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Families of ‘missing persons’ spend Eid protesting on the roads

When the Muslim world was celebrating Eid-ul-Adha on Aug 1st, the families of the Baloch and Sindhi missing persons were protesting on the roads and streets for the recovery of their loved ones.

According to the details, the families of the Baloch missing persons traveled from different regions of Balochistan and organized a protest in Quetta for the recovery of their loved ones on Eid day. Under the auspice of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, a rights group actively working for the recovery of the Baloch missing persons, the protesters launched a rally on the roads and streets of Quetta that culminated as demonstration in the front of the Quetta Press Club.

Mama Qadeer Baloch, the vice-chairman of the VBMP, was leading the protest. According to VBMP, at least 47 thousand Baloch citizens are forcefully disappeared by Pakistan army and intelligence agencies.

The families of the missing persons said that their loved ones are missing for years without any trace. We want to know if they are alive or dead so that we can find some solace, they said. The protesters said that the rulers and politicians can never understand their agony, as they have never suffered such pain. “They are wearing new clothes and celebrating Eid, meanwhile, we protest on the streets for our loved ones,” protestors said.

In Sindh, activist groups like the Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh, Sindh Sabha and Sindh Sajagi Forum pitched a hunger-strike camp for the Sindhi missing persons. Sorth Lohar, Sandhu Amaan, Shazia Chandio, Inaam Abbasi and a few others are leading the strike.

Social reformists Zafar Junejo, Imdad Chandio, Prof. Riaz Ahmed, Naghma Shaikh, Nasir Mansoor and a few others participated in the strike. Asad Batt, the chairman of the Sindh branch of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was also present at the strike.

The demonstrators said that the intelligence agencies are violating the Pakistani constitution by forcefully abducting and killing the Sindhi persons and then throwing their mutilated dead bodies at random locations. They said the forces are undermining the courts’ authority by executing “extrajudicial operations” throughout Sindh. The demonstrators said that the detainees must be produced in courts, and they should be allowed to defend themselves. If the forces operate outside the ambit of the courts and the constitution, then the common citizens are not obliged to follow them either.

The demonstrators said that if the perpetrators of enforced disappearances are more powerful than the Supreme Court and the parliament, then we appeal to the United Nations, Amnesty International and other global rights groups to take notice of the human rights violations in Sindh and Balochistan by the Pakistani state.

The leaders of the demonstration told the media that almost 70 political workers nationalists are missing from Sindh. They said they will soon summon an “all parties conference” of the social, political and human rights organizations in Sindh to address the enforced disappearances and lead our collective struggle in a more organized and powerful fashion.

As the families of the missing persons were protesting on the roads for the recovery of their loved ones, a Baloch woman was allegedly detained by the Pakistani forces in Awaran on Saturday. The woman was identified as Shalli d/o Talahoo. The forces reportedly exercised violence on the householders and forcefully detained Shalli. Many other women have been forcefully disappeared from different regions of Balochistan. Many of the detained women have been released, whereas a significant number are still missing

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Chaman: 4 dead, 17 wounded in the wake of indiscriminate firing from Pakistani forces

In the bordering city of Balochistan some 130 km from Quetta, a confrontation broke out between the protestors of trade unions and the Frontier Corps. The forces used live ammunition on the protestors, killing four including a woman and wounding 17 others.

In the wake of the firing, the panic-stricken protestors stampeded, and many women and children fainted as a result. The wounded were moved to the hospital, the Levies personnel said.

Additional doctors and first aiders have been summoned in the hospital.

Agitated protestors broke the border gate and torched the forces’ check post.

The forces said that thousands crossed the border into Afghanistan. To settle the tumult, the forces reportedly summoned reinforcements.

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The Moment Time Stops

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

How does one measure time? I suppose the criterion varies from individual to individual, from situation to situation and this means that time is and can be measured in different ways. True, some may measure it nonchalantly in their life of opulence and ease while some may measure it as a tedious exercise in their abject poverty.

The different attitude to measuring time is dependent on the usual circumstances that human live and survive in but how does one measure time in extraordinary and abnormal circumstances for then the measurement requires completely different parameters.

I have asked this question to understand how does a person whose father, brother, son or other relative has been disappeared measure time and bide time in hope when their loved one will come or what news will they receive about them? Just give it a kind and considerate thought for I cannot ask you to put yourself in their shoes for we may feel a lot for them but we cannot truly relate to the pain these people suffer specially when the abductor is the State and the abductee is a Baloch when thousands of Baloch families have seen the bodies of their disappeared ones dumped somewhere tortured and mutilated inhumanly with drills, burns, bullets and broken bones.

For Sammi Baloch, her younger sister Mehlub and their family the time is frozen at dawn of 28th June 2009 when they received a gut-wrenching call from the driver of the ambulance at hospital where their father Dr. Deen Mohammad worked in official capacity as a government doctor. The driver told them that people of law enforcement agencies had come and forcibly taken him away and manhandled another of his colleague there. That horror-stricken moment is forever etched on their souls as they strive and struggle for his recovery and in trepidation also wait for news about him.

Banuk Sammi was only 10 years old then and was suffering from chronic tonsillitis which her father Dr. Deen Mohammad had promised to get treated once he is free but that promise remains unfulfilled for, he languishes in unknown conditions in unknown dungeon in Pakistani custody. From that tender age she has been striving for recovery and release of her father; she has appealed to different forums, different persons and to people and world at large but all seem helpless in helping her or thousands of others whose relatives are missing.

When time stops it is an unbearable burden for though it stops in a way but that doesn’t mean that problems too stop. Her mother is ill and is all the time naturally obsessed with his fate and recovery. Time stops but that doesn’t mean your needs vanish, they only become increasingly difficult to satisfy because your provider and your protector has been unjustly snatched from you.

Dr. Deen Mohammad was not a gun carrying militant he was a member of the Baloch National Movement and wrote about the injustices and the missing persons. Banuk Sammi says if he has committed a crime he should be tried and it is absolutely inhuman to deny them the love and protection of their father.

Banuk Sammi along with Banuk Farzana and others participated in the 105-day duration Long March which began in Quetta in October 2013 and culminated in Islamabad in March 2014. I had the honour of being the part of this historic Long March and have seen blisters on her feet as well as Farzana Majeed. I once asked her that despite the pain from the blisters and all the tiredness and unfavourable circumstances during the March how could she continue, to which she replied that, “The pain of a missing father is thousand times more painful than all the blisters in the world and it was for him that I was walking and am ready to accept all the pain that comes my way in efforts for recovery for him.”

For Farzana Majeed and her Family the time stopped on 8th June 2009 and despite her efforts her missing brother Zakir Majeed is still missing. Banuk Farzana along with Mama Qadeer was the motivating force behind the Long March.

For Ali Haider Baloch the time stopped on July 14th 2010 when his father Mohammad Ramzan was picked up by agencies in front of him and a decade has nearly passed without any news about him. To add more to his misery, he himself was disappeared last year in June for a few days last year. He and his sister and aunt marched with Mama from Quetta to Islamabad.

For Haseeba Qambarani and her family the life has stopped more than once; once when her brother Salman and cousin Gazzain were picked by State from Qilli Qambarani in June 2015 and on 11thAugust 2016 when they saw their horribly tortured bodies. They were hoping their already shattered world would be left alone but when the State becomes a man-eater it never relents and on February 14th her brother Hassan and cousin Hizbullah were picked up and once more their lives are shattered and time frozen in one moment of horror which never seems to tick away.

For Mama Qadeer the time stopped ticking on 13th February 2009 when his son Jalil Ahmed Reki was picked up and it turned into a moment of horror on 23rd November 2011 when Jalil’s body was recovered and that moment of horror has seen him spend 11 years protesting outside press clubs. There are thousands of families that are living with the eternally frozen moment of horror when their loved ones are abducted or their mutilated bodies found.

Seemingly the State has visceral fear tinged by hate towards Baloch and it continues to destroy lives of people in Balochistan in an organized and systematic manner otherwise why else the body of Sangat Sana would have 28 bullet wounds on his heart and body and why would Jalil Reki’s body have 3 bullet wounds on heart. The fact is that they know these are the hearts that they can never subdue and so show their wrath on those they can and do pick up.

These are the few stories of the pain and sorrow that the Baloch people suffer when their loved ones go missing. As much as I may want but I cannot bring myself to appeal for kind heartedness from the State for I know it is as heartless as it is soulless so appealing to it useless. If they for so long have not been able to hear and see the pain of Banuk, Sammi Deen, Banuk Farzana Majeed and Banuk Haseeba Qambarani they will not be able to hear me too.

رہزن ہے میرا رہبر
منصف ہے میرا قاتل
کہہ دوں تو بغاوت ہے
سہہ لوں تو قیامت ہے

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted atmmatalpur@gmail.com

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UN Says Thousands Of Pakistani Militants In Afghanistan

More than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, a fresh UN report says.

The report released earlier this week said most of the militants belonged to the outlawed Pakistani Talibani group that is responsible for attacks on Pakistani military and civilian targets.

According to the report, the group, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), has linked up with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State extremist group. Some TTP members have even joined the IS affiliate, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.

The Afghan government did not respond on July 26 to requests by the AP news agency for comment.

The report was prepared by the UN analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world.

The report said IS in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan Province, has suffered losses as a result of being targeted by Afghan security forces as well as U.S. and NATO forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban.

The report estimated that the membership of IS in Afghanistan is 2,200, and while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national, Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani.

The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior Islamic State commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.

“Although in territorial retreat, [the Islamic State[ remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. It also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the United States,” the report said, referring to a U.S. peace deal signed with the Taliban in February.

That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban’s all-out participation in the fight against IS.

The second and perhaps most critical part of the agreement calls for talks between the Taliban and Kabul’s political leadership.

Late on July 25, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying its peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was again shuttling through the region seeking to jump start those negotiations, which have been repeatedly postponed as both sides squabble over a prisoner release program.

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Germany: BNM protests against Harnai tragedy, HR violations in Balochistan

According to details, on 18 July, Baloch National Movement Germany Zone staged a protest in Berlin, the capital city of Germany, against the human rights violations in Balochistan and against the Harnai incident where according to reports, Pakistan army allegedly killed the family of an elderly man, Qaisar Chalgarri including his six years old granddaughter Naz Bibi.

According to the Central spokesman for Baloch National Movement, the party also ran an online campaign in social media using the hashtag #JusticForNazBibi. In the Berlin protest, along with the members of the Baloch National Movement, the sympathizers of the party, Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Germany Chapter, members of Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement (PTM), and people from the local community also took part in the demonstration.

Protesters held banners and placards. The protesters chanted different slogans such as “Pakistani army is a terrorist”, “We are not Pakistanis, we are Baloch”.

Hammal Baloch, the president of BNM Germany Zone addressed the participants saying; “The purpose of today’s demonstration is to raise awareness about the Harnai tragedy and human rights violations in Balochistan by the Pakistani Army. A few days ago Pakistan Army attacked a House in Harnai killing an elderly man Qaisar Chalgarri and his six years old granddaughter Naz Bibi and abducted two young boys from the house”

Hammal added, “Pakistan is punishing the Baloch nation for raising their voices for freedom while following a policy of collective punishment. The tragedy of Harnai is the continuation of the same policy. We want to send a message to the people of Germany and the civilized world that the people of Balochistan are being persecuted on a daily basis by the state of Pakistan.”

He further said that there is complete ban on reporting on the events in Balochistan in Pakistani media. International media is also denied access thus implementing a media blackout on matters of Balochistan. The lives of political activists, social activists, students, and teachers are not secure in Balochistan. Those who speak against the state atrocities of Pakistan in Balochistan will either be forcibly disappeared and tortured or get killed by the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan.

Asghar Ali the General Secretary of BNM Germany Zone addressed the audience and said, “Balochistan is a colony of Pakistan. From the first day of the occupation of our land, Balochistan, Pakistan has been trying to maintain its rule with the barrel of the gun and violence.”

“The abduction of Baloch women by lawless Pakistan Army is not a new phenomenon. Baloch women are being targeted since the 70s decade but the Pakistan army’s brutality has increased in the recent past. The killing of Baloch women and children is a clear call for the people of Balochistan that Pakistan is determined to continue the Baloch genocide with all its ruthlessness,” he added.

Shah Fawaz, the member of the Baloch Republican Party said, “Our women and children are safe nowhere, they are safe neither in colleges and universities nor at homes. Even our children are being targeted and killed by the Pakistan Army. The incident of Harnai where the Pakistan Army killed Naz Bibi shows the dirty intentions of Pakistan in Balochistan.”

Jassim Baloch a member of BNM said that Pakistan is involved in the killing of thousands of Baloch. Another member of BNM Arif Baloch said that the Baloch nation had been going through a testing time but the Baloch nation will never back off an inch from the demand of national freedom.

BNM member Ali said that Pakistan has abducted hundreds of Baloch women. It is the duty of the civilized world to take notice of Pakistan’s atrocities in Balochistan.

The Central Spokesman of BNM said that BNM has been raising voice for several years against Baloch genocide and collective punishment by the Pakistan army. Today’s protest in Berlin, Germany is part of the same struggle.

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Pakistan signs new deals with China amid escalating tensions in the region

Amid the escalating tensions between the Baloch insurgents and the Pakistani state and after the recent attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Pakistan has signed a bilateral $11 billion project with China for the renovation and upgrade of its railway lines and the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Kashmir, a region at the heart of tensions with arch-rival India.

According to the details, China and Pakistan signed deals on 25 June and 6 July for the construction of a dam and the upgrade of Pakistan’s British-era dilapidated railway lines respectively. The two projects will collectively cost $11 billion – $3.9 billion for the dam and $7.2 billion for the railway lines. The deal was seemingly driven by a former lieutenant-general of the Pakistan army – Asim Saleem Bajwa.

Imran Khan’s government appointed Bajwa to head the China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, which oversees the $70 billion ongoing projects in Pakistan, including power plants and highways. Bajwa also joined Khan’s cabinet back in the April, which already housed a dozen or more army personnel, increasing the military’s clout throughout the Pakistani government.

Since its announcement in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road initiative of China has expended a whopping $575 billion through energy plants, railways, roads, ports and other projects, according to the World Bank. Its progress has dwindled recently, following the accusations that China is luring struggling economies in debt traps to extort political and strategic gains out of them.

Bajwa denies these claims. In a recent tweet, he alleged that some ‘detractors’ are giving the ‘false impression’ that CPEC is slowing down. He said that the pace of work on the projects has been accelerating and that ‘phase-2’ will be launched soon – which has been done in the form of an $11 billion investment.

Pakistan army has already secured every single Beijing-funded project in Pakistan. From the mountains near the Chinese border in Gilgit Baltistan to the coastal areas of Gwadar in Balochistan– where CPEC is centred – Pakistani army holds sway. Its influence has been bolstered by 3 consecutive attacks on the China-related projects by the Baloch insurgents – in Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar, Chinese Consulate in Karachi and a Chinese bus in Dalbandain.

There is deepening concern over Pakistan’s ability to repay the Chinese loans. The Center for Global Development has listed Pakistan among the 8 nations that might face severe debt-sustainability problems due to the Belt and Road initiative. Pakistan must repay twice the amount it owes to the International Monetary Fund to China, according to IMF.

In the past week, the Pakistani government allowed a Chinese company to carry out its Copper and Gold mining in Saindak, without taking into consideration the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan.

The Saindak Copper-Gold Project is centred in a town, Saindak, near the Chaghi district of Balochistan and is operating through the Pak-China cooperation. Initially, this project was leased to the Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd. – now called Saindak Metals Ltd. – for 10 years. The project was extended in 2012 and 2017 and has now been extended for another 15 years, bringing the project length to 45 years. Experts say that Saindak houses 412 million tons of Gold and Copper. In the 2012-2017 period, Pakistan had earned $2 billion from Saindak.

Despite its copious natural resources, Balochistan is the poorest region in the territory. The Baloch insurgents are fighting the fifth wave of insurgency, which was instigated against the Pakistani state, which they denounce as ‘oppressive’ and ‘exploitative.’ The insurgents allege that the federal government and Punjab – the bastion of the Pakistani military – are deliberately looting Balochistan. The armed groups are vehemently opposing the Chinese ‘intrusion’ in the Baloch soil which, they think, is another agent of exploitation of the Balochistan’s resources.

With the announcement of CPEC in 2015, China wanted to extend its regional clout throughout South Asia and to contain its arch-rivals – India and the United States. It is thought that the land and oceanic routes of the CPEC would allow for the fluid movement of goods across the world, perpetuating China’s influence in the global trade. The initial cost of this project was estimated to be $46 billion but has increased almost twofold since then to $80+ billion.

The Baloch insurgents oppose the China-sponsored projects in Balochistan, denouncing them as ‘intrusive’ and ‘exploitative.’ A few weeks ago, the armed organization, Balochistan Liberation Army attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan’s financial hub. In a subsequent statement, BLA claimed responsibility for the attack and said that had aimed to target Pakistan’s economy and to thwart the increasing Chinese influence in Balochistan. BLA had also attacked the luxurious five-star hotel, the Pearl Continental, in Gwadar and the Chinese Consulate in Karachi.

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Baloch Families Seek Answers From Pakistan As More Disappear Amid Insurgency

KARACHI/QUETTA, Pakistan — For over 11 years, relatives of people who disappeared in the murk of a separatist insurgency in southwestern Pakistan have gathered outside the Press Club of Quetta wanting to know who took their fathers, husbands, and sons.

The daily sit-in protest in the provincial capital of Balochistan began on June 28, 2009, after a doctor, Deen Muhammad, was abducted by “unknown men.”

Relatives suspect Muhammad, like many other missing ethnic Baluchis, was snatched by Pakistani security forces hunting separatists, who for decades have waged a campaign for greater autonomy or independence.

Sometimes less than a dozen join the daily protest, other days many more, but Muhammad’s two daughters have been among the regulars since they were 8 and 10 years old.

“Our little hands were holding pictures of our father back then; now we have grown up and we still have no clue if he is alive,” Sammi Baloch, now 21, told Reuters by telephone from Quetta.

Even when the weather is too extreme in Quetta to hold protest, a sit-in is observed by Baluchis in front of the press club in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and a melting pot for different ethnic groups.

The insurgency in Balochistan — a sparsely populated, mountainous, desert region bordering Afghanistan and Iran — has sometimes waned and sometimes intensified over the years.

But for all the durability of the Baluch struggle, the conflict has seldom drawn international attention. It grabbed headlines however, in late June when a group of young Baluch militants launched an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi.

On July 14, three soldiers were killed and eight wounded in an area known for attacks by Baluch fighters. But beyond giving the grinding casualty toll, the veil of secrecy over the conflict is seldom lifted, and foreign journalists are often discouraged from visiting Balochistan.

Multiple calls, texts, and emails to Pakistan’s Human Rights Ministry, the military, and Balochistan’s provincial government seeking comment for this story went unanswered.

The military did issue a statement last year sympathising with families of missing Baluchis, while saying that some may have joined militant groups and “not every person missing is attributable to the state.”

Pakistan has repeatedly blamed India for fanning militancy in Balochistan, a charge New Delhi has consistently denied.

More Missing

Last month, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) quit Prime Minister Imran Khan’s parliamentary bloc, frustrated by unfulfilled promises to address Baluch grievances including the festering issue of the disappeared.

When he led the BNP into an alliance with Khan’s coalition two years ago, Akhtar Mengal gave the government a list of 5,128 missing persons.

Since then, over 450 of the people on the list have been found or returned to their families, but during the same period Mengal says another 1,800 were reported to have disappeared.

“If you cannot recover people, at least stop disappearing more people,” Mengal said.

Another Baluch party set up in the months prior to the 2018 elections with backing from the military establishment, according to political analysts, is in a coalition with Prime Minister Khan’s party at both the federal and provincial level.

Balochistan Awami Party Senator Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar told Reuters the numbers of missing are “exaggerated.”

But Mama Qadeer, who heads a group called Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, keeps his own count. “In last six months, the number of Baluch missing persons has risen,” he told Reuters by telephone. His son disappeared a decade ago.

In February last year, Qadeer’s group handed a list of 500 missing to provincial officials. Since then, nearly 300 have been returned to their homes, but 87 others disappeared in the first half of this year, according to the group.

China Raises Stakes

A federal commission set up nine years ago listed 6,506 cases of enforced disappearances nationwide by the end of 2019. Most came from the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Only 472 were registered from Balochistan. Advocacy groups say Balochistan’s number is far higher, pointing to difficulty in having cases accepted by the commission.

“There’s hardly a home in Balochistan that hasn’t had a relative or loved one picked up,” Mohammad Ali Talpur, an activist who once fought alongside Baluch insurgents in the 1970s, told Reuters.

The conflict has a long, complex history, but the stakes have risen as Balochistan’s wealth of copper, gold, gas and coal deposits caught China’s eye.

The prospects of Pakistan’s most reliable ally pouring in money excited successive governments, while fueling Baluch resentment over how little would come their way.

Separatist militants have frequently targeted Chinese construction in Gwadar, a port on the Balochistan coast, near the entrance to the strategically important Gulf.

And in 2018, the Balochistan Liberation Army launched an assault on the Chinese consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, killing four Pakistani police and civilians. It was the most high-profile attack by the group until June 29 this year, when its fighters attacked the stock exchange, again killing four people.

The attack came a day after hundreds of relatives of missing Baluchis gathered in Quetta to mark the 4,000th day of their protest since Muhammad’s disappearance.

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8 Civilians Killed in Pakistani Mortar Attack on Kunar: Officials

Afghan military personnel were also killed in the attacks, said the officials, adding that several Afghan forces checkpoints were also destroyed in the attack.

Local officials in Kunar have said that the firefight between Afghan and Pakistani forces broke out after Pakistani forces tried to establish new check posts inside the Afghan territory.

“Pakistani military forces came in a helicopter and they wanted to create checkpoints, so our security forces did not allow this and then clashes broke out,” said Din Mohammad Safai, a member of Kunar’s provincial council.

“We will not abandon this area up until the lost drop of our blood and we will defend our motherland,” said Ibrahim, an officer of the Afghan Border Forces.

“Bullets came and took the life of my son,” said Zahirullah, a resident in Kunar.

Five months back, similar clashes broke out in the same area between Afghan and Pakistani forces.

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