Washington: August 4, 2007. On Thursday August 02, 2007, three members of the World Sindhi Institute, including Executive Director, Munawar Laghari attended a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington with the Governor of Balochistan, Owais Ghani.
Governor Ghani gave a twenty minute presentation on "Balochistan: Critical frontier on the global war on terrorism". He spoke the issues faced by Balochistan in the present situation, the War against Global Terrorism, local insurgencies and Al-Qaeda in relation to Balochistan. He also highlighted that the province is undergoing economic and social development, in particular, education for women. However, he failed to mention the root of the Baloch people's dissatisfaction with the military regime: control over natural resources. Instead, he stressed that the dissatisfaction stems from religious extremists.
The Governor's presentation was followed by a Q/A session, in which he answered many questions. Munawar Laghari asked him specifically about the issue of disappearances in Balochistan. The Governor responded by saying that Mr. Laghari is "misinformed" and that the only arrests done in that province are those of Alqaida terrorists who flee from other provinces and take the route of Balochistan to enter Afghanistan. He made reference to his meeting with Dr. Haye Baloch, the Chairman of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) a year ago, in which Dr. Baloch asked the same question. To this, Ghani had asked him to provide a list of the disappeared persons in Balochistan, but was not presented with one. Mr. Laghari committed to send a list of missing Baloch people to the Governor soon (please see attachment for the list).
When presented with other questions relating to issues of concern to the Baloch people, Ghani stated repeatedly that the people in the room were "misinformed" and suggested them to visit Balochistan in order to see for themselves, how that province is prospering and is attracting foreign investments.
The discussion wrapped up with the Governor shaking hands and meeting with people. Although he conducted himself well during the presentation and discussion, he failed to answer crucial questions on the plight of the people of Balochistan.
Following are a few excerpts in reference to the point raised by Munawar Laghari:
Asian American Network Against Abuse of human rights (ANAA) quotes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) as, "while disappearances were relatively rare in Pakistan before 2001 - the year the twin pantheons of American free trade were brought to the ground. They have since become rampant, even outside of the `war on terror` aegis". An HRCP report published in January 2006 noted that "the Interior Minister of Pakistan acknowledged to the press that 4,000 persons are arrested in connection with the Balochistan situation. The charges against a number of these persons have not been disclosed to their families. In some cases it is not known where they are being detained, and furthermore the government has also not disclosed the identities of persons arrested during these operations. Other government members have given contradictory accounts of the number of persons arrested in Balochistan," it said. Amnesty International's Report, 2005 states that scores of people were arrested during demonstrations or for allegedly belonging to banned organizations. Most were released after several hours but some were held for prolonged periods in arbitrary and incommunicado detention. Some remained "disappeared" for longer periods despite families' efforts to trace them through the courts. Several journalists were held incommunicado for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
According to Daily Times, "Balochistan continues to remain the hub of illegal detentions and mysterious disappearances of political activists". The extra-judicial arrests also include journalists and relatives of political leaders. "Such tactics are applied by the government to emotionally blackmail politicians and divert attention from their political struggle," Kachkol Baloch, leader of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly, told Daily Times.
BSO-North America, quoting a leading Pakistani newspaper, expresses that over 3,000 political prisoners, mainly activists, relatives of political leaders, ordinary citizens of Balochistan and political opponents of General Musharraf, are being illegally detained in camps run by the Army and Intelligence Agencies in Balochistan. Relatives of those detained usually have no information on the whereabouts of their loved ones. The government has also not registered any cases against the detained suspects. Some of these suspects have been missing for years