The Collective Punishment in Balochistan

Saturday, December 16th, 2017 10:45 am


“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited,” ARTICLE 33 of Geneva Convention 1949.

The collective punishment of Baloch people by Pakistani forces has begun with the occupation of Balochistan in 1948 when Pakistani forces attacked Kalat and detained the Khan of Kalat along with his family. later the Pakistani army did same with the leader of Balochistan’s first guerrilla movement Prince Abdul Karim Khan and followed the same formula with Nawab Norouz Khan, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Nawab Akbar Bugti and other Baloch activists and leaders who raised voice for freedom of Balochistan have faced Pakistani state brutalities as form of collective punishment.

Late American author Selig S. Harrison described the collective punishment of Baloch families by Pakistan army in his book ‘In Afghanistan’s shadow’: “In 1974, many of the men stayed in the hills to fight with the guerrillas, but the women, children, and older men streamed down from the mountains with their flocks and set up their black tents in a sprawling, fifty-square mile area. Chamalang, they thought, would be a haven from the incessant bombing and strafing attacks in the highlands. As the fighting gradually reached a stalemate, however, the army decided to take advantage of this concentration of Marri families as means of luring the guerrillas down from the hills. The Pakistani officers calculated-correctly-that attacks on the tent villages would compel guerrillas to come out in the open in defense of their families.”

It has been the norm of Pakistan army that whenever they could not fight or could not reach the Baloch fighters, they unleashed their violence against Baloch civilians including women, children and elderly people. In January 2000 when a Balochistan High Court judge was killed, Pakistan army and other security forces not only nominated Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and his sons, but they also arrested hundreds of Marri Baloch and as well as divers, neighbours and political associates of Nawab Marri and implicated them all in one man’s murder case.

The Pakistani forces then continued to terrorise the resident of New Kahan Quetta for several years to come. In fact, New Kahan is still under the radar of Pakistan army and whenever anything happens in the city of Quetta, the Pakistani forces raid New Kahan and arrested innocent residents to complete their formalities.

Pakistani forces also demolished and looted the houses of Baloch National leader Hyrbyair Marri and late Balach Marri in Quetta. They occupied Nawab Bugti palace in Dera Bugti and killed relatives of many Baloch activists and leaders in collective punishment i.e. sister of and niece of Brahumdagh Bugti were killed in Karachi only to send a message to Brahumdagh that if you’re out of our reach we can still hurt you by harming your loved ones.

In past few years, Pakistani forces have started to abducted women and children of pro-freedom Baloch activists and leaders in an effort to coerce them to either surrender or come in open so that Pakistani forces can either arrest them or kill them. May of Baloch women and children were abducted from district Bolan Balochistan and detained in military camps in Bolan and Sibbi. The military demanded that their menfolk should abandon the struggle for national liberation and turn themselves in so that their women and children will be freed. In Awaran and Maskay regions of Balochistan, Pakistani forces abducted two apolitical sisters of Dr Allah Nazar Baloch along with their kids and other 50 women. One of the sisters of Dr Baloch and her children have reportedly been released but his second sister and other Baloch women and still being held by Pakistan army at a military camp in Mashaky.

On 13 December 2017 Pakistan forces in Dera Bugti’s Sui Tehsil bulldozed the house of Wadera Nabi Bakhsh Madwani a member of Baloch Republican Party. According to BRP sources, the military is planning to use the place as a training centre for their local death squads. Previously, the Pakistani forces also destroyed the houses of Switzerland-based Sher Mohammad Bugti BRP’s central spokesman and his relatives and replaced them with military colonies and quarters. A few days ago, Pakistani forces also demolished the houses of Akhtar Nadeem Baloch, a fighter of Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and his other relatives in Gwarjak area of Mashkay Balochistan.

The Baloch human rights activists abroad and pro-freedom political parties in Balochistan have termed such actions of Pakistan as collective punishment which is prohibited in UN conventions and is regarded as a war crime under international laws.

What does Pakistan want to achieve by collective punishment of Baloch civilians and relative of pro-freedom Baloch activists?

The following excerpt from Dr Naseer Dashti’s latest book ‘The Baloch conflict with Iran and Pakistan: Aspects of a national liberation struggle’ explains it well:

The draconian policy of collective punishment adopted by Pakistani security agencies is being carried out with impunity in a 21st-century world. With any resistance activity against security forces, the nearby villages would be raided, and mass punishment given to the civilian population. Frequent raids on villages, burning of the house and forcing inhabitants to vacate their dwellings are examples of the collective and arbitrary measures in the protracted conflict.

Pakistan is following the old colonial way of dealing with dissent in Balochistan. Whole communities were regularly targeted by the security agencies after an attack on the security or government installation by the Baloch resistance fighters. In several districts of the Eastern Balochistan, the Pakistani authorities forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Worst affected are Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Awaran and Kech districts where several settlements and villages are now ghost areas. According to the Baloch nationalist sources, one of the objectives of this policy is to clear the area of the Baloch population from where proposed ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ is established.

The aim of such barbaric actions appears to be intimidating the Baloch population into docile submission. It is also seeking to break the morale of the masses who are wholeheartedly behind the Baloch national resistance. This policy of collective punishment is in the line with the thinking of the security establishment of Pakistan that collective suffering is bound to isolate and neutralize the militant elements in the community. Once isolated, it would be easy for the security forces to deal with them. The measure being taken in the execution of their policy of collective punishment is aimed at destroying the sinews that link the Baloch masses with the national resistance, and national institutions affiliated with the national liberation struggle and its leadership.

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