Communist China’s intelligence officials are hands in gloves with the ISI in torturing Baloch freedom activists in France-sized Balochistan, while Islamabad seems to dread a hapless girl and an old man events this past spring prove.
Prior to assuming office, premier Main Nawaz Sharif, who hails from Punjab– the stronghold of the military–, had promised to turn a new leaf in Balochistan, but what he has actually done has added more salt to Balochistan wounds. Sharif’s new government passed the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, which has legalized enforced and involuntary disappearances in Balochistan with retrospective effect. The law provides immunity to Pakistani spooks of the ISI and Military Intelligence as if they behaved like “Good Samaritans” by carrying out “good faith” enforced disappearances, torture and execution style killings of Baloch activists in Balochistan.
Sharif is also big time fan of President Xi Jinping Maritime Silk Road dreams to connect Balochistan port of Gwadar to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Baloch are protesting this scheme as they say it will turn them into a minority in Balochistan. While Pakistan military is engaged in brutal military operations, Baloch opposition leaders say Chinese intelligence officers have been seen in torture camps when the ISI tortures Baloch activists. Some torture victims have managed to convey to the leaders that their torturers were definitely not from Pakistan but were Chinese. Well-placed sources in Washington DC reveal that opponents of Pakistan’s Deep State may not be talking safely on their cell phones even in the USA as the Chinese have technology to eavesdrop on their conversation and are sharing it with the ISI.
Farzana Majeed, 29, and Mama Qadeer, 73, are general secretary of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organization trying to seek justice for 20,000 victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan. In March, the duo were not allowed to board an airplane to fly to New York to attend a conference by the ISI chief Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, who was himself in the US just a week prior to that on the invite of John O. Brennan, his counterpart in the CIA. A third person flying with them to New York was Faiqa’s Baloch, whose journalist father Haji Abdur Razzak, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, became a victim of enforced disappearance March 24, 2013, killed and his body dumped five months later. Apparently, the ISI does not only want to keep people in New York in the dark about Balochistan.
In early April, the two key human rights advocates from Balochistan, who have both lost a close relative to ISI policy of enforced disappearances and kill and dump, could not speak at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences. The LUMS event Unsilencing Balochistan was cancelled on the direct orders of the ISI chief. Again in April, when a liberal hacktivist and courageous human rights defender Sabeen Mahmud arranged the same Unslencing Balochistan, at her T2F intellectual boutique where the legendary Baloch human rights defenders spoke, she was gunned down minutes after she left the venue.
Then in May when some conscientious professors, who are no supporters of Balochistan independence, invited the two human rights defenders along with their best ally intellectual Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur, from Sindh’s famous house of Talpurs, the university administration on the orders of the ISI sealed the arts auditorium. The professors held the event outside the auditorium, where the ISI sent one of its deth squad leader Zakria M. Hassni to attend.
Philim Kine, Deputy Asia director of the Human Rights Watch in New York, the ISI ordered the April 8 event, “Unsilencing Balochistan,” shut down shortly after ISI personnel visited the LUMS. “The justification? Human rights in the embattled province of Balochistan “is a sensitive issue and […] the [event] could be used to malign Pakistan,” according to the spy agency. Kine, who is a former journalist, added, “If the ISI is acting as if it has something to hide, that’s because it does.”The staff and students of LUMS said in a statement, “Pakistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees these fundamental freedoms and rights. These rights are also guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.” The LUMS students who protested the cancellation covered their faces covered by posters in pictures released on the social media, out of the ISI’s fear.
The story of the two legendary human rights defenders of the VBMP are heart wrenching, proving beyond any iota of doubt that Pakistan is in violation of the Rome Statutes and Geneva Conventions. Along with a group of human rights defenders, they went on a 1850 long march, one of the longest in South Asian history, 17 months back to create awareness about enforced disappearances. During their long trek, that saw the feet of the marchers blistered and oozing with blood, they were warmly received in Sind towns and cities but faced racism in Punjab, including threats and abuses.
Mama Qadeer’s son Jalil Reki, who was spokesperson for the Baloch Republican Party, was abducted by the ISI February 13, 2009 from Quetta, capital of Balochistan, and his badly mutilated body was recognized November 24, 2011, two days after it was found dumped by the ISI inTurbat, hometown of chief minister Abdul Malik. In an interview in Dawn with Mohammed Hanif, one of the few Pakistani journalists who has spoken out loud and clear on Balochistan—most others have looked the other way, either in support f the ISI or out of fear of the spy service–, Qadeer said his son’s left hand was “Broken and swollen. His whole right arm had been burnt badly. His entire back was covered with clusters of tiny marks, not sure if they were cigarette burns. There were three bullets in and around his heart. Although he had been killed two or three days earlier, his body was fresh. Like a martyr’s.” Qadeer took his grandson, who was just four years of age when his father was forcibly abducted, close to the dead man’s body, removed the shroud and told him exactly what Pakistan had done to his dad. Qadeer also got an FIR lodged against the then ISI chief Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha, during whose reign Osama bin Laden was found in Abbottabad by the Americans.
Farzana Majeed, a heroine of the Baloch struggle, is sister of Zakir Majeed, a leader of the Baloch Students Organization Azad, whose fate remains unknown ever since he was forcibly disappeared by the ISI on June 8, 2009 from Mastung. According to journalist Hanif, Farzana Majeed has given up on the state of Pakistan and its people. “Isn’t it quite obvious that they hate us Baloch people?” Hanif quoted her as saying in an article in The Express Tribune.
In fact, Punjabi racism appears to be a factor in the Baloch plight in Balochistan. At an event organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and the Baluchistan House at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, T. Kumar, director of international advocacy at the Amnesty International in Washington DC, corroborated what Farzana Majeed said. “There is an element of racism here,” T. Kumar said. Earlier, this month Pakistan got the accreditation of the NGO named African Technical Association withdrawn on a flimsy charge that it had violated the UN rules though she is herself violating the UN charter with impunity. China fully supported Pakistan in this matter.
HRW’s deplored that despite clear rulings from the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2013 demanding justice for victims, as well as recommendations from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2012, Islamabad has done little to meet its obligations under the Pakistan Constitution and international law to prevent enforced disappearances. The HRW official also deplored Pakistan failed to provide any reparations to victims, including the families of the disappeared.
Amnesty’s T Kumar said the number of people who were disappeared and the way they were disappeared in broad daylight in full view of the public, without the perpetrators bothering to conceal their identities, showed enforced disappearances enjoyed state blessings. He urged the international community to keep ending enforced disappearances as a top priority.
Enforced disappearances was recognized as a serious human rights issue when lawyers in Chile noted in the 1970s that some of the prisoners they were representing simply disappeared while in custody of Pinochet’s security forces, according to the Human Rights Advocacy and the History of Human Rights Standards, of the University of Michigan.
Meanwhile, a scholar affiliated with US based think-tank, RAND Corporation, senior political scientist Peter Chalk, PhD, who also spoke at the Balochistan event in Geneva, said US policy on Balochistan is likely to change as “Pakistan strategic importance to the United States falls following the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”