refer to the Supreme Court’s investigation into the matter as ‘constant interference in executive functions’ in the November 3, 2007 proclamation of emergency? What of the scores of people released, ‘traced’ or produced in court by state agencies? Did that not happen either?


One would have ignored Musharraf’s fulminations as being undeserving of a response but for the possibility of his plans to again assume leadership of the enemies of democracy and basic freedoms.


The government must depart from the previous regime’s ways by coming clean on the illegal practice and set the record straight and facilitate the recovery and release of all the missing Pakistanis wherever they may be.”


Asma Jahangir



HRCP aghast at the extrajudicial killings of three Baloch nationalists

Press Release, April 9, 2009

Lahore: The killings, allegedly by the security forces, of Baloch Nationalists are a dangerous provocation and a grave violation of human rights. HRCP has credible information that Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir and Sher Mohammad, office holders of Baloch Republican Party and Balochistan National Party, were picked up on 3rd April 2009 by people in plain clothes, who were accompanied by two vehicles of Frontier Corps that stood at a distance. It is reported by credible sources that the three victims were sitting in the office of their lawyer after having attended a court hearing when they were forcibly picked up, blindfolded and taken in cars, closely followed by vehicles belonging to the Frontier Corps. A number of people witnessed the abduction. Mutilated bodies of the three victims were found in an isolated place near Turbat in the early hours of the morning.

The facts strongly suggest that members of state security picked up the three victims, tortured and killed them before dumping their dead bodies, which were discovered in a mutilated and decayed form. HRCP is aghast at this brazen violation of human rights and calls upon the government to get this incident thoroughly investigated so that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It is crucial that the authorities condemn this act and warn the security forces from taking the law into their own hands. Persecution of Baloch Nationalists must be stopped and the policy of hounding or maligning them through illegal means be abandoned by the authorities. Those involved in any criminal activities must be dealt with according to the law rather than through arbitrary and foul means. It is imperative that the government set up a high level Commission to identify those who indulged in involuntary disappearances, torture and extra judicial killings of hundreds of Baloch activists during and after the Musharraf regime. Victims must be compensated and offenders identified and brought to trial. HRCP warns that the free hand given to the security forces in Balochistan in violating the rights of Baloch nationalists will alienate the people of the Province and escalate the level of violence in the Province. Political demands must be met with political solutions and not through brute force.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson HRCP

HRCP calls for body to recover missing persons

Press Release, February 20

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government to immediately set up a high-powered and independent commission to deal with cases of enforced disappearance in Balochistan, release any people in unacknowledged custody of state agencies, and help secure the release of the UNHCR official, Mr John Solecki. In a statement issued here today the commission said:

The case of the abduction of the UNHCR official, Mr Solecki, and the demand by his abductors for the release of a large number of Balochistan citizens, including many women, continues to assume ever more serious dimensions. It is almost three weeks since Mr Solecki was abducted and every passing day increases apprehensions about his safety. At the same time the group that claims to be holding him has issued a list of 867 involuntarily disappeared people, including over a hundred women. A separate list of 138 women also has been released and it contains addresses of 76 women and the dates of their ‘arrest’. Whatever one may think of the authenticity of these lists it is obvious that the situation created by the claim of disappearance of so many women is far more serious than it had so far been assumed. It is the first time the people, at least outside Balochistan, have learnt of the enforced disappearance of Baloch women. Even if the list is partly correct it should make all politicians and civil society defenders of the oppressed hang their heads in shame.

In this situation the government cannot sit with folded hands. Every effort must be made to assuage the Baloch people’s feeling of outrage. This should have been a top priority issue even if Mr Solecki had not been abducted and should remain so after his case is solved. While attempts to secure Mr Solecki’s release through negotiations should continue the federal government must immediately set up a high powered and independent commission, with Balochistan adequately represented on it, to investigate the cases of all missing persons and secure the release of all those who are found in unathorised detention. The commission should have the power to summon any state employee and to grant appropriate relief. Even before the commission is formed it is necessary to order all state agencies to immediately disgorge anyone held in their custody or show cause for holding him/her. This is necessary to serve as proof of government’s  earnestness in trying to heal the festering  sore the issue has become.

Asma Jahangir

Benazir award lends urgency to human rights agenda; HRCP

Press Release, December 12


Lahore: While hailing the conferment of the United Nations Human Rights Award on Benazir Bhutto as an honour for Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reminded the government of its increased responsibility to promote human rights both at home and abroad. In a statement issued here today the commission said:


The conferment of the UN top human rights award on former Prime Minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto is an honour for the whole of Pakistan. The award highlights the prominence the right to democratic governance enjoys in the body of human rights. This and the fact that the award was given on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights increase the government’s responsibility to pursue its human rights agenda more vigorously than ever.


HRCP appreciates the present government’s interest in respecting its human rights obligations, as evident in ratification of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the signing of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, a certain easing of the curbs on the media, and a positive move towards abolition of the death penalty. These steps should mark the beginning of a concerted drive to resolve the human rights issues left over by the previous regime. These issues include:


The attack on the judiciary of November 3, 2007; the cases of the disappeared persons; the plight of the internally displaced people; the proliferation of armed militants; and the high scale of violence to women and discrimination on grounds of belief. All this should keep the newly created Ministry of Human Rights busy for quite some time. It is essential that the state should go beyond addressing cases on individual basis and develop institutional safeguards against human rights violations.


At the same time the country needs a full blown programme to implement the international human rights treaties. This must include ratification of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, adoption of legislation needed for implementing the key human rights instruments, and creating institutional frameworks for eliminating the threats to the people’s right to life, liberty and security and relief from poverty and exploitation.


A much needed improvement in the level of respect for human rights norms at home will help Pakistan upgrade its role in international human rights councils. It is no secret that this country needs to undertake its reporting obligations more seriously than it has done hitherto and end its shyness in inviting Special Rapporteurs and responding to their queries.


Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairperson