Last week a leading private university in Pakistan was forced to cancel an academic discussion on human rights in its southwestern province Balochistan “due to state intervention“.
Balochistan, Pakistan's largest, least populated and poorest province is witnessing its fifth separatist movement since 1947. Public discussions on Balochistan's war are rare. Nationalists think silence on Balochistan is their patriotic duty, others self-censor out of fear of Pakistan's powerful military.
But few really understand what is going on in the province, because media coverage and reporting from there is thin.
In this episode of GV Face, we break the silence on Balochistan by talking to Pakistani and Baloch activists and journalists who dare to speak out and report on human rights abuses in the province. Theses activists and journalists walk a thin dangerous line. Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur (@mmtalpur), a veteran human rights activists who was a part of the cancelled LUMS talk will join us. We will also have Fahad Desmukh (@desmukh), who heads PakVoices, a news site that reports on communities in Balochistan's coastal areas, Adnan Aamir (@iadnanaamir), who heads the online publication Balochistan Point, and Ali Arqam (@aliarqam), an activist and reporter with Newsline magazine.
Facts about the Balochistan conflict are hard to verify. What we do know is that Baloch nationalists are seeking independence from Pakistan, and Pakistan's armed intelligence operatives are trying to suppress them, sometimes through extrajudicial “forced disappearances”. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, since 2010, the bodies of hundreds of Balochistan’s “missing people” have turned up dead bearing torture marks. In 2013 alone, 116 bodies were found across the province, 87 of which were identified by families who accused Pakistan’s security agencies of abducting their loved ones.
The government maintains that separatists are funded by “outside forces”.
Various sectarian and Islamist militias also use the area for recruitment training to fight wars in Iran and Afghanistan, both of which border Balochistan. These groups also launch attacks within Pakistan.
Sometimes these groups join forces in pursuit of money and resources. The result is the people living in Balochistan have to protect themselves from several different dangerous ideologies.
Since 2001, thousands of ethnic Shia Hazaras, Balochistan's largest minority, have been killed by militant groups. Many more have been forced to leave a province they've called home for generations.
Some Baloch nationalist groups are trying to drive all non-Baloch and the Pakistan military out of the province. Military convoys are bombed. Punjabi families who have lived in Balochistan for decades are now branded by some groups as unwanted “settlers”, hundreds have been killed in attacks and thousands forced to flee the violence.