ACHR WEEKLY REVIEW
[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for: 30 August 2006
Review: 130/06

WAT effects: London Plot and Bugti's killing


“Finding Nawab Bugti's remains would be a long, torturous process because there is no possibility of using heavy machinery like cranes or excavators.” - Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan.

As the riots and the strikes against the killing of Baloch nationalist leader and Jhamoori Watan Party chief Nawab Akbar Bugti on 26 August 2006 by the Pakistani security forces continue unabated, it is unlikely that the dead body of Nawab Bugti will be handed over to his relatives. From congratulating the security forces for Bugti's killing to the denial of the direct hands of the army shows that the script has

 

79 years old Nawab Bugti

not exactly gone as planned by the hawks. It has brought unprecedented international attention to the Balochi movement that Pakistan consistently sought to portray as another "Al-Queda" problem. At domestic level, General Parvez Musharaff's regime faces the most serious threat till date as Pakistan finds itself divided on the Balochistan crisis. The Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy has called a countrywide strike to protest against Bugti's killing on 1 September 2006.

a. “London Plot” and Bugti's killing: The uncanny link

Has the timing of the killing of Nawab Bugti, who is considered as the architect of the present Balochi uprising by the hawks in Islamabad, anything to do with the pat received by President Musharaff from none other than British Prime Minister Tony Blair for providing vital information to thwart the London Plot - a suspected plot to bring down as many as 10 planes travelling from the UK to America in August 2006?  Possibly, the hawks thought that they could get away by killing Bugti.

President Parvez Musharaff repeatedly sought to prove his indispensability in the War Against Terror (WAT) before the Bushes and Blairs. The issue of restoration of democracy in Pakistan has been overlooked. Musharaff has a vital interest for continuation of the War Against Terror to suppress the political opponents at home and the peripheries like Balochistan.

b. Slaughter in Balochistan

President Pervez Musharaff has always favoured military solution instead of a political dialogue with the Balochis. However, an attempt to assassinate President Musharaff by the Boloch rebels in December 2005 when he visited a paramilitary base in the province basically silenced the moderates in the present establishment.

Pakistani armed forces immediately launched full-fledged operations including the indiscriminate use of jet fighters and helicopter gun ships. Hundreds of tribals, including innocent women and children have been killed. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which sent a fact-finding mission to Quetta and Sibi from 26 to 28 December 2005; and to Dera Bugti and Sui from 8 to 10 January 2006, in its report, “Conflict in Balochistan” confirmed these killings.

Pakistani Air Force chief Tanwir Mahmood Ahmed confirmed the use of fighter jets against the Baloch on 17 July 2006.  The killings by the use of disproportionate force continue unabated.

On 13 June 2006, security forces allegedly killed at least 17 people including 12 women during clashes with armed Bugti tribesmen in the Bugti Hills. The deceased civilians were reportedly grazing cattle when 22 helicopter gun ships and four jet fighters launched indiscriminate bombing and shelling on human settlements in the Bugti Hills. The government however denied killing of any civilian and claimed that six rebels were killed during the raid.

On 14 June 2006, four members of a family including two women and two children (one seven years and another 3 years) reportedly died in bombings by Pakistani Air Force jet planes in Gazital areas, 20 Km east of Marri tribal capital Kahan.

On 6 July 2006, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao claimed that 25 tribal rebels were killed on 5 July 2006 in a raid by the security forces backed by helicopter gunships in Sui in Balochistan.

c. Other human rights violations

Arbitrary arrest, torture and disappearance are rampant across Balochistan. The relatives of the nationalist leaders and political workers of Balochistan have been specifically targeted by the secret agencies. Hundreds of Balochis are being held without being charged or produced before courts.

On 10 August 2006, the Balochistan National Party-Mengal made public a list of more than 100 political activists allegedly detained illegally by intelligence agencies. Although the government has reportedly admitted that a few Balochis have been detained, it has refused to give the exact figure of those detained and their whereabouts.

On 23 June 2006, intelligence agencies allegedly kidnapped Jamal Bugti, nephew of Senator Agha Shahid Bugti, general secretary of the Jhamhoori Watan Party from Sariab Road.

On 14 July 2006, Agha Shahid Bugti's brother Bilal Bugti and cousin Murtiza Bugti were also kidnapped by the intelligence agencies.

On 16 July 2006, two brothers of Senator Sanaullah Baloch of the Balochistan National Party, Obaidullah Ali Baloch, 26, and Samiullah Baloch, 24, were arrested by alleged military intelligence personnel in the Askari area of Quetta, Balochistan province when they were returning in a car from Quetta airport, where they were working on government-funded construction project. While Obaidullah Ali Baloch was released on 19 July 2006, Samiullah Baloch has yet not been released.

d. Balochistan: Suppression of Balochi voices

Balochistan remains a closed door slaughter house. Apart from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which sent a fact-finding mission to Quetta and Sibi from 26 to 28 December 2005; and Dera Bugti and Sui from 8 to 10 January 2006, no other team has been allowed.  The foreign journalists are often given guided tours. The national media personnel are censored and suppressed.

On 25 April 2006, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked four Baloch nationalist websites on the charges of carrying “misleading information.” The four Baloch sites are balochvoice.com, baloch2000.org, balochfront.com and sanabaloch.com.

On 4 April 2006, Munir Mengal, the head of Baloch Voice, a Baluchi-language TV station based in the United Arab Emirates, went missing after he arrived in Karachi on a flight from Bahrain.  Until today, Mengal has not been found.

e. Conclusion

Nothing could have more emphatically asserted that the Balochistan's crisis is not an Al-Queda related problem than the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti. India made a public statement against the killing of Bugti. Pakistan might like India to make more of similar statements to reduce the Balochistan crisis into another issue for Indo-Pak spat.

But, Balochis do deserve better international attention and recognition of their grievances and violations of their human rights. The key actors of the War Against Terror who have so far provided unstinted support to Musharaff have a responsibility to impress upon him to resolve the Balochistan crisis through genuine dialogue and not under the barrel of the guns.

That a frail old man of 79 years who was once a part of the government as Chief Minister and governor of Balochistan  had to resort to rebellion at an age when he is virtually incapacitated by arthritis reflect the grudge of the Balochis against Islamabad.

Asian Centre for Human Rights in its ACHR REVIEW “Plight of the Balochis of Pakistan: Overshadowed by the war against terror” of 18 January 2006 highlighted the root causes of the crisis. Balochistan, which constitutes about 48 per cent of the land area of Pakistan, is the largest and most resourceful province in the country. But it is also the poorest of all the four provinces. Unless the authorities in Islamabad provide greater autonomy and share the resources with the Balochis, military approach will only bleed Pakistan at the expense of the Balochis.

Neither Umma nor the use of the War Against Terror will be helpful.


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