75 years after independence, at a time when Pakistan is facing multiple crises, both economic and political, it is time that the Pakistani state also re-think its policies towards the various Pakistani nationalities. One of these nationalities that has always been mistreated are the Baloch.
In a recent fact-finding report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) noted with “considerable alarm that Balochistan faces mounting public frustration pertaining to enforced disappearances, economic exclusion, curbs on press freedom, misgovernance and allegations of political manipulation by the establishment.”
The fact-finding mission led by HRCP in October 2022 “observed a palpable sense of anger among ordinary citizens, many of whom went so far as to refer to Balochistan as a ‘colony’ of the state” during meetings with HRCP. 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 HRCP’s mission expressed concern “at the state’s widespread use of enforced disappearances to muzzle dissent, a grievance echoed in numerous conversations. This discontent has been compounded by the extensive presence of paramilitary check-posts, which citizens say has cultivated a climate of fear, particularly in Makran. Additionally, in the midst of a serious economic downturn, the resource-rich province continues 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 neighbouring countries has exacerbated poverty levels in the province.”
The HRCP’s fact-finding report recommended: “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 feels 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 believes 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 has 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.”