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COMMENT : Expecting strawberries from acacia trees — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The previous WGEID's annual report stated that enforced disappearances in Pakistan had reached unprecedented levels, voicing concern over abductions of civilians in Balochistan
The 10-day visit of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), comprising Olivier de Frouville, Osman El Hajjé and others, to observe the state of human rights, especially in relation to the 'enforced disappearances' primarily blighting Balochistan and to a lesser extent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, has evoked indignation and outrage in the National Assembly for its supposed violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and the threat it poses to Pakistan's integrity. Never have I seen a more fragile and insecure country and its representatives who feel threatened by a WGEID delegation comprising internationally respected human rights experts. No Rambos, these.
During its visit, this delegation is to meet federal and provincial government representatives, civil society and family members of the missing persons to collect information about enforced disappearances, with special emphasis on Balochistan, and report back to the UN Human Rights Council, which will review the measures taken by the government for recovering the victims of enforced disappearances. The previous WGEID's annual report stated that enforced disappearances in Pakistan had reached unprecedented levels, voicing concern over abductions of civilians in Balochistan and elsewhere. It is supposed to meet the military leadership and intelligence agencies, but reports say this may not happen.
In the National Assembly, a junior minister, Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj, criticising the mission said, "It would be the first step leading towards the disintegration of the country." He also termed it, "a failure on the part of the Foreign Office." The Chief Justice has refused a meeting on flimsy grounds of the matter being sub judice while the Inspector General of FC Balochistan declined on a different plea. Sheer paranoia and xenophobia afflicts the establishment and its representatives but then nothing else can be expected of those fearing scrutiny of their human rights violations and atrocities.
This delegation is here at its organisation's request. I A Rehman in his article, "The UN and the missing" in a national English daily (July 19, 2012) said WGEID had requested Islamabad to invite its mission on September 29, 2010 but was turned down twice. This also belies Hina Rabbani Khar's claim of inviting them. They have come to observe further what the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay saw and heard during her visit here. After her four-day visit, while addressing a press conference on June 6, she said, "I am concerned by allegations of very grave violations in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations...These include extrajudicial killings, unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearances," and had stressed, "I see indiscriminate killings, injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations." She had emphasised that disappearances in Balochistan had become "a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair" and urged the government and the judiciary to investigate and resolve the cases. She regretted not visiting Balochistan and Sindh.
Amina Masood Janjua, the chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights Council, met the delegation and presented a list of 700 persons; they advised her to register the cases with a global body. The chief of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), Nasrullah Bungulzai, says approximately 14, 000 people of Balochistan have been disappeared but ironically, the Missing Persons Commission Chairperson Justice (Retd ) Javed Iqbal has the cheek to tell the delegation that only 29 persons are missing. Although people fear the agencies' reprisals, yet 204 families appeared in person before the Supreme Court seeking recovery of relatives. He not only overlooked those but also the nearly 600 persons who were abducted, tortured, killed and dumped to intimidate those struggling for Baloch rights. The chief of VBMP says they have been allotted two-hour slots to meet the delegations.
The WGEID's intended visit to Balochistan is uncertain because it depends on the UN Department of Safety and Security's (UNDSS) internal security report and security clearance from Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The visit will probably be cancelled on security concerns.
All this simply shows that the leopard will never change its spots. As hard as the Pakistani establishment may try to present itself as an embodiment of tolerance and democracy, it essentially remains the very antithesis of these. Their visceral intolerance of diversity is as bigoted as it is racist to the extent that some Generals threatened changing the Bengali people's identity by 'cleansing' their genes. Khaled Ahmed in his op-ed, 'Genetic engineering in East Pakistan' in a national English daily (July 7, 2012) quotes Major-General (Retd) Khadim Hussain Raja from his recently published book A Stranger in My Own Country: East Pakistan, 1969-1971 (OUP, 2012). He says, "[Enter] Commander East Pakistan General Niazi, wearing a pistol holster on his web belt. Niazi became abusive and started raving. Breaking into Urdu, he said, Main iss h........ qaum ki nasal badal doon ga. Yeh mujhe kiya samajhtey hain. He threatened that he would let his soldiers loose on their womenfolk. There was pindrop silence at these remarks. The next morning, we were given the sad news. A Bengali officer, Major Mushtaq went into a bathroom at the command headquarters and shot himself in the head" (Page: 98).
My exiled friend Sanaullah Baloch, while lamenting the apathy at atrocities against the Baloch tweeted, "Parliamentarians are silent when citizen disappear and their mutilated bodies dumped. They cry when the UN's credible body takes notice of the crime." In reply, I had tweeted, "Expecting parliamentarians here to see or speak about atrocities is like expecting strawberries from acacia (babool) trees." Undoubtedly, expecting justice from Pakistan for the Baloch is as naïve and foolish as expecting strawberries from acacia. It should also be understood that the WGEID's visit will not change Baloch adversity by an iota but will only help highlight their plight. The mentality and the attitude that the Baloch are up against is starkly obvious; Pakistan envisages a solution of its choice. But if among the Baloch there still are people who believe that elections and constitutional politics will secure them their rights, then for them Albert Einstein's quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results", is fully applicable.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at email@example.com