Balochistan situation raises concerns for HRCP

(Staff Report):-

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed considerable alarm over the mounting public frustration in Balochistan regarding enforced disappearances, economic exclusion, curbs on press freedom, misgovernance, and allegations of political manipulation by the establishment.

A fact-finding mission led by HRCP in October 2022 observed a palpable sense of anger among ordinary citizens who referred to Balochistan as a ‘colony’ of the state during meetings with the organization.

The mission comprised senior journalist and HRCP treasurer Husain Naqi, vice-chair HRCP Balochistan Habib Tahir, staff members Maheen Pracha, Fareed Shahwani, and Ghani Parwaz, and journalist Akbar Notezai. The team spoke to a wide range of civil society members, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and members of the fisherfolk community, as well as political leaders and members of the administration in Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, and Quetta.

The mission was concerned about the state’s widespread use of enforced disappearances to muzzle dissent, a grievance echoed in numerous conversations. This discontent was compounded by the extensive presence of paramilitary check-posts, which citizens said had cultivated a climate of fear, particularly in Makran.

Additionally, in the midst of a serious economic downturn, the resource-rich province continued to be deprived of its fair share of revenues from large development projects. The mission also observed that the absence of a healthy legal trading ecosystem between Balochistan and neighboring countries had exacerbated poverty levels in the province.

Among other recommendations, the mission called for an immediate halt to unwarranted interference in Balochistan’s political affairs by the establishment, accountability for perpetrators of enforced disappearances, and legislation by the Balochistan Assembly to protect the security and independence of the province’s media professionals.

The mission strongly felt that the Haq Do Tehreek’s long-standing demands for basic amenities must be met, while any ongoing or planned projects under CPEC should not impinge on the Gwadar fisherfolk community’s source of livelihood. The mission also believed that the legitimate grievances of the Pashtun population, particularly those around unequal representation in the provincial legislature, must be given a fair hearing by all political stakeholders.

Given the devastating impact of the floods in parts of Balochistan, the mission also underscored the need for a consistent and empowered local government able to develop early warning systems, evacuation plans, and community sanctuaries with stockpiles of emergency supplies in conjunction with the PDMA.
The HRCP team also recommended meeting basic amenities demands, fair hearing of Pashtun population grievances, and protection of the Gwadar fisherfolk community’s source of livelihood. The mission highlighted the need for an empowered local government to develop early warning systems, evacuation plans, and community sanctuaries with emergency supplies in flood-affected areas of Balochistan.