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Exclusive interview of Nasrullah Baloch with Balochi TV Online
Monday, August 8th, 2016 01:24 pm
For the past 16 years the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, an organization representing the families of enforced-disappeared persons in Balochistan, has been struggling for the safe recovery of the tens of thousands of enforced disappeared Baloch people and justice for the thousands of mutilated bodies dumped by Pakistan’s military, intelligence, and government agencies in Balochistan.
In April of 2016 Balochi TV Online obtained an exclusive interview with the Voice for Baloch Missing Person’s chairman Mr Nasrullah Baloch.
In this interview Nasruallah details Pakistan’s routine human rights abuses and military activities in Balochistan and exposes the extent of the Pakistan state military forces’ kill and dump policies. Nasrullah Baloch also explains how and why the Pakistani parliamentarians, judiciaries and court systems have completely failed to produce any of the missing persons or provide any justice the families of the victims. Nasrullah Baloch additionally discusses the international community’s lack of attention and effective action in Balochistan.
The following is the transcript of the interview of Mr Nasrullah Baloch
Good Afternoon and welcome to Balochi TV Online. Today we present an exclusive interview with the founder and chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Nasrullah Baloch.
Thank you for joining us and Welcome to the program
BTVO: I’d like to start by asking about the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons organization and the motivations for establishing VBMP?
Nasrullah Baloch: We (Voice for Baloch Missing Persons) have been working since year of 2000. In the beginning abducted families were working individually, but effectively raising the voice for the abducted families that way was difficult.
Our voices were not reaching to the judiciary or the international community because of that we started to contact these families. We brought all of them together and we established the VBMP. Through this platform we could affectively highlight the abducted political workers and the rest of all cases of abduction. We also raise the issue of other human rights violations.
BTVO: Why do you feel political workers are being abducted?
Nasrullah Baloch: The fact of the matter is Baloch issue is a political one. From day one injustices have been inflicted upon Baloch. The progressive Baloch have been raising their voices against these atrocities. But Pakistani establishment does not allow it. Pakistan suppresses their voices. The State has been abducting Baloch Political workers, engineers, doctors and people from all walks of lives. State tortures them inside the dark cells then martyrs them. Their dead bodies have been thrown in the desolated areas. State wants to make sure their voices don’t reach to the international institutions.
BTVO: How have you personally and your family been victimized and what were charges on missing relative?
Nasrullah Baloch: Sir: from my family my uncle has been abducted. The First time my uncle Ali Asghar Bungulzahi was kidnapped in year 2000 after 14 days he was released.
According to him he was questioned about Balochistan situation. He was threatened not to raise his voice about Balochistan. We are all from affected families, and we are continuing this struggle with the rest of families of abducted persons.
BTVO: You mentioned name of Ali Asghar Bangulzai, was he involved in political activities or having political affiliations?
Nasrullah Baloch: At the time Nawab Khair Baksh Marri has established an organization/study circle, called Haqtawar. It did hold peaceful political sessions in different parts of Baluchistan. Ali Asghar Bungulzahi had been regularly attending these sessions. Where lectures and speeches were delivered about the Baluchistan.
They raised the voice against human rights violations in Baluchistan. Therefore, he was abducted. Second time he was abducted in October 2001 from in front of the Degree College in Quetta along with his friend Mohammad Iqbal.
He (Mohammad Iqbal) was later released while Ali Asghar Bangulzai has been not released nor located yet.
BTVO: The organization VBMP fought long trial in Pakistani courts and other judicial forums, were there any significant results from these proceedings, if so did any victim families get justice?
Nasrullah Baloch: We have been representing these cases on behalf of our organization. In 2012 we submitted a petition in the Supreme Court, the apex court of Pakistan. In the beginning we presented as witnesses those abducted persons who had been released. When abduction started in Balochistan first time around 2001 – they [Pakistani forces] use to abduct people, keep them in unknown locations for several days, weeks or at times for several months but later they would release them after severe torture and miss treatment.
In 2010, we succeeded in our effort because the Supreme Court had ordered that cases FIRs of the abducted person should be registered. Prior to SC’s order FIR were not being registered by local authorities such as police.
It was our main goal to bring our concerns to the state judiciary where we could present solid proof to expose the state institutions whom are committing atrocities and injustices against us. We wanted such facts should be exposed and judicial action should be taken to tackle the issue of enforced-disappearances.
Sadly, there is no such institution in existence with authority to stop these powerful state institutions from illegal activities against Baloch people. Otherwise they could have played a constructive role.
Our job is that we must raise our voice at all forums. Therefore, in the future on the international forums others will be more sympathetic to Baloch knowing we attempted to first reach to the state courts. We have been repeatedly reaching to the state courts, commissions and civilians governments. So, in the future no one blame us that Baloch didn’t attempt to cooperate with the state institutions.
BTVO: The missing persons themselves are often blamed for not recognizing and complying with state’s constitution, therefore how can institutes like judiciary and others exert an authority defined by this constitution to individuals accused of disregarding it.
Nasrullah Baloch: In Balochistan this time there are numerous problems. The (abducted) political workers have been struggling peacefully. According to Pakistan’s constitution they are supposed to have rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expressions and other human rights.
Baloch activists try to convince the proper authority there is human rights issues. We believe that if someone who has different opinions and are against state law or violated its law. they should be formally arrested and tried according to the law.
BTVO: How has the state institutes dealt with victims’ family members?
Nasrullah Baloch: Their attitudes towards abducted victim’s families is very bitter one! Because those families who have attended the courts hearing, registered FIR or presented themselves to the investigative team. Authorities have treated them very harshly with severe consequences.
This is the observation; state authorities focus on those families who regularly protest for their loved ones’ cases. So, in multiple ways they are harassing families of abducted persons to make sure they stay away from legal avenues. None should follow the abducted cases so the authorities don’t face any difficulty and continue their rampage without any deterrent.
BTVO: Do you feel the Baloch nationalist parliamentarian leaders, MPA, MNA and Senators are playing their role for the abducted Baloch families?
Nasrullah Baloch: The VBMP is a non-political organization struggling for human rights. It’s our policy not to slander any organizations or personalities. Our policies are clear about the political parties because we believe this will be in their policies to observe and raise the human rights issues.
The irony here is the parliamentarian nationalist parties, MP’s and others don’t raise the voice against atrocities. What the parliamentarians do is to make false promises during their election campaigns to the oppressed Baloch. However, afterwards they become silent, when they have become elected; then they forget the serious issues.
BTVO: Did the support of Pakistani civil society and human rights organizations have any impact on Pakistani judiciary and parliament?
Nasrullah Baloch: Here no civil society and human rights institutions raises their voice against Baloch atrocities which is needed. If there is any voice from civil society, it’s influences does make judiciary uneasy. But, their role is limited. Remember, I am talking about Baluchistan civil society.
Here leading print media Dawn, Daily Times, and main newspapers completely don’t give the coverage. Here (Baluchistan) if a big incident occur the electronics media don’t give coverage.
The local newspapers do give incident the coverage but their approach is very constrained. Recently about 40 mutilates bodies were found but the news was not cover by (State) media while local newspapers did their best but their voice is limited.
Pakistan civil society is uninformed about such incidents. The newspapers give the other side the coverage like an attack against army and target killings such news go viral.
I mean the real issues (atrocities & human rights) is completely blacked out intentionally. In order to make Pakistani civil society believe that Baloch are merciless people. Involved in atrocities against others Baloch but the truth is, they (state) are hiding the truth from the public.
BTVO: Are missing peoples’ families seeing any results from the involvement of these groups?
Nasrullah Baloch: If you look at our activism from the beginning one thing has been clear. We cooperated with the international human rights institutions, Pakistani judiciary and civil societies. There was full cooperation in terms of meetings and communications.
That’s our organization’s task to convey the atrocities of Balochistan to these organizations which are formed for this purpose. It [IVBMP] will keep informing the international community. I think our organization successfully conveyed the cries for justice to the justice institutions, civil societies and to the international community.
Now, it’s their responsibility to take notice of the human rights violations not only to publish a report or talk instead they should do something practically.
BTVO: In media, statements of VBMP blames the state forces for heinous crimes and human right violations like abduction of children and women; what do you believe is the reason that the world never paid substantial attention to these grim crimes?
Nasrullah Baloch: Sir, the world has accepted Pakistan as a state. They respect its laws and act accordingly. As in 2012 UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) visited Balochistan. State allowed them to come here but after their return Supreme Court immediately made a decision that such UN agencies investigation will be against Pakistan’s interests. After that Pakistan banned them.
Now, it’s decided no international institutions will be allowed for investigation and observation (in Baluchistan). The UN had cooperated with UN Working Group. It published a report.
The VBMP considers such activities are their achievements and success. Because first time Baluchistan issue was discussed in 2006, in UN assembly. Since such discussions have been happening and reports are also being published.
Beside that we meet with foreign diplomats, international human rights organizations and with the international journalists. We do hold meeting with them. All of them have complained that they requested to the Pakistani government to allowed them to work freely in Baluchistan.
All of them told us that state authorities told them, Baloch have been making allegations. While on behalf of VBMP, we do provide proof to them and explained to them that the government institutes themselves are involved in violating the human rights in Baluchistan.
They told Pakistani authorities, “if the state claims that these are (unfounded) accusations then allow us to go in Balochistan to investigate.” They said, “We told them, we will visit the affected regions and will find the facts by ourselves.” But they say when they applied for NOC, the government had rejected their requests.
State warned them that if they go there they will be kidnapped or killed. VBMP, has gone as far to tell the foreigners that on behalf of Baloch people it gives them a full guarantee that Baloch themselves will not harm the foreign [media persons and human rights activists].
The state doesn’t want to give them any guarantee of protection instead it has outright threatened them. They are preventing (international) investigations from determining the facts and exposing them. Therefore, authority don’t issue them the NOC.
BTVO: Did you provide the UN and international human rights organizations the most updated Baloch abducted people report and list?
Nasrullah Baloch: On behalf of VBMP we always do our best according to the UN mandate. We provide every three months a report. We send that for the UN associated institutions such as UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
BTVO: Has the organization VBMP been able to present sufficient evidence to fulfill the preconditions for investigation by United Nation? If not, then what are deficiencies?
Nasrullah Baloch: Actually in 2012 when UN Working Group has visited here (Balochistan). We had very short meeting with them. From across Baluchistan 800 families of abducted peoples came to meet with them.
When they have set started to hear each families’ painful true stores. They admitted that here (Baluchistan) enforced-disappearances and mutilated bodies discoveries are a problem. He said, “the worst human rights violations have been happening and state forces seems involved in it.”
When they observed such situation, they officially promised to us next time there big UN Working Group team will visit for full investigation.
They will collect the evidences, and set out a path for UN to act upon/later, they were prohibited. Today they (UN Working Group) still couldn’t investigate (in Balochistan) there work remains incomplete. But, we (VBMP) are satisfied that the necessary condition for the UN Working Groups to assess the situation and send the UN groups team to visit Balochistan are suitable.
We are hopeful one day they will be able to visit. So, the world will get a chance to know the situation in Baluchistan.
BTVO: What do you believe are some of the obstacles preventing the VBMP from gaining support from international community and mainstream media?
Nasrullah Baloch: With Regards to Pakistani media, the VBMP does meet with their groups. They always have excuses. They say if we do work in Pakistan, the state institutions will pressure us with security forces and different institutions.
I give my own example, when Tutak, mass graves were discovered the Supreme Court said that the journalists and human rights organizations should go there to help find the facts.
Journalists said, if they go there do an impartial reporting than there will be problems for them and their families. Because there is no safety and security system in place for us nor is the international community in any position to protect us. The international community also could not pressure Pakistan to protect us [local journalists].
In the world where ever human rights violations happen the journalists go do their impartial reporting. However, here (in Pakistan) the situation is opposite. Here every single step state pressure is felt. All of us know the real power here is in the hands of army, MI, ISI and other forces. In front of these no one can speak up nor can anyone oppose them.
Many journalists who tried to expose the truth had lost their lives. Now journalists due to serious concerns for their families’ safety and own lives have been handicapped, preferring not to write.
While the UN and other institutions interests they are very serious. Asian human rights committee has particularly taken interests about Baluchistan problems and from time by time do release their reports. One time we also cooperated with Human Rights Watch but hardly they released a single report.
Amnesty International seems present, here it’s also a well-known human rights organizations. Unfortunately, it’s not paying attention to our suffering. We always updated them about Baluchistan situation but didn’t receive positive response nor its members do any impartial reporting.
In short, (Amnesty International) role in regards to Baluchistan human rights issue is zero. Similarly, many other human rights organizations are disassociated themselves regards to Baluchistan gross human rights violations issues.
They have their own interests. We have complained with Amnesty International and Human a Rights Watch as a responsible international organization but they have been ignoring us.
The role which they supposed to play in Balochistan, they are not doing it. Their peoples (staff) are within civil societies and political parties. They do report about other regions human rights issues but when it comes to Baluchistan human rights, their lips are sealed.
VBMP request to them to pay attention to our problems as well to includes them in their reports
so the international institutions will be informed. Here 40 dead bodies had surfaced in one day.
Mass graves were discovered. Military operations are going on in different parts of Baluchistan. All forms of human rights violations are going on in Balochistan. Where such atrocities are happening state don’t allow anyone.
Even HRCP applied for NOC but were not allowed to go. In such (grim) situation it’s the human rights organization task to pressure Pakistan. They themselves should visit the affected regions than publish their report and internationally highlight the issues in order that practical action has to be taken.
BTVO: Can you tell us about the events which transpired during the March 25-26th Supreme Court hearings concerning Baloch missing persons?
Nasrullah Baloch: To my knowledge on March 15, 2015 at Supreme court Balochistan abducted cases were heard. The Chief Justice has issued an order to collect information about Baluchistan abducted cases, HRCP, Human Rights Watch cases were also included. All cases were put in order numbered accordingly.
After that we were informed these human rights case will be investigated by a larger Supreme Court benches. It will be formed to look after such emergency cases and it is supposed to resolve this human rights crises.
Sadly, after such assurances, hearings were conducted on November 4th, the Supreme Court has withdrawn all abducted persons’ cases. In this regard we were told that these cases require too much practical work. They won’t be carried on by the supreme court.
On bases of supreme court judicial enquirers which was conducted where on IG level in police force, the FIR enquirer have been heard. The police help present a CCTV footage which showed FC was abducting two Baloch activists. The state institutions have been involved in abductions. In the beginning Supreme Court did issue two interim orders which directly implicated state security forces were involved such illegal activities.
Sadly, no one ever listens to the Supreme Court nor the Supreme Court themselves acted upon its own order.
BTVO: Do you feel the State authorities resented your presence at the court hearings and your personal continued pursuit of justice for the families of Baloch missing persons?
Nasrullah Baloch: Often through commissions meeting, when we had chance to meet with other institutions people. The security forces institutions’ officials have been also present in the Supreme Court, when we meet with their people, and when we meet with provincial institutional heads.
But, all of our people mentioned that these authorities’ personnel attitude are bitter with us their such attitudes gave us impression we are their biggest enemy.
BTVO: Were you harassed or threatened by state personnel?
Nasrullah Baloch: Yes! When we individually raised the Ali Asghar Bungulzai’s case during 2005/2006. The higher government authorities’ personnel forced us to stop our vehicle we were told “you need to talk with us.”
When we were taken to their offices where about 10/15 peoples were sitting there. They said “You guys are damaging the state position. It has been causing ignominy for the state. We can’t allow that.”
Our explanation was crystal clear to them we have been raising the human rights issues of Baluchistan. If anyone is guilty then bring them to the state courts. If you don’t bring them in the court than our struggle will continue.
I had eight meetings with the former governor Owis Ghani and I clearly said to him; bring my family member in the court. If he is alive present him in the court otherwise if he was killed give us his dead body. After eight meetings, governor Owis Ghani told me, that he could not take my responsibility. Whatever happen to me than I [Nasrullah] will be responsible for that.
He said, “Till today I told to the authorities you are a good man and not to harm you.” Now, he said, he can’t do much. It was somehow a straightforward threat. After that we formed the VBMP, they abducted my younger brother. He was threated there; he was told if your brother doesn’t stop his activities than it will not be good for his family.
Authority people visited my home and told me “If you continue to take the tough stand in this
matter than authority will take stronger stand…” “…You could be attacked or any kind
of bad things can happen with you.”
After that mass grave was discovered we took that matter to the court. The Chief Justice issued a notice we hold a conference. In my house a letter was thrown warning that I should stay away from this issue. “If you keep raising that issue we won’t spare you.”
When I had meeting with UN Working Group through media I was threatened and told there will be action against your organization. Beside that when I went to Islamabad to present the cases I took a taxi from airport to my hotel. That taxi was stopped on the way. He was told, this person is carrying arms so we will search his bag. During the search they were smiling, saying this is one sort of warning for you.
Second time two personal approached me inside the airport. I was told “we did go to your hotel
searched your bags we had your ticket copy…” “…You should stay away from presenting these cases otherwise these indications could turn to be reality.
Recently when I raised the withdrawn cases in this regards, I went to Islamabad. I was threatened directly and indirectly “I was told I should stay away from this issue otherwise you face serious consequences.” Now, the Juhaan, (Kalat) issue surfaced I faced severe pressures from authorities.
I was told that the political parties are silent. They don’t say anything and you people are continuously screaming because of that it’s (negatively) affecting on state (image). “…So, stop your activities otherwise we will harm you and your family.”
Through you (BTVO) reporter, once again I will make it clear that I am an ordinary man. I belong to the affected family. I don’t have any association with any political parties nor I made any political speeches. I am struggling according to the constitution for the release of my family and other Baloch abducted family members. My peaceful struggle will continue nor will I pay attention to any threats. If anything happens to me in this path than the government of Pakistan and its institutions will be responsible.
BTVO: Please describe how the state authorities have threatened & harassed VBMP activists in the past as result of VBMP activities?
Nasrullah Baloch: Yes. Our organization vice chairman Mama Qadeer’s son was abducted by the forces. Later his mutilated body was discovered. He was also pressured in different ways. Beside that our two district coordinators were abducted than were killed. Also a false FIR was registered against our current coordinator so he couldn’t freely move and be active.
Our finance secretary faced false charges for two years, he attended the hearings. He was also pressured. Our many friends were harassed. Our information finance secretary’s brother was kidnapped later he himself was also kidnapped than his second brother was abducted. Later he surfaced but was eventually killed by forces during a false encounter.
Our organization is facing severe pressure from state institutions. They don’t want us to continue easily our activities.
BTVO: Do you feel that any of the international human rights organizations could potentially provide you and other VBMP activists with some kind of protection through diplomatic channels?
Nasrullah Baloch: Sir. This is international human rights institutions responsibility to hold Pakistan accountable to make sure it respects the human rights. We think if they are seriously willing to do something they could accomplish a lot.
But, they explain in Pakistan they are bound to Pakistan’s constitution. Here whatever threat
we report they will inform the Pakistani authority. As far as about myself (personally) I was offered by different human rights organization that it’s difficult for me to continue my activities here.
They stated if I would like to go abroad they will take me to that country to get my citizenship.
So, I could peacefully continue my activism there. But, I apologized to them, I said, If I leave from Balochistan, maybe this work will be affected. I should stay in the field and continue my job.
The rest of responsibility is upon you to pressure the Pakistani authorities not to neglect our safety. The UN Working Group particularly had written Pakistani authorities to make it known that our safety is being actively monitored.
BTVO: Recently on 5th and 6th April 2016 state forces conducted operations in the Johan, Narmuk areas of Kalat and others areas of Balochistan; the forces are blamed for human rights violation by a number of organizations including the VBMP. While the VBMP statements published in the media alleged the state forces committed human right violation the state officials claim they carried out operation only against separatists. Do you have any additional details concerning this incident?
Nasrullah Baloch: Sir, in this regards in the beginning when we set up the hunger strike camp some families came to us. They were those families whose loved ones’ dead bodies were recognizable. They told us these dead bodies were shepherds they were looking after their livestock who had moved from one place to another (nomads).
These innocent people were picked up during the military operation later they were murdered. Their dead bodies were thrown away by forces. This dilemma is in entire Baluchistan, wherever the military operation has happened there many people get killed by the forces. While state version is that these victims were members of militant groups. In reality these dead bodies are of innocent Baloch and had been abducted by forces earlier.
(State) portrayed them as militants killed and their dead bodies were thrown away. When the military operation happened in Juhaan, where eight dead bodies were discovered, among them six bodies have been unrecognizable and two dead bodies were recognizable.
According to their relatives they had been picked up in front of all family now they see their dead bodies have been thrown away the (state) had claim they were killed in a “counter attack”.
BTVO: Do you have any new or upcoming programs to rise voice for Baloch missing persons on national and international level?
Nasrullah Baloch: In international level, the international human rights institutions do hold programs. If our organization is invited, VBMP together will decide if it’s possible the VBMP may attend at UN or other respected institutions program.
BTVO: Do you have any personal message you wish to convey to International world?
Nasrullah Baloch: Sure! For international community my message is that in Balochistan atrocities have reached to the peaks. In the entire world perhaps only in Balochistan where a state inflicted such serious oppression. Here on daily bases mutilated dead bodies are being discovered. Everyday people are abducted. There is oppression and assault going on against women.
Most Baluchistan areas is under siege houses have been burned its big humanitarian tragedy. If the international community don’t act on suitable time, the situation will get even worse. I think it’s the international community duty especially those institutions got a mandate, if anywhere human rights violations have been happening are obligated to interfere.
They should visit the areas. My appeal is they should come forward to see everything
in their own eyes than after help to stop it.
BTVO: What is your message for Baloch activists as leading human rights activists abroad?
Nasrullah Baloch: For them my message is; we live in Balochistan, we know the facts, we are aware of how our people are suffering. We do feel our affected families pain and suffering. We can’t describe their pain in our words. We have seen such families they saw their children’s dead and unconscious bodies
We have seen disappeared children’s parents are unable to talk anymore. These tragedy has left upon families which we can’t describe. Those Baloch human rights activists and nationalist whom are living abroad, it’s my request to all of them at least form a joint committee include the organizations members or form a supreme council include representatives from all organizations.
They should take the Baloch issues together.
They should set up a discussion forum about every issues. From that (unified) platform they should raise the Baloch national cause together. They should highlight the human rights problems together instead of each group going separately. I think if the oversees Baloch fellows couldn’t succeed to form a single platform. Than all of us will face difficulty by conveying our cry (message) to the world.
We at Balochi TV Online would like to extend our sincerest thanks and utmost appreciation to Nasrullah Baloch for his participation as well as our anonymous regional correspondent for facilitating the interview.
Thank you for watching.