How Pakistan, China's project turned Balochistan into land of disappeared

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 19, 2020, 01:29 AM IST

FILE Photograph:(AFP)

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Here's a report on how thousands of Balochs who opposed Chinese investments on their land disappeared

Pakistan's injustices in Balochistan are well-documented, but with the onset of CPEC projects in the region, human rights violations have only grown. 

Here's a report on how thousands of Balochs who opposed Chinese investments on their land disappeared. 

Balochistan, in Pakistan's southwest, is the largest and most resource-rich province in Pakistan. 

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For more than 60 years, Balochs have fought for their independence. 

However, their movement has caused gross human rights abuses. 

Abdul Hameed Baloch's mother stopped speaking after she got to know that her son and Abdul's brother is among the list of 5,000 people who have gone missing from the province. 

The 35-year-old factory guard disappeared in July and his brother Abdul has only his photographs that show Pakistan authorities taking his brother away. 

"If someone committed a crime, they should be punished. But what is my mother's crime? Why she is being punished? She has been weeping for her son day and night, now she has stopped speaking," said Abdul. 

Abdul believes that he could be the next one and is afraid to share his plight.

He is scared that he too might be picked up and dumped after being killed. 

"It is destruction, we cannot describe it, what is happening with us in Balochistan. Why is it happening to us? Why are they doing this? Only they know. It is a kind of destruction. We fear that if they know that I am talking about this destruction in Balochistan, maybe they will pick me up and dump me after killing me," he added.

27-year old Hani Baloch and her fiance never thought of themselves as dissidents.

But in May this year, just weeks before their wedding, Hani and her to-be husband Nasim were picked by Pakistani officials over accusation of being part of a pro-independence terror outfit. 

The couple were tortured, electrocuted and hit with rifle butts. 

"They tortured us, they gave us electric shocks while we were sat down on chairs, they hit my right foot with a rifle butt. I'm in pain when I walk. They hit my head with the rifle butt, I had six stitches on my head," Hani said. 

"We want all those who went missing to be recovered. If they are criminals, you have courts, you have jails, our lawyers will defend us. If they are found guilty, we will accept the punishment that the state gives us. But it is not acceptable to keep us in custody," Hani, whose fiancee is still missing, added. 

The conflict between Balochs and Pakistani administration intensified due to CPEC as billions of dollars of Chinese money is flowing into the region.

The project will provide jobs to outsiders and the locals will be pushed further into the margins. 

"CPEC has ignited it because Balochistan is not receiving any share, even labour is being brought from Punjab or Chinese workers are working, there is no trust in Baloch workers, they are not being given work over there, so that it is creating more hatred," said Asad Iqbal Butt, vice-president of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Karachi. 

Civilians paying the price

In 2019, Baloch rebels stormed into a luxury hotel overlooking a flagship CPEC project in Gwadar and in June this year, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange. 

The attacks were claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army, but it is the innocent civilians who have suffered the most. 

They get picked up by authorities on the slightest of doubt. 

A new wave of injustices can be seen in Balochistan as Pakistan is keen on protecting its business interests with China. 

And Balochistan has turned into the land of the disappeared.