Baloch families and their unending fight for the disappeared persons
For over a decade, families of those who have disappeared in Balochistan have gathered outside the Quetta Press Club demanding answers to who took away their family members. These daily sit-in protests began in 2009 when Deen Mohammad, a doctor was abducted by unknown men. These daily sit-ins sometimes take place with less than a dozen people while on other days many more join, with some families like the doctor's two daughters being among the regulars who have been fighting since the beginning. The voice of missing persons of Balochistan was brought to the limelight when Mama Qadeer, the Vice Chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) started a hunger strike in front of the Quetta Press Club. He then went on to do the same in front of Karachi and Islamabad Press Clubs. To highlight the issue, Mama Qadeer had led a foot march from Quetta to Karachi and then from Karachi to Islamabad. They made history by walking 2500 kilometres against disappearances in Balochistan.
The enforced victims appear to have been targeted because of alleged participation in Baloch nationalist parties and movements. Further, this campaign in Balochistan has sometimes declined but over the last few years, it has intensified. However, this fight has only remained with the province or at max the country, it has seldom drawn international attention. This issue has caused significant harm to families where they live with continuous uncertainty about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones with their lives often completely disrupted by the disappearance. The main demand of these families is that they want answers to who took their family members away, demanding that they are brought back. Further, although they demand that their missing relatives should come back, they say that justice is incomplete without perpetrators being held to accountable. Families for long have tried to reach out to the federal human rights ministry, the military and Balochistan's government, seeking answers to their question; however, they often go unanswered. In 2019, the military issue a statement sympathizing with families of missing Balochs, stating that some may have joined militant groups and that not every person missing is attributable to the state. (Reuters, "Baloch families seek answers as more disappear," Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Issue of Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan
The issues of enforced disappearances have continued despite guarantees from successive governments to criminalize the practice, further, this practice has for long been a stain on Pakistan's human rights record. ("Pakistan: Enduring Enforced Disappearances," Amnesty International, 27 March 2019) The Annual Report published by the Human Rights Council of Balochistan reported that 2019 saw no improvement in the human rights situation for the people in Balochistan. Enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, target killings and military operations continued unabated and with impunity. It received partial details of 568 cases of enforced disappearances and 241 killings during the year 2019. ("Balochistan 2019: Military whisked away 568 persons and killed another 241", Hakkpan Annual Report 2019, Human Rights Council of Balochistan, 8 March 2019)
The issues of enforced disappearance are so rampant in the province that every second home in Balochistan has been subjected to a disappearance where receiving a disfigured dead body has become a norm. Further, every other home in the province lives under the fear that the security forces could pick up their male family members at any time, thus leaving many to live in fear and the unhappy. The figure for this year shows that those enforced disappearances are still being reported. Further, amid the pandemic when which made travel and postal communication impossible and the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CoIoED) received 70 new complaints. (I.A. Rehman, "Thousands still missing," Dawn, 4 June 2020)
Trouble at the political end
PM Imran Khan committed to criminalizing enforced disappearances. In January 2019, Pakistan's Ministry of Human Rights submitted a draft bill to the Ministry of Law and Justice to criminalize enforced disappearances. Further, the BNP-M and PTI agreed to form an alliance, Akhtar Mengal gave the government a list of 5128 missing persons, since then over 450 of the people on the list have been found or returned to their families, however during the same period Mengal stated that another 1800 were reported to have disappeared adding "If you cannot recover people, at least stop disappearing more people. However, not much was achieved which manifested itself with the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) quitting the PTI alliance, frustrated by unfulfilled promises to address grievances including the festering issue of the disappeared. ("BNP-Mengal parts ways with govt," The Express Tribune, 17 June 2020)
Increasing militancy in the Balochistan
According to the Pakistan Security Report 2019 published by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) for the past few years, much of the militant violence in Pakistan has visibly concentrated in Balochistan. In 2019, Balochistan appeared the most critical area in terms of security challenges. In particular, the violence led by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) managed 27 terrorist attacks in 2019, including 25 in Balochistan, and one each in southern Punjab and interior Sindh, killing 40 people and injuring 120 people. ("Pakistan Security Report 2019," PIPS, 5 January 2020) In this year the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange last month is seen to be the most high-profile attack by the group along with the numerous attacks on security personnel who patrol the area. Further, militants have frequently targeted Chinese construction projects in Gwadar and other Chinese interests in the country.
"Balochistan suffers from many missed opportunities and unfulfilled promise," says a former police officer
An Opinion in the Dawn titled Baloch nationalism by Tariq Khosa states that to understand Baloch nationalism the history and culture of Balochistan must be taken into account. He states that Balochistan suffers from many missed opportunities and unfulfilled promises. The author notes how Abdul Karim and Nauroz Khan were deceived into surrendering on the promise of safe passage. But were instead sentenced long imprisonment by the military courts after the second insurgency broke out in 1948 after Mir Ahmed Yar Khan signed the instrument of accession with Pakistan, under One Unit. Further, in 1962, the third insurgency broke out following the 1962 elections which several nationalists like Khair Baksh Marri and Ataullah Mengal were elected, Ayub Khan dismissed them and later Musharraf, threatened them with extinction if they opposed him. In 1973, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promised provincial autonomy in return for Baloch support for a consensus constitution. However, the fourth insurgency broke out when he dismissed Ataullah Mengal's government. The current insurgency was taken up by Nawab Akbar Bugti, but his unfortunate death in a cave near Kohlu in 2006 has only caused further alienation. The author concludes by stating that festering wounds need to be healed. Further, commending the decision to revive the parliamentary committee on Balochistan, he stated that the path of reconciliation as recommended by CT NAP in December 2014 must be pursued. (Tariq Khosa, "Baloch nationalism," Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Six Baloch nationalist parties (BRAS) terrorist arrested
On 18 July, District West's Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Fida Hussain Janwari said, six terrorists of a Baloch nationalist party, Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), from Karachi, were arrested. He also said, "This outlawed organization is running its activities from Afghan soil and is also involved in attacking security forces in Balochistan also the arrested culprits have admitted Indian spy agency RAW's support for their organization". ("Terror attack foiled, six RAW agents arrested in Karachi", The Nation, 20 July 2020)
CM of Balochistan states action has been initiated against 'ghost' employees
The Balochistan government has launched action against ghost employees in the province. The Chief Minister of Balochistan stated that in the first phase, the information will be collected about ghost employees working in the education and health departments. Further, the minister stated that deputy commissioners in all districts of Balochistan have been asked to send lists of ghost employees posted in these two departments to the government immediately. Further stating that ghost employees would not be tolerated in any government department, adding that an investigation will be launched in other departments as well. (Saleem Shahid, "Action initiated against 'ghost' employees in Balochistan," Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Pakistan's population "growing rapidly with an annual fertility rate of 3.6 children per couple," ays World Population Report
The World Population Data Sheet 2020, released by the US Population reference bureau estimating world today with 7.8 billion inhabitants. The report projected that Asia's overall population might rise by 15 per cent — from 4.6bn in 2020 to 5.3bn in 2050. Pakistan and Afghanistan have been the fastest-growing region among the South Asian countries. Afghanistan, with a population of 38.9 million and a high death rate and low life expectancy the rate has a faster growth rate of 4.5 per couple as compared to Pakistan. According to the World Population Report, "Pakistan's total population is estimated at 220.9 million, and it is growing rapidly with an annual fertility rate of 3.6 children per couple.
In comparison to other south Asia countries, Bangladesh has a 'total population in 2020 is estimated at 169.8m, with an annual growth rate of 2.3' whereas India being a 'second-largest population in the world but has reduced its fertility rate to 2.2'. ("Population in Pakistan continues to grow rapidly: Report", Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Dual Nationalities in the Cabinet and Imran Khan's hypocrisy
On 19 July, Information secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb called out PM Imran Khan for his hypocrisy regarding the dual nationalities' holding profiles in the Cabinet and Assembly. The opposition is concerned about the appointment of "permanent residency and green card" holders in the federal Cabinet and wants them to be sacked immediately. PPP leaders questioned loyalties of the dual nationals and called their appointment a yet another "major U-turn" by Mr Khan government.
The Opposition Questions PTI
PPP's secretary general Nayyar Bokhari asked how the appointments could be considered lawful. Senator Sherry Rehman, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate, asked why dual nationals were being made a part of the Cabinet when they were not eligible to even become members of the Parliament. ("Transparency drive: Politics heats up on PM's pledges," The News International, 20 July 2020) Marriyum criticized PM Khan for awarding key positions to the dual nationals and billionaires in his Cabinet. She said that foreign groups were deciding Pakistan's future and is responsible for pushing the country into an economic crisis. Marriyum reminded PM Khan of his earlier statements and remarks regarding dual nationals' appointment into the Cabinet or their presence in the Assemblies. "His hypocrisy is shameless as his duplicity is destroying a nation. All Imran Khan is missing is a flute," she tweeted with a video clip of a speech by the PM in which he vows that he will not have a single dual-national or green card holder in his Cabinet. Marriyum has also said that the SAPMs are "a product and baggage of the 23 illegal accounts" referring to the foreign funding case against PTI.
Why the uproar?
PTI and Imran Khan have been strong voices against the political participation of dual nationals and green card holders at high levels. The question of their participation has always been controversial. Hence PTI's choice of Cabinet members is ironic and hypocritical. Many have called for a non-political and rational approach to the issue. What is lacking is clarity in law regarding the level of political participation allowed to dual-nationals. ("Dual Nationals In Cabinet," The Nation, 20 July 2020)
Foreign Minister defended Imran Khan's decision saying that all governments require technical expertise. He added that an amalgam of elected persons and technical experts makes for a "healthy balance". ("Dual nationalities of PM's aides: FM Qureshi says every govt needs technical expertise," The News International, 20 July 2020)
The uproar came a day after the details of assets and dual nationalities of SAPMs were released by the Cabinet Division, aimed at boosting the government's "transparency". Four out of the 19 non-elected cabinet members hold dual nationalities: SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (the United Kingdom), SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar (the United States), SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania S. Aidrus (Canada) and SAPM on Power Division Shahzad Qasim (the US). Four hold residency or green card of other countries: SAPM on National Security Moeed Yousuf (the US), SAPM on Political Affairs Shahbaz Gill (the US), Ms Aidrus (Singapore) and SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination Nadeem Afzal Gondal (Canada). ("Opposition wants PM to sack dual national aides," Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Analysis on fake licences, ask tough questions
With the Oman Civil aviation Authority and European Unions's actions against PIA, the issue is spiralling. The analysis says that the investigation into PIA commenced way before the Aviation minister's speech: missing the deadline for satisfying the criteria of Safety Management System (SMS) and the Karachi crash had already put PIA on European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the international community's radar. The Aviation Division's "fake licence" list includes 101 active PIA pilots; at least four of them were involved in major or minor aircraft accidents. As per reports, discrepancies in the licensing process of pilots have been found, however, the PCAA Director-General in his 13 July 2020 letter to Oman's DG CAA, has clarified that all PCAA issued Commercial Pilot Licence and Air Transport Pilot Licence are genuine and validly issued. The analysis also estimates the fiasco's financial cost at a hefty Rs90 billion's revenue shortfall during FY2020-2021's first six months. ("Pilots fake licence fiasco: what went wrong?" The News International, 20 July 2020)
An analysis explains PTI's Punjab dilemma
The politics in general and in Punjab revolves around families, biradaris and caste-like Jaat, Arain, Rajput and Kashmiris. PTI considers Chief Minister Usman Buzdar as only 'option or a secret weapon as his presence has led to 'political vacuum' which will be beneficial for other parties in Southern Punjab. ("Govt dilemma in Punjab", The News International, 20 July 2020)
Sindh negligent over electricity theft, centre accuses
The Centre, on 19 July accused the Sindh government of inaction towards 'electricity theft' in the province. The provincial government never extended any support to distribution companies to combat electricity thefts the federal energy ministry said in a statement. They even blocked registration of FIRs against influential people suspected of wrongdoing. Earlier, Sindh's energy minister Imtiaz Sheikh had accused the federal energy minister Omar Ayub Khan of misleading the Senate over "load shedding". He had also told the central government to take "practical steps" if it was "serious about load shedding". ("Centre accuses Sindh of inaction over power theft", Dawn, 20 July 2020)
PML-N and PPP chiefs converse, raises hopes of an alliance
On 19 July, PML-N chief Shabaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari shared their views, in a telephonic conversation, and agreed to 'increase their contacts'. The conversation between top leaders of the parties has raised hopes of an anti-government alliance. Meanwhile, the parties are also preparing a "concrete anti-government agenda "and planning a national level 'Multi-party" conference. Ahsan Iqbal, PML-N's general secretary, said a day ago that his party would launch a Punjab Bachao drive as the province has been ruined in PTI's rule. ("Shahbaz and Bilawal speak on phone, boost hopes for alliance", Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Dawn editorial asks: Where is Ehsanullah?
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesperson of banned TTP, had escaped from the security custody in January. On 17 July, PPP demanded to know what Ehsan's current status and why he was not in custody. Later asked, 'the government to disclose the details of his ostensible escape and tell the nation who had a hand in it'.
According to the editorial, a twitter account used by him, series of tweets 'on a death threat against PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, saying that the latter would meet the same fate as his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto'. ("Where is Ehsanullah?", Dawn, 20 July 2020)
Government to present its ordinance to Parliament
The law ministry had proposed to present the ordinance in the National Assembly as it expires today. Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said 'the first consular access under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 was provided on 2 September. First meeting, on 25 December 2019, his mother and wife were also allowed. The second access to, two consular officers of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was provided unimpeded and uninterrupted on 16 July. On 17 July, 2019, the ICJ had rejected 'remedies sought by India, including annulment of military court decision convicting Kulbhushan Jadhav, his release and safe passage back to India'. ("Govt likely to get Indian spy Jadhav ord. approved from Parliament", The Nation, 20 July 2020)
PM Imran Khan reaffirmed its support to Kashmir
On 19 July, PM Imran Khas reaffirmed Pakistan's support to Kashmir. He said, ""Kashmiris' right of self-determination is recognized by the United Nations Security Council as well as international laws. We will continue to fight for justice for Kashmiris as they struggle against the brutal & illegal actions of the Hindutva Supremacist Indian government". ("Pakistan reaffirms support to Kashmiris' struggle", Dawn, 20 July 2020)