Pakistani security forces have found a new way to torture the Baloch people. Pakistan’s Frontier Corps (FC), which manages the border, forced Baloch drivers to abandon their vehicles and march in the hot desert.
Over the last couple of days, social media footage showed many men, traders and drivers, lying in the desert in Chagai due to thirst and fatigue. The incident that happened in the Nokkundi area of Chagai district came to light a few days back during the month of Ramzan.
The drivers who survived the ordeal said that the forces seized their vehicles and poured sand in the radiators. The Pakistani security also took out the batteries from the vehicles and asked the drivers and traders to walk back in the scorching desert.
In another incident involving a Baloch driver, Pakistani forces opened fire on a vehicle killing the driver in Nokkundi. The driver, Hameedullah Baloch, was killed after security forces near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border signalled him to stop. According to The Balochistan Post, security forces opened fire after he disobeyed their orders to stop the vehicle.
The killings of drivers and traders over the last few days spawned numerous protests by people who blocked roads and even a freight train coming from Zahedan in Iran. The protesters blocked a road by placing Hameedullah Baloch’s body on the road. Eight protesters were injured after Pakistani troops opened fire on them.
The Baloch community enjoys cross-border relations with other Baloch people in both Afghanistan and Iran. With poor economic and livelihood opportunities in their own areas, many Baloch families survive only through cross-border trade.
Pakistani security forces came in for severe condemnation after the videos of bodies in the desert went viral.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement on the plight of the drivers. Hina Jilani, Chairperson HRCP, said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is alarmed to learn that a driver was killed allegedly by security forces in Chagai near the Pakistan-Afghan border while attempting to speed away in his vehicle when told to stop. Extrajudicial killings are unacceptable regardless of the circumstances and the perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.
Additionally, scores of drivers transporting goods across the border were reportedly deprived of their vehicles by security forces and left to fend for themselves in the desert. Many of them have still not been accounted for. The incident reflects a coldblooded disdain for basic humanity and the right to life”.
Significantly, the killings of the drivers and traders are taking place in Chagai district which is well known for being the mining hub of Balochistan. The world’s largest gold and copper mines, Reko Diq are located in Chagai. Even the Saindak mines with deposits of silver, gold and copper are located in the same region. This is one of the complaints by the alienated Baloch community that despite the rich deposits in their land, they are given second-class treatment by the Pakistani State.
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