Baloch activists have approached the United Nations urging it to ask Pakistan to put a halt to the ongoing military operations in Kolwah and Awaran districts of Balochistan. They allege that the Pakistan army is attacking the civilian population in these areas, causing deaths and disappearances. The military operation has been going on for a month and the activists hold the military’s attempt to “sanitise” the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the reason behind the action. To condemn these operations, Baloch and Sindhi activists protested at the United Nations, where the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting was held this week, during which Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi gave his speech.
Explaining the Kolwah and Awaran operations, Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, secretary general, Baloch National Movement-North America, in a letter to the UN Secretary General, said, “Currently, 50 Pakistan army vehicles and six helicopter gunships are taking part in a military operation in the Kolwah area of Balochistan. The month-long ongoing military crackdown on the civilian population has resulted in several fatalities with a large number of locals gone missing, taken away by the soldiers to undisclosed locations. Homes, shops and businesses of the residents were burnt down by the army to force them out of the route that covers the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the interests of Islamabad and Beijing. Due to the complete media blackout, it is impossible for reporters to enter the area and inform the world.”
Explaining the genesis of the events, Johar Baloch, a Baloch activist living in exile said, “The operations of Pakistani forces in Kolwah and Awaran started just a few days after the earthquake in 2013. All the affected areas of Awaran and Turbat districts were cordoned off and many checkpoints and military camps were built. One of the major Pakistani military operations in Awaran was launched in June 2015, in which hundreds of civilians were abducted and many of them were killed. Thousands were compelled to leave their homes. After the 2013 earthquake, Pakistani forces did not leave Awaran and instead extended their brutalities to different areas of the district, including Kolwah, Jahoo and Mashkey.”
According to different activists, the current phase of offensives was started by the Pakistan army in the first week of August this year, and has not stopped yet. A battalion of Pakistani forces was deployed in different areas in Kolwah, including Marastan and Dandaar. Many houses and schools were converted into military checkpoints.
“On 8 August 2017, Pakistani forces raided my parents’ house in Karki Kolwah and made it their checkpoint and my family was displaced. The forces also attempted to rape a Baloch woman during an operation in the Jat village of Kolwah on 10 August 2017,” Johar added.
Most of the armed Baloch insurgents who fight against the Pakistan army on the ground are part of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). According to these insurgents’ updates on social media, the Pakistan army has cut internet connection in the area for over two weeks now. According to the BLF, earlier this week, BLF insurgents had ambushed a senior Pakistan army official’s vehicle and killed five Pakistani soldiers, including the Lieutenant General. A video of the ambush is doing rounds of social media.
Dr Sarang Ansari, organiser, JSQM (Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz) North America, said, “We strongly condemn Pakistani state policy of repressing the voice of political dissent in Balochistan and Sindh, resulting in mass enforced disappearances, targeted killings, forced conversion to Islam of Hindu girls and brutal sectarian violence deliberately targeting shrines of Sufi saints and places of worship of religious minorities in Sindh.” Ansari demanded immediate action by the UN to stop Pakistan from using terrorist jihadist outfits in Sindh and Balochistan against secular, nationalist organisations. “The UN should send a peace and human rights mission to Islamabad to find ways to end all military operations in Sindh and Balochistan,” Ansari added.
Nabi Bakhsh Baloch said, “This scenario is not about Myanmar or Rohingya Muslims, but Balochistan where Pakistan’s own army is committing genocide against its own Muslim population.”