UNPO Condemns Violence Committed by Pakistan’s Security Forces Against Baloch Community in Awaran
UNPO expresses its deepest regret, sympathy and condemnation at the news of the murder of more than 100 civilians in Awaran district, Balochistan, on the day of Eid this week (18 July 2015). As the result of a major bombardment launched by Pakistani security services, many civilians in three villages in Awaran were killed, a large proportion of them women and children. According to some reports, a number of women and girls were also raped and abducted. The Pakistani forces reportedly used gunship helicopters over Awaran’s Kolwah, Malar and Gishkor areas, seemingly targeting civilians arbitrarily. A government embargo on media access has made it very difficult to confirm the exact number of casualties, but reports from social media are suggesting it is as high as 100.
Karima Baloch, who describes herself as the Vice Chairperson of Baloch Student Organisations-Azad, claimed in a tweet, “Awaran is destroyed. More than 100 bodies are lying on the ground for wild animals to feed on. Four villages flattened. #AwaranOperation”.
This attack comes in the context of a concerted campaign of violence and injustice used by Pakistani authorities against the Baloch people to terrorise and undermine their community. Arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, cruelty in detention and the maiming on non-combatants are all well-documented. Before this attack, security forces in the same district attacked a funeral ceremony, killing more than ten people, and burning to their ground their houses. Paramilitary forces in Awaran have also set up an embargo on food and basic consumer goods, making daily life difficult. It has also been reported that the security forces are not allowing people to enter the bombarded villages, or the surrounding area; relatives of those killed now fear that the security forces will bury them in a mass grave. This act, as well as the many others perpetrated by Pakistani forces against the Baloch people, violates international human rights law, and should be condemned in the harshest terms.
Shockingly, despite the expression of outrage by many at the killings, another hashtag has started trending on social media: ‘#AwaranTerrorPlanAverted’, under which some Twitter users are congratulating the security forces who perpetuated the attack, under the impression that in bombing the villages they were foiling a terrorist plot. There is no evidence that any such plot existed; indeed, the spreading of this idea after the event seems likely to be a cynical move on behalf of pro-government forces both to justify their brutal violence, and to promote further anti-Baloch feeling among the wider Pakistani population.
A representative from the Baloch National Movement, Mr Ali Kachkol, issued a statement on behalf of his organization criticising in harsh terms the negligence of the international community in failing to properly recognise or condemn the damage caused by Pakistan’s actions. He said that, “in this age of globalization and information technology, the so-called ‘civilized world’ seems not to consider Baloch people human beings. In the Western world, even animals have rights.” He called for the imposition of the R2P (Responsibility to Protect), which would give foreign powers the right to intervene to defend citizens from mass atrocities, genocide and crimes against humanity. This has been used by the Security Council before, not only to justify economic sanctions, but also military intervention; the most notable example of this was in Libya in 2011. However, there has as yet been very little attention paid to this event by major international news networks, governments, and institutions like the UN.
As these atrocious circumstances continue, UNPO also calls for the attention and support of the international community; this will be vital if we are to succeed in protecting Balochistan from further violence. Human rights abuses against the Baloch people cannot be allowed to continue.
Photo credit: Beluchistan @Flickr