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.

Recommendations

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

Chairperson

Alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi recorded during the 1st quarter of 2009

Press Release, April 14, 2009

 

An alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi was recorded during the first quarter of 2009

 

Karachi: According to the statistics maintained by Sindh Chapter of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an increase of 13% (8.4% in cases of women and 4.9 in children) has been recorded in the killings and accidental deaths of citizens of Karachi during the first quarter of 2009.  This does not include deaths due to road accidents.

 

During the first quarter of 2008, a total of 387 deaths were recorded including that of 25 women and 18 children, while during the first quarter of 2009, it was 415 including that of 62 women and 40 innocent children.

 

Below are some comparative figures for the first quarters of 2009 & 2008:

 

·        54 persons died due to drinking of toxic wine (2009)

·        45 persons were killed due to personal enmity while last year it was 32

·        37 persons killed during robbery while last year it was 44

·        24 persons lost lives in target killing while last year it was 25.

·        19 persons kidnapped and killed while last year it was 53.

·        19 dead bodies were found while last year it was 21.

·        17 political activists were killed while last year it was 51.

·        15 persons killed in police encounter while last year it was 20.

·        12 labourers died at work while last year it was 12.

·        11 policemen were killed while last year it was 15.

·        07 persons were killed on railway track while last year it was 11.

·        07 persons were killed due to stray bullets while last year it was 9.

·        06 persons were killed due to overdose of drugs while last year it was 4.

·        06 persons were killed in Lyari gang war while last year it was 17.

·        05 persons were killed by police torture while last year it was 02.

·        04 persons died in jail while last year it was 02.

·        03 Security guards were killed while last year it was 07.

·        01 person was killed in bomb blast while last year it was 14.

·        05 persons dead due to negligence of different departments of government.

·        01 person was killed by relatives due to love marriage.

·        01 person was killed in ethnic riots.

 

Women            

 

·        23 women were killed by unknown persons while last year it was 11.

·        20 women died due to burn injuries.

·        14 women were killed by their relatives while last year it was 12.

·        07 women were killed on railway track.

·        03 women killed during robbery while last year it was 02.

 

Children

 

·      40 children died in different incidents while last year it was 18.  Among the 40 this quarter, 21 children died due to fire, 6 were kidnapped and killed, 5 drowned in open sewerage tanks, dead bodies of 2 infants were found, 2 were killed due to stray bullets, 01 was killed on railway track and 1 lost life in target killing.

 

Major incident causing death during the first quarter of 2009

 

At least 40 people were killed and around 25 injured when a fire ripped through dozens of shanty homes in North Karachi, in January 2009.

 

HRCP Sindh Office

Unit # 8, First Floor, State Life Building # 5,

Abdullah Haroon Road, Saddar, Karachi

Ph: (021) 5637131 – 32.

Failure to nab perpetrators of Shia killings worries HRCP

Press release, February 11, 2009

 

Lahore: The recent string of target-killing of Shias in Balochistan and the government’s failure to bring any of the perpetrators to justice is a cause for growing alarm, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

 

A press statement issued by the Commission said: “The killing of Shia notables in Quetta has sadly become a frequent occurrence. Some of the killings have been owned by an extremist organization flying a religious standard. The number of the Shia community members killed there over the recent years has exceeded 300. The government’s failure to track down the culprits has understandably enraged the targeted community, and it has also emboldened the perpetrators to kill with impunity. Besides religious figures, liberal politicians, businessmen and government officials have been targeted.

 

The government must surely now know that the community is exasperated with the government’s inability to perform one of its basic functions, that of ensuring that the lives of the people are protected. The Sunni population also fears that unhindered killings of the Shias might cause sectarian strife in an area where the sects have generally coexisted peacefully for centuries.

 

HRCP fears that the state agencies’ consistent failure to track down the killers may prompt the targeted community to retaliate against members of other sects, which is perhaps the sort of violence those behind the target-killings want to trigger.

 

The province, which has been in the grip of an insurgency for many years and now faces a growing threat from the Taliban, cannot afford that. The government must act decisively to investigate the killings in an efficient manner before the situation slips into further chaos.”

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

HRCP wants Karachi deweaponised, causes of violence addressed

Press Release, December 1

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed shock at the loss of life in recent violence in Karachi and urged the government to ensure that the city is deweaponised and no one is allowed to fan ethnic strife there.

 

A statement issued by the HRCP on Monday said: “The loss of life and property in Karachi in acts of indiscriminate violence in the past two days is truly alarming. Deployment of paramilitary force in the sensitive areas to help control the situation is needed, but such deployment and shoot-at-sight orders do not address the causes of violence. Talibanization is no doubt a serious threat not only in Karachi, but for the whole of Pakistan, however, that cannot be justified as a pretext to fan ethnic violence.

 

It is shocking and beyond comprehension that some political leaders were urging Karachites to buy weapons. Also disappointing have been the slogans for expulsion from Karachi of citizens from other provinces. The Constitution guarantees every citizen’s right to live in any part of the country, and this right cannot be compromised.

 

The extent and use of weapons in the hands of non-state actors in the city in the last few days has been horrific. The government should ensure deweaponisation of the city in a truly unbiased manner. The possibility of the government achieving that depends to a large extent on it convincing the citizens of its ability and willingness to protect all so that they need not keep private arms to protect themselves. The significance of impartial action cannot be emphasized enough. Picking favourites must be avoided as that could lead to disastrous consequences.”

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson

Stop Kurram Agency killings: HRCP

Press release, July 21, 2008

 

Lahore: The government must immediately put an end to bloodshed in Kurram Agency and restore its writ in a region held hostage by terrorists engaged in sectarian violence, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a press statement on Monday.

 

The Commission said: “The people of Kurram Agency have been suffering horrific sectarian violence at the hands of home-bred and foreign terrorists since April 2007. For over a year, the main road connecting the agency to the rest of Pakistan has been occupied by militants who close it as and when they please. Ambulances have been attacked, innocent people slaughtered and dismembered bodies in sacks found dumped by the roadside. Heavy weapons are used to target peaceful civilian neighbourhoods. Communication and water supply systems have been destroyed, and the local economy ruined.

 

The situation has grown from bad to worse. There is little evidence that government’s efforts to restore law and order have worked so far.

 

The agency has been virtually cut off from the rest of the country, prices of essentials have hit the sky, development activities have suspended and closure of courts and government offices are causing serious problems for the people living in the agency.

 

The government needs to act in a manner to restore confidence of this area’s people in rule of law and the government’s ability to ensure rights for the people. The government needs to ensure that Kurram residents are duly protected.

 

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson