AHRC-STM-087-2009, April 11, 2009
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Fingers point at state intelligence agencies in the killings of three Baloch nationalist leaders
Three Baloch nationalist leaders were killed after their abduction by plain clothes persons in mysterious vehicles that bore no registration plates.
They were taken from the chambers of a prominent lawyer and their deaths have raised several questions on the role of state spy agencies, particularly about military intelligence (MI). All three murdered persons, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch and Lala Muneer Jan Baloch, were earlier kidnapped by the military intelligence agencies during 2006 and 2007 and each of them were disappeared for several months. After their release it was found that they were kept in the different military torture cells and severely tortured. They all were interrogated by the military officers about the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and funding for nationalist movements in the province against military operations.
The killings are tantamount as ‘witness killings’ as they all were previously disappeared by the army and kept in different military torture cells before being released. Therefore they might have proved dangerous in the probe about disappearances after arrests of political and nationalist activists.
The Asian Human Rights Commission issued an urgent appeal on the abduction and disappearance of two of the leaders, Mr. Ghulam Mohammad Baloch and Sher Mohammad Baloch. They were abducted when they were holding a meeting for the preparations for a protest demonstration against the murder of Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, the former chief minister of Balochistan by army personnel at his hide out. The details of their abduction in 2006 can be found on this link http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/2119/
The third one, Mr. Lala Muneer Jan Baloch, was also abducted in the month of February 2007 from Balochistan province by plain clothed persons and was kept in different military torture cells for almost eight months. These men were all released after the restoration of Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan by the Supreme Court on July 20, 2007, as their cases of disappearance were before the High Court of Sindh.
The military authorities could not find any evidence of their involvement in the so called secessionist movement in Balochistan province. They all were dumped at different places along the road sides bearing severe torture marks on their bodies. They were told before their release by their military captors that if they revealed anything about their captivity in the military torture cells then they will be killed or persons from their families will face the same fate.
Mr. Salim Baloch, vice president of Jamhoori Watan Party of Balochistan, was abducted by plain clothed persons on March 10, 2006, from Karachi, Sindh province, and was kept in military torture cells in the different cities of Pakistan particularly, in the Punjab province, and severely tortured. He was released in the month of December 2006 with the warning that he should not tell about his detention in the military cells. But he was again abducted within 36 hours after he gave his statement about his ordeal of 9 months of torture and illegal detention. In his statement made before the Sindh High Court, Mr. Salim Baloch believed that he would be rearrested by the secret military agencies as he was threatened by the military officers that it would happen if he told about his arrest and torture. Mr. Baloch requested the High Court to provide protection but it paid no attention to his plea. Please see link for the urgent appeal which documents his ordeals, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2007/2151/
An other case is that of Syed Abid Raza Zaidi, who was abducted by plain clothed persons from Karachi on April 26 and kept in military torture cells to get information on the Nishter Park incident of April 11. He was released in September but again abducted by plain clothed persons for not following the warning of the military authorities. After giving his statement before a panel discussion of Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan at Islamabad he was again abducted from another city of Lahore, Punjab province. Please see the details of the case through this link,
The brutal murder of the Baloch leaders is ample proof of the involvement of state agencies in their abduction from the office of the lawyer. In that they all were abducted in the same fashion as others abducted by plain clothed persons in broad daylight in vehicles without registration numbers. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan “the Baloch leaders were forcibly picked up, blindfolded and taken in cars, closely followed by vehicles belonging to the Frontier Corps.” The medical investigations by the doctors at Civil hospital Turbat, Balochistan, suggests that all the three were shot dead at close range with Kalashnikov AK47s and their bodies were badly mutilated. The medical report suggests that they were killed one week before the bodies were recovered.
The three murdered people were members of the government’s committee which was looking into the cases of disappeared persons since 2001 in the province. Mr. Ghulam Mohammad had already given a statement that he saw some persons in the Rawalpindi, Punjab, military centre who had been missing for several years. Their own experiences of disappearances and detention at military torture cells was a problem for the state intelligence agencies. Mr. Ghulam Mohammad was also involved in a dialogue with the persons who abducted Mr. John Solecki, the head of UNHCR mission at Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. He was one of the Baloch nationalist by whose efforts Mr. Solecki was released.
Killing of witnesses threatens the possibility of any justice regarding the large numbers of persons who have disappeared in Pakistan. These recent killings seem to indicate the mobilisation of secret units in order to eliminate those who have knowledge about the maintenance of secret prisons and torture chambers in the country. Particularly those who have taken a keen interest in pursuing justice relating to these matters have been made targets of these killings. It is likely that these killings will be followed by similar actions to others. The knowledge about these murders will also discourage victims and witnesses who want to narrate the human rights abuses they have suffered and to seek justice. The deadening silence imposed in such circumstances will obstruct all attempts to return to a normal situation of rule of law. Now with the intervention of the Supreme Court under the Chief Justice, Iftekhar Choudhry who has been reinstated by popular intervention. On the other hand the terror tactics adopted in this way will act to the advantage of the extremist elements who resort to terrorism
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Senior Researcher, South Asia Desk
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