PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania: A key human rights organization once again let down the people of Texas-sized Balochistan in southwest Asia, scene of a “tsunami of human rights violations” as a resolution that called for more action to end enforced disappearances there was shot down Saturday afternoon.
A lone Baloch member of the Amnesty International in the USA protested that even the sequence of the resolutions were changed, conveying an impression that the resolution pertaining to helping Baloch victims of enforced disappearances was less important than an other resolution pertaining to environmental migrants.
The simple resolution had asked Amnesty International board of directors in the U.S. to write to the International Secretariat in London asking for the development of more research and actions such as action alerts, letters, petitions and postcards relating to saving lives of victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances in Pakistan, specifically in Balochistan.
The resolution was defeated 22 against 14 as key position holders within Amnesty International spoke out against it at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference.
Top office-bearers of the Amnesty International, including Larry Cox, executive director AIUSA, and Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, were among those who spoke at the conference.
Families of victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan have been calling upon Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations to come to their rescue amidst Pakistani and Iranian state terrorism.
The Pakistan specialist was conspicuous by his absence, while the Egyptian country specialist Mandana Afshar played a key role in defeating the resolution, even though the resolution had minimal financial implications because it simply called upon the board to request from the International Secretariat for more actions on enforced disappearances in Pakistan.
Kathleen Lucas, another veteran AI member, also openly canvassed against the resolution to help Baloch victims, though she was overseeing the election process the following day, calling into question the fairness and impartiality of the entire exercise.
Had the resolution been adopted, only some volunteer and staff time would have been necessary to develop the request and to lobby the International Secretariat.
Afshar of Persian descent –Persians have always laid claim to owning Balochistan — insisted that working on Balochistan would require more resources, but was mum to the question that to stop extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, Amnesty International was bound to help victims regardless of constraints.
Privately, she also contra posed the disappearances of Shia political dissidents in Bahrain, even though the Baloch have no issue if the AI may also take a pro-active stand on disappearances in Bahrain.
The Baloch resolution was necessitated as there are more than 1,100 victims of Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in restive Balochistan in southwest Pakistan, where as many as 8,000 people have fallen victims to such disappearances since 2005 as the ethnic Baloch have risen up against Islamabad and desire to run their political and state affairs without Pakistani military control.
According to its own statement, the Amnesty International said on October 26 that Pakistan has adopted a policy of kill and dump policy in Balochistan. The situation has worsened in recent days. http://www.balochmissing.com/main_view.php
The Baloch resolution called on Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) to request from the Amnesty International (AI) International Secretariat (IS) more actions, specifically relating to enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted December 20, 2006, defines “enforced disappearance” as …the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights).
The aborted resolution called for more actions from AI specifically focused on Balochistan, Pakistan’s geographically largest and least densely populated province located in the Southwestern region of Pakistan (bordering Iran to the West and Afghanistan to the North).
Political activists, advocating for Baloch independence from Pakistan, are gaining the upper hand in the backdrop of Pakistani state terrorism. Local Baloch activists are demanding independence which has prompted the Pakistani national government to increase security presence and lead to attempts of squelching these groups through disappearances.
While these nationalists are mostly victims of enforced disappearance, many political and geographic groups are subject to the same.
However, Balochistan is currently of particular interest because it has bred insurgency several times since 1948 leading to violence and human rights abuses by all sides.
Enforced disappearances have been an ongoing human rights concern throughout Pakistan since military rule in the late 1990’s, continuing under present civilian government. The number of disappearances grew since 2001 and the subsequent War on Terror and invasion of Afghanistan by US and allied forces.
For this reason, AI has considered enforced disappearances a main focus of its work in Pakistan, continuing to produce Urgent Actions, materials and reports. AI released as recently as August 13, 2010 an Urgent Action on Shams Baloch, a nationalist and political activist of Balochistan. However, this was the lone action alert for a Baloch victim of enforced disappearances out of more than 1,100 such cases.
The other action was on October 26, 2010, AI released a statement urging the Pakistani government to investigate ill-treatment and killing of at least 40 Baloch political leaders from the past 4 months.
AI currently estimates hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Pakistani and foreign nationals have disappeared throughout Pakistan, being held by Pakistan or transferred into foreign custody unlawfully. Enforced disappearances are no longer limited to those suspected of terrorist involvement but also include Pakistani political opponents such as Baloch and Sindhi nationalists.
Amnesty International said that it takes no position on independence for any entity, including Balochistan and Sindh. Both are recognized by AI and the international community as provinces of Pakistan.
Pakistan was originally intended to be a focus country for AIs work during the International Day of the Disappeared, August 30, 2010 but that was postponed because of the floods. The IS called for eleven sections, including the US, to campaign, advocate, and renew effort to call for Pakistan to investigate and report the status and whereabouts of those disappeared throughout Pakistan.
The arguments in favor of the resolution were that the resolution was necessary because AI should be a leader in ending disappearances, a core area of AI’s work for many years.
An internal document admitted that AI and AIUSA are not doing enough work on enforced disappearances in Pakistan nor the province of Balochistan. The focus of recent AI work on Pakistan has been in the Northwest, especially relating to armed groups, government operations, displacement and the Taliban. However, there is not enough emphasis on the issue of enforced disappearances or Balochistan (in the Southwest).
Enforced disappearances are a serious and ongoing concern in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, and more Amnesty International actions are crucial. The International Secretariat needs to produce more materials on these regions so that AIUSA can work more completely on Pakistan. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan and War on Terror, enforced disappearance have been on the rise. AIUSA should highlight this work and encourage the IS to provide more work on this issue.
This resolution is important to bring attention to the issue of enforced disappearances in Pakistan and specifically in Balochistan. AI and AIUSA do not place enough emphasis on this subject. This additional work cannot be done without additional actions from the International Secretariat.
However, the arguments against the resolution were weak.
One arguments against the resolution said AI already produces many actions on disappeared persons in FATA, NWFP, Sindh and Punjab as well as Balochistan. It suggested AIUSA volunteers interested in country- and topic- specific work like enforced disappearances in Pakistan should contact the Country Specialist program to receive guidance and direction on the work available. Often, such as in the case of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, many opportunities are available and case dossiers can be adopted.
Another argument against adoption of the resolution was that it may become ineffective by the time it actually becomes a binding decision. Because of the red-tape within AI, wherein things move at snail pace, the AI thinks the status of enforced disappearances in Pakistan may change greatly by the time the resolution is implemented. However, Baloch activists said the problem of enforced disappearances is likely to worsen as the Baloch are not going to give up their demand for an independent homeland.
Baloch analysts are concerned why an Egyptian country specialist of Persian descent was allowed to oppose the resolution, pointing out there is a conflict of interests as anyone with Iranian decent should not be allowed to speak out against a Baloch resolution. Both Iran and Egypt are solid allies of Pakistan internationally and play a key role at the United Nations to stifle the voice of freedom of expressions.
On October 1, Baloch human rights and political activists staged a protest demonstration in front of Amnesty International headquarters in London, U.K., against forced-disappearances and extra judicial killing of Baloch activists by Pakistan and Iran and Amnesty International’s inaction.
Amnesty International was launched in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer, whose aim was to obtain an amnesty for prisoners of conscience all over the world. However, Amnesty International did not recognize Nelson Mandela as a prisoner of conscience and not a single Baloch is on its list of prisoners of conscience.
Pakistan’s military intelligence and Inter-Services Intelligence got emboldened to commit enforced disappearances in Balochistan as U.S. intelligence outfits, the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigations, began abduction and torture so-called Islamic terrorists as part of of its war on terror in the wake of the 911 attacks.
About the author: Ahmar Mustikhan is a veteran journalist and Balochistan human rights and freedom activist based in the USA. He believes in upholding the truth, regardless of the costs. He speaks out his mind independently, without any dictation, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.