ISLAMABAD - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a report has said that situation has not changed in Balochistan as enforced disappearances continue there and Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies were generally believed to be involved in such involuntarily disappearances.

HRCP Thursday launched the report of its fact-finding mission to Balochistan on the occasion of ‘International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances’ followed by a national consultation on missing persons that was held at a local hotel.

The HRCP mission visited the province from May 15 to 19, 2012 in order to assess the impact of the recent measures by the government with respect to the province and to hear suggestions from the stakeholders on a way out of the lingering crisis there.

The report of the mission says that in many fundamental respects the situation had not changed in Balochistan since HRCP’s last fact-finding mission to the province in 2011. Enforced disappearances continue in Balochistan, as do the dumping of bodies and impunity for the perpetrators. The law and order situation has worsened and sectarian killings increased in all districts.

Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies are generally believed to be involved in disappearance of people. In some cases their involvement has been proved beyond doubt. Failure to punish the perpetrators or to probe their involvement in a meaningful way is aggravating the situation. Unlike the past, the insurgents have systematically targeted infrastructure and development work.

However, the report says that there were some positive changes, each with a caveat, which offered hope for improvement in the situation. The Supreme Court hearings in Quetta certainly had a positive impact, although it remained to be seen if the impact would endure.

The mission found that the youth and political activists are more willing to talk and more keen to engage in efforts to resolve the crisis politically. Sincerity and reciprocity are needed to avail the opportunity. There is keen awareness that change is vital and a lot of people looked towards the forthcoming elections to deliver that change. If free and fair elections are held, progressive elements are expected to participate.

Some nationalists might not contest but others would. If the nationalists became part of the government things are generally expected to improve. However, lawlessness makes preparation for the elections difficult for nationalist parties, many of which had constituencies in insurgency-hit districts.

There was a general feeling that if there is genuine democracy, Balochistan’s woes could be minimised. But despite the government’s oft-voiced desire for a political solution to the crisis in Balochistan, no progress has been made on engaging through talks the nationalist elements in Balochistan.

According to mission’s report, there are multiple layers of violence and tension in Balochistan. Law and order is a problem that casts a long shadow on all aspects of life. The crime wave that has engulfed urban Balochistan and the main highways is either a mark of collusion or utter incompetence of the authorities. The government, law enforcement and security agencies have completely failed to deal with militant/insurgent, sectarian and criminal elements.

The kidnappings for ransom have become a profitable enterprise. No perpetrator has been arrested or tried. It was difficult to see how the kidnappers can operate despite heavy security deployment. The conclusion that most people reached in Balochistan is that the criminals are not arrested because they enjoy the patronage of the authorities.

The provincial home minister had spoken of fellow cabinet members’ involvement in this crime but no action was taken. Questions were raised as to who would give protection to the people, to the Hazaras, non-Muslims and to truck drivers who pooled money to pay ransom. The people generally expressed faith in the Levies force because of its being a local force. Police was not well respected.

The problems in Balochistan have long been looked at in the perspective of a Baloch insurgency and Baloch rights. There is a need to have a holistic look at all the problems in Balochistan, including those faced by a substantial Pakhtun population, the Hazaras, non-Muslims and settlers as well as economic and livelihood issues in the province.

The Talibanisation is growing in several areas. Unlike the past, religious fanaticism is not merely being exported to the province from elsewhere. It is now being bred in Balochistan. A growing network of madrassas has contributed to aggravation of inter-sect tensions. There are fears that the security forces are patronising militants and Quetta is being turned into a haven for militants. There are said to be militant training camps in the province.

Members of the mission were shocked at the glut of sophisticated firearms in Balochistan and the people’s easy access to them. It defied belief that huge quantities of weapons could pass through a series of check-posts when the common citizen was stopped even for carrying a knife. Had there been sincere efforts to curtail the free flow of weapons they would certainly have made a difference.