Friday, January 2, 2015

A “Pending Issue”: Pakistani Balochs seeking shelter in Afghanistan

Baloch activists, regional human rights advocates and media reports speak of a Pakistani government campaign of assassinating suspected members of the Baloch movement and other opposition figures (see for example here) and of leading a “hidden war”. Last August, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch urged Pakistan’s government “to stop the deplorable practice of state agencies abducting hundreds of people throughout the country without providing information about their fate or whereabouts.” They also stated: “Balochistan is of particular concern because of a pattern of enforced disappearances targeting political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers. Disappeared people are often found dead, their bodies bearing bullet wounds and marks of torture” (the full statement can be found here; one earlier report here). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed “shock and deep concern” over the discovery of three mass graves in Balochistan on 25 January 2014. More than 100 bodies were recovered in the Tootak area in Khuzdar district, 265 kilometers south of Quetta. These graves were suspected to be of Baloch missing persons who were arrested and subsequently extra judicially killed (see more details here). As a result of the war in Balochistan, the trend of refugee movements in the area has changed again. While millions of Afghans have been fleeing to Pakistan over the last four decades, now Pakistani Balochs are flocking to Afghanistan. Many of them cross the border into Nimroz province where Balochs make the largest ethnic group.
“There are at least 1000 of us in Nimroz, and those are just the ones we know about,” says one of about a dozen Balochs gathering inside a humble adobe house in Haji Abdurrahman, a tiny village in the outskirts of Zaranj, Nimroz’s provincial capital, 1000 kilometers southwest of Kabul. Many of the Baloch refugees in Nimroz are struggling to survive. Sukiah Bugti, a 35-year-old social activist, says he arrived in 2010 from Nasirabad district after his brother disappeared; he has been missing ever since. Jawan Bugti, in his 50s, fled his village, Dasht-e Goran, in 2007 after it was bombed. And Wash Bugti, a 21 year-old student, arrived from Sui as a child in 2006. His father has been missing since 2005. These are just a few cases on an endless list. Most live on occasional construction jobs or farming.

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