The Mass Graves of Balochistan
The state-sponsored inquiry committees formed in Pakistan in recent times to probe scandalous crimes have shockingly narrowed down their overall scope to one specific goal: Prove the government’s innocence. Marred with a chronic lack of public trust, the government and the military intelligence agencies are often blamed for atrocious crimes against unarmed civilians. Hence, the government, while pretending to investigate the harrowing crimes, spends substantial time contemplating how to deflect any charges against it. While the media and the general public are consistent in their demand for “independent investigations” into various cases, we are witnessing an alarming trend among the officially appointed investigators who, understandably, try their best to disprove allegations against the government.
Considering the lack of accountability mechanism and fragility of state institutions, the government always finds such probing bodies a shortcut to absolve itself from criminal charges. Once these investigative committees, often led by senior members of the judiciary, clear the government of its involvement in cases that require more transparency, the State immediately closes forever a chapter replete with numerous unanswered questions.
The findings of one such judicial tribunal about mass graves in Balochistan province are equally disappointing and consistent with the blatant pattern of shielding the actual masterminds of the mass grave scheme. In January 2014, at least three mass graves were found in Balochistan’s Khuzdar district. The actual number of the dead bodies found in these graves varied depending on who one asked. The provincialgovernment confirmed that 17 bodies were found in these mass graves while the ethnic Baloch nationalists, who are currently fighting the Pakistani state since 2004 for a free homeland, insisted that more than a hundred bodies had been found in these mass graves.
The Pakistani intelligence agencies, which had previously been castigated by the country’s Supreme Court for being regularly blamed for widely practicing enforced disappearances in Balochistan, was once again nominated by the relatives of the missing persons. The missing persons are mainly, if not always, sympathizers of the Baloch nationalist movement. Their family members suspect that the military had killed the missing persons in custody and then dumped them in desolate places presuming that no one would ever find out about them.
So, the fresh official investigation tribunal did not come up with any extraordinary revelations except for vehemently ruling out the involvement of the Pakistani army and the government. That is not an adequate response to such a shocking discovery of human dead bodies. The people of Balochistan deserve a more resounding official account of the story behind the mass graves. Isn’t it the primary responsibility of the government to protect its citizens, including those who do not share its political ideology? If the government is not responsible for the mass graves in Balochistan then who else is? It clearly seems that the Pakistani authorities are hiding the full truth and protecting the actual culprits responsible for killing and burying people believed to belong to the opposition camp.
Since the discovery of the mass graves, the government has remained unhelpful in getting to the truth behind the mass graves. The government sometimes deviated from the actual issue by disputing the actual number of the bodies found in the mass graves while, on other occasion, it blamed India for being involved in this gruesome episode. The Pakistani government has had such an irksome habit of blaming India for very trouble inside its frontiers that such official statements are no longer accepted as an alternative to the full truth.
The conflict in Balochistan has now completed one full decade. Starting from the military regime of General Musharraf, the conflict has shown no signs of resolution during the next two democratic governments led by the country’s two major political parties namely the Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.) and the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L.). The army is unwilling to change its confrontational policy toward Balochistan while the civilian governments of the P.P.P. and the P.M.L. have demonstrated insufficient enthusiasm to introduce a breakthrough in the conflict.
Following his grand success in last year’s general elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed a moderate Baloch nationalist, Dr. Abdul Malik, as the chief minister of the province. The appointment of a pro-Pakistan, educated Baloch nationalist as the chief executive of the province generated some unrealistic expectations about changes on ground in Balochistan. On the contrary, Sharif and the army over-burdened the poor chief minister by expecting him to solely fix the chaos in Balochistan. On the other hand, the central government simultaneously stabbed Dr. Baloch in the back by introducing such fresh laws that legalized enforced disappearances.
Islamabad’s repeated denials about its involvement in human rights abuses in Balochistan will not only perpetuate the conflict but it will also provide institutional protection to and encouragement for those who are engaged in misuse of their official power in the name of ‘national interest’. Since the retirement of former Chief JusticeIftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary and the failed assassination attempt on vocal senior journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi, the judiciary and the media have also been intimidated and pushed back to such an extent that they have begun to submit to the official stance instead of confronting it.
Pakistan does not have a reconciliatory policy toward Balochistan. Whatever the current policy is, it is not working. Islamabad is reluctant to introduce a new workable policy because it will require bringing several important allies of the military, including its former chief General Musharraf, to justice. Unfortunately, Islamabad’s current policy protects instead of persecuting those responsible for escalating tensions and violence. (Courtesy: Huffington Post)