There was fear in her voice. But also a steely resolve to fight for freedom from Pakistani oppression. The young Baloch activist risked her life to report from ground zero.
As we dug into reports of the Pakistan Army and deep state's brutality in Balochistan the question was - why had the world so far turned a blind eye to the systematic subjugation of the Baloch people by the Pakistan army? The United Nations sent a fact-finding body to Balochistan in 2012 and the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) duly records the pain of the Baloch people.
But strangely, there has been silence after that. The UN team had spent ten days in Pakistan in 2010 and one of the main areas of focus was the disappearance of people in Balochistan. The report states how people started disappearing post 2005 in a bigger way.
According to the Baloch activist India Today spoke to, that was when there was a spike in the freedom struggle in Balochistan and a brutal crackdown by the Pakistan Army.
The UN report states: "Pakistan has endured several periods of military dictatorship throughout its history, which resulted at times in massive violations of human rights. The perceptions of different groups in the society of not being treated on an equal footing with others created frustrations and demands which were often responded to through violent means and further inequalities. Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides that 'All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law' and this principle should lead all policies of the State."
|Pakistan should be held accountable.|
While prolonged periods of military dictatorship in Pakistan did mean the brutal violation of human rights under jackboots - Balochistan has faced atrocities irrespective of who was in power - a dictator directly or ruling through a façade of civilian leadership.
The UN report goes on to say: "Starting from 2005-2006, a number of cases were received from Sindh and Baluchistan. In 2011, as noted in its annual report, the working group transmitted five new cases to the government, including two cases through its urgent action procedure. The 2011 annual report of the WGEID also indicates the latest public information on the reported 107 cases concerning Pakistan, pending before the WGEID."
The Baloch activist who risked her life to give details of the Pakistan Army atrocities in Balochistan, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the greetings of the Baloch people along with those of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2016 - told India Today that more than 20,000 people are missing in Balochistan.
Even the UN report of 2012 spoke of 14,000-plus people missing. In Balochistan alone, some sources allege that more than 14,000 people are still missing, while the provincial government only recognises less than a hundred.
To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket concerning the whole country. The number of officially registered allegations, although not reflective of the reality of the situation, is an indication of the existence of the phenomenon. Cases of enforced disappearances by State actors, in this context, would be the result of misconducts and ultra vires behaviour by some agents of the State.
However, non-governmental sources allege that there is a pattern of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, imputable to law enforcement agencies in conjunction with intelligence agencies. The UN team had in 2012 documented the role played by Pakistan's deep state and those close to it. Intimidation of families was just one part of the story. The Pakistani deep state adopted an "abduct, torture, kill and dump" policy. There was a method to this madness. Intimidate the Baloch people into submission.
The UN report of 2012 states: "In a large number of cases, families reportedly received threats or were intimidated to try to prevent them to file such cases. Some families were promised that if they would not file a case, their loved ones would be released, which did not happen. Some other families were threatened that if they did file a case, their loved ones will be harmed, or another member of their family would also be abducted."
And this intimidation is not restricted to the next of kin. Very few lawyers were anyway willing to take up cases of the Baloch people. Those who did were also coerced into submission. Some brave Pakistani lawyers who refused to submit to the Pakistani deep state became victims of forced disappearance themselves.
The UN report states: "According to the families we have heard, witnesses who were called to testify before the courts were threatened and in some cases victimised. In a few cases, the lawyers defending the families were reportedly themselves victims of enforced disappearances. Some of the abducted persons were released while others were never seen again by their relatives. A number of those who have returned have testified to being held in unofficial places of detention. "Many of those who came back were allegedly threatened not to speak about their period of disappearance. Some however have chosen to take high risks to give statements before courts or before the Commission of Inquiry. In Baluchistan, since 2010, a number of persons whose whereabouts were previously unknown were found dead, generally with signs of torture and sometimes decomposed to the point that their relatives were unable to identify them."
After the Revolt of 1857, the British crown took over control of India from the East India Company. The Crown unleashed the worst form of torture and public hangings to teach the freedom fighters a lesson. The aim was to put the fear of the Empire in the hearts of the Indians.
Now look at what the UN has written on enforced disappearances in Pakistan: "Sometimes those bodies were found far from the place where they had been abducted, for some in deserted areas. The practice of "delivering" dead bodies has allegedly accelerated in the years 2011 and 2012. Most of the families we have met, telling their stories, felt abandoned and hopeless. They implored that if their loved ones were being accused of any crime, he or she should be presented before a judge and, if recognised guilty, be convicted." The UN report goes on to say that despite efforts made by the Pakistani civilian government, the commissions of inquiry were either not given the mandate or the power to probe the cases in the right earnest.
The report adds: "There is no doubt that the courts and the Commission are facing enormous difficulties in their task related to cases of enforced disappearances. The fact that they are being criticised by some families is reflective of the frustration, anguish and fear endured by these families. It is also a sign that those institutions ought to be further strengthened. The WGEID is in particular aware of the limits imposed on a two-member Commission, notably with respect to the limited capacities in terms of staffing."
It is a fact that terrorists call the shots in Pakistan, and India has been highlighting it from the rooftop. From Hafiz Muhammed Saeed who leads the Eid namaz at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore to Dawood Ibrahim who controls the transport business from Karachi to Afghanistan, terrorists are more powerful than the Pakistani establishment.
The UN report says: "Some officials conveyed their concerns that criminals, terrorists or militants from armed groups enjoyed a great impunity because, even when investigations were initiated against them, they managed to get out of them, by using threats against the police, the judges or witnesses. There were hints that this might explain why some law enforcement or intelligence agents might resort to illegal practices such as enforced disappearances."
The young Baloch activist has risked her life to expose the Pakistan Army's brutality today. The UN had recorded it in 2012. But is the world listening and can the world afford to turn a blind eye to the systematic genocide in Balochistan? The Baloch genocide is a reality the world can ill-afford to ignore. Pakistan should be held accountable.