- Report claims that images of cooperation with Baloch tribesmen are ‘propaganda’
Baloch nationalists have rejected the Pakistan Army’s claims that it is winning the struggle against separatist insurgents in Balochistan, saying that army brutality is growing and worsening hostility towards Pakistan, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report on Tuesday.
The BBC report chronicles the rise of the insurgency.
“The latest wave of insurgency was triggered after the army bombed and killed an elderly Baloch tribal chief, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006. Nine years on, the army says the militants – or “the miscreants” as it likes to call them – are either on the run or increasingly laying down their arms,” it stated.
Baloch poet Ghani Parwaaz, who has said that footage of tribesmen surrendering is only propaganda, according to the report, has also called a government campaign offering amnesty to activists who give up their arms farcical.
“Everyone knows it’s a part of an official propaganda,” he says. “Hardly any one of those shown surrendering on television news channels is a known fighter. In fact, many of them are reportedly extortionists linked to the army-backed politicians in the government,” he said in the BBC report.
The report claims that the army and other subsidiary security forces, including the Frontier Corps have taken into custody and eliminated hundreds of suspected separatists.
“To this end, the forces were accused of employing “death squads”, gangs of criminals allowed to unleash a reign of terror against those deemed enemies of the state. From a military standpoint, the approach may have yielded some results. But in the longer run, it has further tarnished the army’s image as a ruthless force on a killing spree of its own citizens,” the BBC report asserted.
Civilian governments have also been at a loss as to how they should be dealing with the situation. However, they have been too weak to tackle the situation, leaving the military in control. The result of this has not been favourable.
“Critics accept that security has improved in the provincial capital, Quetta, and some other areas. However, they say the situation has worsened in other districts in the east and south of the province. Rights activists accuse the military of bombing entire villages in its attempt to hunt down alleged Baloch militant leaders,” the BBC report says.
“And so, in Balochistan, the Pakistani army still inspires fear and resentment. In Turbat, public hatred of the army is best expressed in graffiti on walls denouncing Pakistan, its security forces and their alleged “kill-and-dump” approach. The only Pakistani flags you see here are on security check posts or on their vehicles,” the report continues.
The BBC report also talks about the media in Pakistan. Despite being free and open, the abuse being suffered by Baloch rights activists seldom makes it to news channels.
“Journalists say they are under intense pressure to promote a positive image of the army and its chief, General Raheel Sharif – they believe it’s part of a public relations offensive to present the army as a saviour of the nation, while discrediting the political class,” the report states.
“Foreign reporters are not allowed to travel to Balochistan without the army’s approval. Over the years, scores of local reporters have been shot dead. Those who survive live under constant fear of upsetting one side or the other,” it adds.
The report did not contain comments from the Pakistan Army or its media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).