September 19, 2016
On the occasion of the 33rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Nonviolent Radical Party (NRPTT) in cooperation with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) will be organizing a side-event entitled “Never to Be Seen Again: Enforced Disappearances and Pakistan’s Bloody Campaign to Impose CPEC in Balochistan”.
Frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society, enforced disappearances have for years been used by Pakistan’s covert state agencies as a method to crack down on the Baloch people, who live in the country’s largest, most resource rich, but yet least developed province. The number of disappearances and discoveries of mutilated bodies of Baloch missing persons has continued to increase each year: in 2016, more than 500 people have thus far been forcefully disappeared, while 115 mutilated bodies have been found in Balochistan. In recent years, Islamabad’s campaign of enforced disappearances has been extended to even the most vulnerable, with women and children increasingly becoming victims of state-sponsored disappearances.
The alarming surge in the number of missing persons in Balochistan is believed to be linked to the military establishment’s efforts to silence “anti-state” activities and dissent. In early August, a massive blast in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, killed more than 70 people, including 55 lawyers. As many of the dead were vocal critics of the state’s systematic use of enforced disappearances – perpetrated in particular against Baloch activists, dissidents, journalists and students – it is safe to assume that agents of the Pakistani establishment were somehow involved in this most recent case of senseless bloodshed.
This further underscores the problem that not only are the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies serious in their campaign to generate insecurity, fear and despair among the families of the disappeared and 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. At the same time, the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which aims to connect China’s largest province, Xinjiang, with Gwadar port, is being imposed on Balochistan. In September 2016, Pakistani army and police conducted a heavy crackdown, which occurred in the context of heightened tensions over land ruthlessly appropriated by Islamabad to construct CPEC. Armed forces raided the houses of Baloch activists, and kept women and children captive for over 24 hours. This is just the most recent wave of human rights violations in a larger campaign to silence any opposition against CPEC and thereby ensure its construction goes ahead undisturbed.
Against this background, the side-event seeks to contribute to filling the existing information gap on enforced disappearances in Balochistan while also looking at the implications of the CPEC for the Baloch people, at a time when independent media and civil society are repeatedly being denied access to the region.