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Rights Situation In Balochistan Is Worrisome: HRCP

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QUETTA: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that the media situation in Balochistan is disturbing.

During a press conference held at the Quetta Press Club on Thursday, senior human rights activists, including I.A. Rehman, showed concern that the mainstream media of the country meted out the same treatment to Balochistan as has been the norm with the state media.

Addressing the participants, Rehman said, “Balochistan has always been viewed as a conflict zone by the state government”, while adding that this was the only reason why the rest of the country was clueless about the affairs of Balochistan. “The truth seldom comes out of the province,” he regretted.

HRCP’s Husain Naqi, Harris Khalique, Zahoor Ahmad Shahwani, and Habib Tahir also attended the press conference.

The commission launched the provincial flagship annual report, titled ‘State of Human Rights in 2018’, and highlighted five points of concern in connection with the affairs of Balochistan.

The report said that due to the election year, one cannot deny that the concept of human rights and the initiatives undertaken in this regard were suspended and almost forgotten, especially during election year.

Last year’s general elections were marred by rampant allegations of pre-poll rigging in the province while sudden outbreaks of violence were also witnessed, particularly in Quetta and Mastung. At least 180 people had also lost their lives in election related violence, with the highest casualties suffered by the minority Hazara Shia community.

The HRCP report stated that sectarian violence in Balochistan was on the rise in which the Hazara community was being heavily targeted. It said that in Quetta, the Hazara remained confined to their areas only, while their movement was restricted in markets and schools.

Moreover, the report said that the only response that the state could come up with to protect the Hazaras was to establish security convoys that accompany members of the minority community when they leave their traditional areas. But such measures do not necessarily guarantee success and do not prove effective in the long run.

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The HRCP report also includes citations from the Baloch Human Rights Organisations and Human Rights Council of Balochistan showing that at least 541 partial reports of enforced disappearances were reported in 2018.

In August 2018, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances chairman said that ‘merely 131 cases’ of missing persons have been heard in Balochistan. The problem is further aggravated due to the unavailability of comprehensive data on enforced disappearances and the media blackout in the province only make matters worse. The HRCP report states that such a situation only points towards the weak political will of the state to control this growing menace.

In addition, the report also touches upon the issue of malnutrition in the province by terming it a serious threat to the health and well-being of children in the province. The situation is so bad that the provincial health minister had to declare a malnutrition emergency in the province.

Appreciating the provincial government’s efforts to establish a nutrition cell, the report recommended that efforts in this direction should be sustained to protect the most vulnerable segment of Balochistan.

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