On the occasion of the 31st Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) organised a side-event entitled “Faces of Oppression: Human Rights Violations in Balochistan”. The event drew attention to the escalating crack down on human rights in Balochistan and took place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 11 March 2016.
With the goal of spreading terror, Pakistan’s covert state agencies systematically use human rights abuses to crack down on the Baloch community. Enforced disappearances in particular have for years been used to subdue the Baloch people, who live in Pakistan’s largest and most resource rich, yet least developed province. The number of disappearances and discoveries of mutilated bodies of Baloch missing persons has continued to increase each year: in 2015 alone, at least 463 people were forcefully disappeared, while 157 mutilated bodies were found in Balochistan. Moreover, the year 2015 saw unprecedented attacks on the most vulnerable, as 28 Baloch women and children were abducted in November.
Yet the alarming surge in the number of missing persons in Balochistan is but one component of the military establishment’s comprehensive efforts to prosecute and silence “anti-state” activities and dissent. The passage of the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) in July 2014 has further aggravated the situation and increased the occurrence of cases of torture, abductions, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, by indirectly offering a legal waver for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to tighten the screws on Baloch activists, dissidents, journalists and students.
This clearly indicates not only that the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies are serious in their campaign to generate insecurity, fear and despair among the Baloch population at large, but also that the current silence of the press, civil society and international organisations is allowing them to continue to perpetuate large-scale human rights violations. Against this background, the side-event seeks to contribute to filling the existing information gap on human rights violations in Balochistan and to draw international attention to these heinous crimes, at a time when independent media and civil society are repeatedly being denied access to the region.