Slaughter House Balochistan – A glimpse of Balochistan that the world ignores and an interview with an anonymous Pakistani – by Mark Ulyseas, Live Encounters Magazine August 2012.
The daily litany of kidnapping, torture, mutilated bodies being dumped on roadsides and gunny sacks containing severed body parts thrown from moving vehicles in broad daylight continues unabated while the world looks elsewhere.
This candid interview reveals a view of Balochistan that defies all sensibilities and opens the doors to a bloody reality that has continued for decades. Ironically Western governments have overlooked this carnage in their rush to seek Pakistan’s assistance in the fight against terrorism.
“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered
there was a cry of horror.
Then a hundred were butchered.
But when a thousand were butchered
and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!
― Bertolt Brecht
Why did Pakistan invade Balochistan?
Britain did not favour an independent Balochistan because they feared the Russians would have access to a warm water port as the regime of Mir Dost Mohammad Baranzai in Western Balochistan was alleged to be in contact with the Soviets. Ali Jinnah never wanted to invade Balochistan, he should have stood firm against foreign influence. In fact Jinnah wrote to the Khan of Kalat, who did not have any arrangement with Mir Dost, in February 2nd, 1948, about their discussion on the secession of Balochistan.
Britain viewed Nehru’s India as leaning towards socialism and the Soviets, who at that time were ‘friendly’ with the Afghan government. Pakistan was sandwiched between the two and therefore it made sense to annex Balochistan. Of course, one of the reasons for this invasion was to get access to the rich natural resources that the country possessed for at that time Pakistan really didn’t have much to go by.
Balochistan is 44% of Pakistan’s land mass but has only 4% of the total population of Pakistan. This was an ideal situation… We abide by foreign ‘suggestions’ to invade Balochistan… get access to the resources and at the same time raise the standard of living of the Baloch. Further we could organise transmigration of people from other parts of the country to Balochistan and in time absorb the country into ours in a bloodless manner. It was a win win situation.
Balochistan remains one of the most deprived areas of Pakistan. The Baloch want political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the oil, gas and mineral resources. But instead murderous mayhem is unleashed on them. Why?
It wasn’t all that bad in the early years. Yes many Baloch leaders were killed but they had to be silenced because they didn’t want to be ruled. The Baloch are a feudal society. So when we annexed their lands we faced armed rebellion. Fortunately we killed and imprisoned as many as we encountered. It was around this time that our army decided to impose a de facto martial law to deal with ‘insurgents’ and those seeking to break away from our country. This has remained till today even though these politicians are in power.
As for development in the region the Baloch were never interested in schools, colleges or anything like that. They want only access to the revenue from the oil, gas etc. So we sidelined them and brought in people from other regions to work. They have themselves to blame for this. If they want jobs etc. we will provide them only if they give up their resistance movement.
You appear to condone the killings to justify your method of imposing peace. But this has only fuelled more violence. Why?
Besides foreign powers interfering in our country there is the constant fighting between Shia and Sunni. Our army can decimate the Baloch in a single day. But we have been very understanding and helpful to the Baloch who want to join the mainstream of society, peacefully. The ongoing killings are the result of the fight between the army and insurgents. It is just collateral damage. Our Supreme Court has directed the government to produce the missing Baloch and to give a detailed account of the ongoing violence and the reasons thereof. Some Baloch claim that the Frontier Corps, ISI, (Inter-Services Intelligence), IB (Intelligence Bureau) and MI (Military Intelligence) are to blame.
How can we blame them? They are only doing their duty, they are following instructions. It’s like blaming the SS (Schutzstaffel of the Nazis) for carrying out the torture and murder of Jews. They too were only following orders. How can we blame them? You must understand this fact.
Was Akbar Khan Bugti (July 12, 1927–August 26, 2006) murdered?
Yes, he was murdered. Many Pakistanis were very disturbed by the news because he was the one who could have brought about peace, at least a semblance of peace to the country. But as I had mentioned earlier it was the de facto martial law in Balochistan that he became a victim of. General Musharraf claims he (Bugti) committed suicide. He would say that because he (Musharraf) was instrumental in unleashing a disastrous clampdown in Balochistan that resulted in the deaths of many FC men and Baloch, including thousands of innocent people who were killed or simply disappeared. All this only added fuel to fire. We should have talked, negotiated with Akbar Khan Bugti. But Musharraf wanted to prove to the Americans that he had complete control of Pakistan. He never really had control.
Do you think Balochistan will go the way of East Bengal? For instance, there is a pogrom to ‘do away with’ the intelligentsia – teachers, doctors, lawyers, journalists etc.
Hah…the Punjabi elite in the army and politics will never let this happen. Are you aware that the Taliban are here in Quetta? The Americans who wanted to extend the drone flights to cover this city have been dissuaded by some interested parties, for now, though there are a few flights. We need the Taliban in Balochistan because they will help us put down the Baloch with an iron hand and force the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) , Balochistan Liberation Front and others to negotiate.
There are many who claim that we are systematically murdering the intelligentsia. I can’t refute this claim because it is happening but who is doing this is not traceable. I am not sure if the army or its various other units are involved or not. It is sad that Baloch scholar, writer and poet, Professor Saba Dashtyari was gunned down but I have no sympathy for these people. The Supreme Court has been directing the authorities to submit details but little or nothing has happened so far. I doubt anything will come of this. You probably know that Balochistan shares a border with Afghanistan and Iran. The border with Iran is porous so many Baloch who are Iranians (part of Balochistan is in Iranian and Afghan territory) escape persecution in their country and seek refuge here…hahaha…see, we give them shelter. If they raise their heads here, we will cut them off. Balochistan is now part of Pakistan and can never go the way of Bangladesh. Never. The reason is that we have successfully occupied the country and through transmigration have resettled thousands of citizens from other parts of the country. We are systematically destroying their cultural roots. I think this is the only way to completely integrate them with the rest of society. This is our method of ethnic cleansing.
The one mistake the Baloch have made is that they are not united into one group. The many fragments of their movement can easily be influenced/weakened and one by one destroyed in time. They believe they are secular. How can they say this? They are Muslim. In my personal view, the hosting of the Taliban here by our government will help bring about the conversion of these “secular” Baloch to true Islam and Sharia. And once this is done we will achieve absolute domination. Never forget, the western nations need us to fight terrorism. But we will not do this at the cost of our Islamic principles. We are The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and for this we are grateful to the late General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.
You mention the Taliban in Quetta when they are killing your policemen in Lahore and attacking Pakistani soldiers in Pukhtunkhwa. So on one side you appear to be giving the Taliban office space in Quetta and in Pukhtunkhwa you are killing each other. Could you expand on this?
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is the tribal belt (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). They feel aggrieved that our army is singling them out for special treatment because they give shelter to terrorists from across the border in Afghanistan. It is also the action of terrorists within Pakistan that are trying to destabilise my country. We communicate with only those elements in the Taliban that understand international politics and have a desire to negotiate. This is important for as soon as the Americans and their friends depart Afghanistan it will be dangerous for us. The Taliban we speak to do not support Al Qaeda. I think a time will come when these two will clash. Also, we expect the Taliban to discipline/re-educate and make them (Baloch) true Muslims.
International and local media report incidents of headless bodies being found, kidnappings and disappearances of women and even children. It is alleged that women have been picked up by your security forces and made to work as sex slaves for the soldiers. Who is carrying out these murderous attacks?
The Balochistan Liberation Army recently executed nine coal miners. They had even attacked Chinese workers in the Gwadar Port, police personnel and soldiers of the Frontier Corps, killing and kidnapping many of them. The BLA is being funded by foreign governments that want to dismember Pakistan and take control of this strategic State that has a seaport and which borders Iran. Our military and its departments are here only to maintain law and order. Regarding the women and children I agree there is some truth in this, as a few cases have come to light where missing women have been traced to select interrogation centres here and other places, though we haven’t released this information to the public. Unfortunately the women concerned couldn’t be sent back to their communities. Whether they were used as sex slaves or not I do not know but you must understand this is a war we are fighting and we have to use all methods at our disposal to crush the insurgents.
Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has blamed paramilitary forces for a third of all disappearances in Balochistan, where the military is accused of rights violations. Please comment.
Totally false! CJ can only comment on the data given to him. And who gives him this data? People with agendas! I wouldn’t put much faith in these reports. Presently there is distrust between Zardari’s family and the Supreme Court, in particular, the CJ. This will be corrected by us because we view Zardari’s government as a temporary necessary evil. We hold the real power and control all aspects within the country. So what we say the court will have to abide by. Soon the army will take charge. It will be good for Pakistan for we can work effectively without the Court interfering in such matters as human rights etc.
It is claimed that the Balochistan Liberation Army is fighting a war of independence just like the Bengal Liberation Army, Mukti Bahini, in the former East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Do you agree?
That was different. Yahya Khan was to blame for Bangladesh where a few million were killed by our army. I know we were killing our own people but we had to enforce our authority or lose part of our country. Many Pakistanis still believe that it was the right way. Alas, we lost it because India intervened. But there is no comparison between Bangladesh and Balochistan.
Here in Balochistan we have locals that want to control the area so we are trying to put them down with an iron hand. The Balochistan Liberation Army is not like the Mukti Bahini. They are a small band of criminals that’s all and we will eliminate them very shortly. We are drawing up a plan like Searchlight to hunt down their supporters. This will be put into action soon. Right now we are concentrating on containing the violence. But if the need arises we will gas them, it’s easy, silent and there are usually no survivors. We are considering this option in FATA too. We have many friends across the border in Iran and Afghanistan that will support us in this operation.
A brief look at the history of Balochistan
The strategic importance of Balochistan is its location in the Perso-Oman Gulf, with 700 miles long seacoast, the area has been important for international trade.
1928, Britain refused to recognize the regime of Mir Dost Mohammad Baranzai in Western Balochistan because he was alleged to be in contact with the Soviets. He was executed in Teheran, on 16th January 1930, for resisting the intrusions and occupation of his country by the Persians.
1944, General Money, after studying the constitutional position of Balochistan, favoured its independence.
1947, Britain opposed the independence of Balochistan and urged Pakistan to occupy Balochistan in order to crush the nationalists and anti-imperialist or pro-Soviet forces
Durand Line: The line of Evil
Balochistan, along with the North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P) are the victims of an imaginary line, called Durand Line, which was described by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President as the “line of Evil”. In deed that line signifies both the British and Pakistani imperialism that have subjugated the Balochs and the Pushtuns.
In 1893, the Afghan and British governments agreed to demark a 2,450-kilometer (1,519 miles) long border dividing British India and Afghanistan. The signatory of the document, known as The Durand Line Agreement, were Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, ruler of Afghanistan, and Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the British Indian government.
After a series of battles and false treaties signed by the British, ‘The Durand Line Agreement’ of 1893 divides boundaries between three sovereign countries, namely Afghanistan, Balochistan and British India. According to that agreement Britain had taken a lease of the area in N.W.F.P and Balochistan, without the knowledge of Balochistan. Sir Durand gave verbal assurance to Afghanistan that the lease end in 1993, but in the written agreement there is no mention of it. Otherwise just like Hong Kong, N.W.F.P would have gone back to
Afghanistan in 1993. The Durand Line Agreement should have been a trilateral agreement for it legally required the participation and signatures of all three countries involved. However, the British had drawn the agreement bilaterally between Afghanistan and British India only, and it intentionally excluded Balochistan. Thus, Balochistan has never accepted the validity of the Durand Line.
The British, under false pretences, assured the Afghan rulers that Balochistan was part of British India, and therefore, they were not required to have the consent of anyone from Balochistan to agree on demarking borders. Meanwhile, the British kept the Baloch rulers in the dark about the Durand Line Agreement to avoid any complications.
According to International Law, all affected parties are required to agree to any changes in demarking their common borders. Hence, under the rules of demarking boundaries of the International Law, the Agreement of Durand Line was in error, and thus, it was null and void as soon as it was signed. International Law states that boundary changes must be made among all concerned parties; and a unilateral declaration by one party has no effect. However, the British government disregarding the objection of Afghanistan gave away the N.W.F.P to Pakistan after a fraud plebiscite. However, it never gave Balochistan to Pakistan in the same way the British never gave away Jammu & Kashmir to India.
When in 1949, Afghanistan’s “Loya Jirga” (Grand Council) declared the Durand Line Agreement invalid and also raised objections in the United Nations against the creation of Pakistan and its boundary declared by the British alone, the so-called world body had ignored the plea of a small nation. Throughout the period of British rule of India, the British never occupied Balochistan. There were treaties and lease agreements between the two sovereign states, but neither state invaded the other. Although the treaties signed between British India and Balochistan provided many concessions to the British, but none of the treaties permitted the British to demark the boundaries of Balochistan without the consent of the Baloch rulers.
Once Balochistan was secured through invasion, the Pakistanis deceptively used the law of uti possidetis juris to their advantage and continued occupation of territories belonging to Afghanistan, the N.W.F.P with the full approval of the British Army in India and Lord Mountbatten.
Liberation Movement in Balochistan
Mir Azaad Khan Balochi, the General Secretary, The Government of Balochistan in Exile in Jerusalem declared recently, “Afghanistan and Balochistan should form a legal team to challenge the illegal occupation of Afghan territories and Balochistan by Pakistan in the International Court of Justice. Once the Durand Line Agreement is declared illegal, it will result in the return of Pakistan-occupied territories back to Afghanistan. Also, Balochistan will be declared a country that was forcibly invaded through use of force by the Pakistanis; and with international assistance, Balochistan can regain its independence.” From September 1961 to June 1963, a crisis arose when diplomatic, trade, transit, and consular relations between Balochistan and Pakistan were suspended. Another insurgency erupted in Balochistan in 1973 into an insurgency that lasted four years and became increasingly bitter. The insurgency was put down by the Pakistan Army, which employed brutal methods including the help of helicopter gunships provided by Iran and flown by Iranian pilots. The Shah of Iran, who feared a spread of the insurrection among the Iranian Baloch, generously gave external assistance to Bhutto.
By early 1974, an armed revolt was underway in Balochistan. By 2004 Balochistan was up in arms against the federal government, with the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Front, and People’s Liberation Army conducting operations.
Rocket attacks and bomb blasts have been a regular feature in the provincial capital, particularly its cantonment areas, Kohlu and Sui town, since 2000.
Violence peaked in March of 2005 when the Pakistani government attempting to target Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a seventy-year-old Sardar (tribal leader) who had fought against the government for decades, shelled the town of Dera Bugti. The fighting that erupted between the tribal militia and government soldiers resulted in the deaths of 67 people. Ultimately Nawab Bugti also became a martyr in the cause of the liberation of Balochistan.
Since then thousands more have died. Some shot others kidnapped, tortured (their bodies mutilated) and thrown on public roads in Balochistan.
The Durand Line and N.W.F.P
To this date, relations between Afghanistan, Balochistan and Pakistan are characterized by rivalry, suspicion and resentment. The primary cause of this hostility rests in the debate about the validity of the Durand Line Agreement. Dubbing the Durand line as a line of hatred Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he does not accept this line as it has raised a wall between the two brothers, and slices a part of Afghanistan from the motherland.
Afghanistan always vigorously protested the inclusion of Pashtun and Baloch areas within Pakistan without providing the inhabitants with an opportunity for self-determination.
A grand Pakhtoon-Balochi tribal convention was held in Peshawar on 11 February 2006 where prominent Pakhtoon and Balochi leaders endorsed a call for the elimination of the infamous and imaginary British-made Durand Line with the objective of creating a Greater Balochistan.
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfandyar Wali Khan said that the Pakhtoon nation was passing through a critical phase of its history, and therefore, the ANP had convened the tribal convention to devise a strategy to counter the ongoing Pakistan military operations in Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Pakhtoon Milli Wahdat revolves around the elimination of the Durand Line, dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan, so that Pakhtoons living in NWFP, Balochistan and tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan could form a state of their own.
Human Rights Watch
Pakistan Director Ali Dayan Hasan says –
“HRW has documented disappearances, which have continued despite the return to constitutional rule in 2008. The federal government, which in 2008 was willing to acknowledge large-scale disappearances, has been unable to prevent abuses by FC and intelligence agencies and has resorted to bare-faced denial.
In 2008, Interior minister Rehman Malik admitted 1100 people were missing. Today he claims that less than 50 are missing, which is nonsense. The on-ground research performed by HRW suggests that considerably more than 50 people have disappeared since 2008 alone. Further, HRW has documented some 300 killings of Baloch nationalists in the last 18 months in “kill-and-dump” operations.
While the judiciary has repeatedly tried to address the issue of disappearances in Balochistan, its attempts have been less than successful in the face of intransigence by those perpetrating these abuses. This is a disaster and it requires politicians to confront the military, which is basically running security policy in Balochistan and tell it to end abuses. Period.
Political disputes can only be resolved through political measures and not through brutality and military might….
I find the ISPR (the PR dept for the ISI – Pakistan’s intelligence) statement bewildering at multiple levels. First, HRW is an international human rights organisation headquartered in New York (as is the UN) but with offices across the world. We take no money from the US or any other government.
We are perturbed by the Stalinist turn of phrase employed by ISPR in its public responses to HRW. Consider the last ISPR statement; in a Kafka-esque twist, it refers to Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder as an “alleged murder.”
The murder is a fact not an allegation.
I hope ISPR will consider avoiding issuing statements that are easily read as threats.There is nothing as abhorrent as feeling threatened by those who are meant to actually keep you secure. Let us discuss and debate facts dispassionately without prejudice and in a manner which is not menacing.
President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association
Asma Jahangir has expressed alarm at the rising number of people being gunned down in Balochistan. Incidentally she herself has allegedly received death threats from government agencies.
“It is the obligation of the state to investigate these crimes effectively and bring the perpetrators to justice. There are also widespread allegations against State agents themselves who are accused of illegal use of violence resulting in severe torture and killings of suspected nationalists and militants.
These reports appear to be credible. The Parliament must debate this issue and find solutions to bring some stability in Balochistan”.
Is Balochistan waiting for a Gandhi to be born to lead it away from the killing fields? Will all right thinking Pakistanis take control of their country and guide it onto a path towards reconciliation with Balochistan? And will the Baloch find a way to unite and bring about a peaceful solution to the ongoing murderous mayhem?
And while we wait for Providence to intervene to save this wretched land more innocent men, women and children will be kidnapped, tortured, murdered and dumped on the roads of Balochistan to become mere digits in the death tally.
God save these poor souls.
Here is a video report from Al Jazeera on Balochistan and the double cross of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.