FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twelfth session – Item 4
A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status
PAKISTAN: Police threaten indiscriminate revenge killings in Balochistan
The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring to the attention of the Human Rights Council the situation of human rights in Balochistan, Pakistan’s south-western province, which is deteriorating day by day due to the heavy-handed policies being adopted by the government towards nationalist groups. In response to the recent increase in violence committed by nationalist militants, a high-ranking police official threatened in a press conference on August 21 to begin killing people indiscriminately in the province in retaliation.
Mr. Ghulam Shabbir Shiekh, the deputy inspector of police, Nasserabad range, announced on Friday that the police will kill 40 local persons in revenge for the militants’ alleged abduction and murder of 20 policemen in July and August. No targets, however, were specified. Mr. Shiekh also threatened that if any bullet was fired at the police, the police would fire 100 bullets indiscriminately back at the locality from where the bullet was fired. If any rocket was fired at police stations, the police would fire 10 rockets back.
The announcement by Mr. Shiekh was the most recent attempt by Pakistani state agencies to instil fear among Baloch nationalists. Earlier, in January, 2009, journalists received threats from the Director of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) for writing editorials demanding investigations into allegations that the army is running torture cells and detaining female prisoners. The Director, who also holds the rank of Major General, threatened to withhold official advertisements and payments from the newspapers if they continued their “malicious” campaign against the army. Some television channels disclosed the threats publicly, but the Federal Minister for Information denied that the ISPR Director has made any such announcement.1
These developments reflect the serious situation of human rights in Balochistan, which continues to degrade despite the government’s promise to revive law and order. After the removal of General Musharraf, the newly elected government of Asif Zardari announced in 2008 that military operations in Balochistan would be halted. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and government parties apologized before the parliament for military excesses committed during the operations there.
In reality, however, no serious effort has yet been undertaken to resolve the rampant problem of illegal arrests and extra-judicial killings that plague Balochistan. Rather than adopting democratic institutions, Prime Minister Gilani has accused nationalist groups of being run by Indian agents. Cases of disappearances have continued to take place in the same way as they did during the military regime of Musharraf. Personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) have arrested victims during the daytime and taken them into jeeps without registration plates. Victims are reportedly being transferred to military-run torture cells and kept in incommunicado until confessional statements have been forcefully extracted.
As of August 2009, an estimated 60 persons had been forcibly disappeared in Balochistan in 2009. This represents an increase from the estimated 39 cases of forced disappearance that were reported having been committed in the last nine months of 2008. A total of 99 cases of disappearances have taken place since the newly elected government came to power last March. The members of FC are being afforded impunity for these acts, as the police are claiming having no knowledge about the arrests and subsequent disappearances. Furthermore, under the state of emergency declared by General Musharraf on November 3, 2007, a Constitution (Amendment) Order, dated 20 November 2007, was issued.2 Under this amendment’s section 6, the addition of Article 270AAA to the Constitution ensures that no acts performed by any State authorities or members thereof can at present be challenged in any court in Pakistan, including the Anti-Terrorism Court or the High Court. This amendment continues to grant total de facto impunity to all State-actors in Pakistan. In order to undo this amendment to the Constitution, the Parliament (the Senate and the National Assembly), is required to vote to do so with a two-thirds majority. Since the removal of Musharraf, however, the Parliament has thus far failed to undo this amendment, and the legacy of the emergency continues to be the key obstacle that is preventing the fight against impunity and for justice concerning violations of human rights in the country to date.