Billboards have popped up across London highlighting a little-known human rights crisis in Pakistan. The World Baloch Organiation and the Baloch Republican Party appear to be the groups behind the initiative. The boards are emblazoned with slogans “ Help end enforced disappearances in Pakistan”, urging the international community to play their part in putting an end to the grave issue.
Speaking to the London Post, Bhawal Mengal from the World Baloch Organisation said “This is a call for help, our people need help, we need someone to put their foot down and say enough is enough, Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, Mohajirs and religious minorities in Pakistan have the right to live without oppression . Mothers, sisters and daughters weep for their loved ones not knowing if they are dead or alive. It is not only the victim that suffers but the entire family, not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones for years or in most cases for ever”. Mengal’s uncle Assaudullah Mengal was one of the first victims of enforced disappearances in 1974 at the hands of state forces, never to be seen again.
According to the group , the billboards have been placed on major motorways around the city including the M4, A102, A406 and Westminster, where the houses of Parliament is located. This comes as the UK hosts the quadrennial ICC cricket world cup attracting thousands of cricket fans to the country . The activists “hope to grab the attention of Londoners and those who have gathered from all around the world to witness the event’’ as the group pointed out.
According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, an entity established by the Pakistani government, 5000 cases of enforced disappearances have been registered since 2014. Most of them are still unresolved. Independent local and international human rights organizations put the numbers much higher. 20,000 have reportedly been abducted only from Balochistan, out of which more than 2,500 have turned up dead as bullet riddled dead bodies, bearing signs of extreme torture.
Teenage Ali Haider Baloch, who started protesting for the release of his missing father as a child 10 years ago, has reportedly himself become a victim of enforced disappearances on Wednesday at the hands of state authorities. His case however has been picked up by popular social media activists and journalists in Pakistan trending the hashtag #ReleaseAlihaider in support for his safe release .
In a statement released on their website , Abdul Bugti, a spokesman of the Baloch Republican Party said “The cases of enforced disappearances continue unabated as we campaign for an end to this heinous crime against humanity, there is hardly any household in Balochistan which has not lost a member as a result of enforced disappearances”.
Earlier, in January 2014 reports suggested a mass grave was discovered in Tootak area of Khuzdar. Official numbers of bodies recocered from the site varied from 20 all the way to 100 according to different news sources, however locals were reported to have claimed the recovery of 167 bodies from the site. Human rights organisations believed the bodies belonged to previously abducted individuals who were killed and dumped however the recovered bodies were later buried by authorities without any DNA testing.
Due to an extensive crackdown on freedom of expression regarding the issue of enforced disappearances, news of these violations rarely surface in international media channels. The military’s control over the local media is such that anyone reporting such incidents risks falling victim themselves. International NGO’s and Journalists are not given access to Balochistan where most of the cases of disappearances have been registered. These practices have been called out by several international rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, especially focussing on the infamous “Kill and Dump Policy”.
The organizers of the campaign have long been engaged in efforts to highlight the worsening human rights situation in Balochistan at international platforms, organising events around Europe and in the United States, focusing on advocacy activities in the European Parliament, the US parliamentary houses, and the United Nations.
The WBO and the BRP are non-violent and democratic organisations led by Baloch individuals, dedicated to raising awareness of the dire situation of human rights in Balochistan.
For further information please contact:
Twitter: @WorldBalochOrg @BRP_Mediacell