Balochistan’s Dual Crisis of Human Rights Abuses and Economic Struggles


Easter Kunar Province: Afghan Side of the Durand Line. Photo by @AADIL for ADN, March 2024.

By Kadeem Baloch

As Pakistan celebrated Eid this year, the streets of Balochistan were painted crimson – not with the joyous hues of festivities but with the blood of innocent protesters.[1] The Baloch people, yearning for answers about their forcibly disappeared loved ones, took to the streets in a powerful display of resistance against the Pakistani state’s brutality and apathy. However, instead of being met with compassion, they encountered a callous crackdown that has become emblematic of Pakistan’s draconian policies in Balochistan. The Baloch have long been subjected to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and a systematic campaign of oppression by Pakistan’s security forces.[2] This reign of terror, cloaked in the guise of combating terrorism, has left countless families shattered, with their loved ones vanishing into the abyss of Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agencies. The recent protests were a desperate cry for help, a plea for the safe return of the disappeared and an end to the state’s heavy-handed tactics.

Yet, the Pakistani authorities responded with characteristic indifference and hostility. Instead of addressing the legitimate concerns of the Baloch people, they resorted to brute force, unleashing a wave of violence against peaceful protesters. Tear gas canisters rained down on families demanding answers, batons rained blows upon those seeking justice, and the deafening silence of the state drowned out the anguished cries of the oppressed. This brutal suppression of dissent exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of Pakistan’s claims of being a democratic nation. How can a country that prides itself on its commitment to human rights and the rule of law turn a blind eye to the systematic violation of the Baloch people’s fundamental freedoms? The right to protest, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to a fair trial – all enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution – have been trampled upon in Balochistan with impunity.

Voices of Protests 

The Baloch have been branded as terrorists, their legitimate grievances dismissed as the ramblings of separatists and their protests met with a heavy-handed military response. This narrative perpetuated by the Pakistani establishment seeks to delegitimize the Baloch struggle and justify the state’s iron-fisted policies. However, the truth is that the Baloch are fighting for their basic human rights, for the right to live in dignity and without fear of disappearance or extrajudicial execution. The Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), a prominent advocacy group, has been at the forefront of the protests, amplifying the concerns of the Baloch people and demanding accountability from the authorities.[3] The BYC’s insistence on concrete action to address enforced disappearances reflects the growing frustration and disillusionment among Balochistan’s populace. The committee’s calls for justice and transparency resonate with many who have been directly affected by state-sponsored violence and repression. The recent protests have once again shone a spotlight on the dire human rights situation in Balochistan, a region that has long been neglected and marginalized by the Pakistani state. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Baloch people, nor can it remain silent in the face of Pakistan’s blatant disregard for international laws and conventions.

Amidst the broader context of Balochistan’s ongoing protests, the teaching and non-teaching staff of Balochistan University in Quetta have added their voices to the chorus of discontent. According to a report by Pakistan-based Dawn, these university employees took to the streets in a march, highlighting their plight over the non-payment of salaries spanning four months.[4] Their grievances extended beyond mere financial concerns, as they questioned the allocation of funds, particularly when other departments seemed to receive their allocations without issue.

Their protest, initially staged in front of the Balochistan Assembly, symbolized their frustration and determination to seek redress for their grievances. Despite facing challenges, such as the need to set up a camp outside the assembly gate, their resolve remained unwavering. The assembly was informed of their protest, leading to the formation of a committee to engage with the protesters and address their concerns.

The committee, spearheaded by individuals including Mir Saddiq Umrani and Mir Ali Madad Jattak, held discussions with representatives of the protesting staff. The protesters articulated the financial hardships they endured due to the prolonged delay in salary disbursements. In response, the committee assured them that steps were being taken to resolve the issue promptly. They conveyed that the Chief Minister had already sanctioned a grant aimed at alleviating financial crises in universities, ensuring the impending disbursement of funds to address the salary and pension concerns of the protesting staff.

International Actions for Balochistan Rights 

The international community must exert pressure on Pakistan to end its campaign of oppression in Balochistan and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable. Sanctions and diplomatic isolation should be employed as tools to compel Pakistan to respect the rights of its citizens and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Baloch leadership. Furthermore, the Pakistani government must acknowledge the legitimate grievances of the Baloch people and take concrete steps to address them. This includes releasing all those who have been forcibly disappeared, providing families with information about their loved ones, and prosecuting those responsible for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The government must also ensure that peaceful protests are not met with violence and that the right to freedom of expression and assembly is respected.

The Baloch struggle is not a separatist movement, but a fight for basic human rights and dignity. The Pakistani state must recognize this reality and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Baloch leadership, addressing their concerns and working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The recent protests in Balochistan have once again exposed the ugly reality of Pakistan’s oppressive policies in the region. The brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters has tarnished the country’s international reputation and cast doubt on its commitment to human rights and democracy. It is time for Pakistan to change course, to embrace dialogue and reconciliation, and to grant the Baloch people the basic rights and freedoms that they have been denied for far too long.

The author chooses a pseudonym. Kadeem Baloch is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan. 

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles. 





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