We have been following the death of the Human Rights Activist Sabeen Mahmud. One of the last events she hosted, was on the ‘disappeared’ of Balochistan, those who have been killed by the State. She stood for Freedom of Speech, and encouraged debate. She also helped form a human chain around a Christian church in solidarity with the Christian community after an attack on a church in Peshawar. She was an avid voice for the Human Rights abuses in Balochistan. We also have looked at this region before. It is steeped in conflict not only from Pakistan, but Afghanistan, and even Iran. A couple of days ago a report broke about another Human Rights Activist who spoke about her grief over Mahmud’s murder. And now she is receiving death threats, rape threats and threats of charges of Blasphemy. So full of vitriol and hatred are these threats she had to delete her social media accounts. Freedom of the press and freedom of religion in Pakistan are non-existent, at the least, and anyone who dares to speak out is met with immense pressure, prison and even death. World Watch Monitor reports that now the Press club in Quetta is banning 4 Christian journalists for what they call proselytizing. Converting Muslims to Infidels.
(World Watch Monitor) The killing of a prominent Pakistani social activist has led to protests in Pakistan, two months after a Balochistan press club, which last year mourned the killing of three journalists, was ordered to expel four Christian journalists.
Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead in Karachi on 24 April, shortly after a debate, which she had organised, about alleged human rights violations in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largely impoverished south-western province. Mahmud ran an organisation, The Second Floor (T2F), which she described as “an inclusive space where different kinds of people can be comfortable”.
Meanwhile, in February, the press club in Quetta, the Baloch capital, received a letter claiming to have come from a new Islamist extremist group, ordering four Christian journalists to be banned.
Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan, is about 44 per cent of the total land mass but accounts for just 5 per cent of the total population. The province, which borders Afghanistan on the west, has long faced a rebel separatist movement, sponsored, Pakistan says, by its eastern neighbour, India. But Christians say they have no link to the separatist movement. Balochistan has seen the rise of religious militancy in recent years, with recent reports of infiltration by the Islamic State.
Against this backdrop, the four journalists have taken seriously the threats against them. The letter ordered the Quetta Press Club to suspend their membership (for defaming Islam and propagating Christianity) or face the consequences.
The letter, from a group called Fidayeen-e-Islam (Islam’s Men of Sacrifice), was received on 14 February. Irfan Rana, the joint secretary of the press club, lodged a report with the police the same day, but more than two months later, no progress has been made in the case.
What is Fidayeen-e-Islam? The name is Persian and means “those who sacrifice themselves” they are a type of voluntary militant group found in Persian culture extending to countries which (historically speaking) were, or are, Persian influenced. Fedayeen are not normally connected to an organized government or military and often operate in areas with little or no government control. Balochistan has been plagued with fighting Pakistan, India and Iran for more control over natural resources and government. This area also has ties to the Taliban, and Al-Queda. With accusations from all sides that Russia helped to organize resistance from this area during the Afghan conflict of the 80’s. What else do we know?
- “In the period 2003 to 2012, it is estimated that 8000 people were abducted by Pakistani security forces in Balochistan. In 2008 alone, an estimated 1102 Baloch people disappeared. There have also been reports of torture. An increasing number of bodies “with burn marks, broken limbs, nails pulled out, and sometimes with holes drilled in their heads” are being found on roadsides as the result of a “kill and dump” campaign conducted by Pakistani security forces, particularly Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Frontier Corps (FC) — which, until the 9/11/01 World Trade Center attacks, had sided with the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. In July 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a report on illegal disappearances in Balochistan and identified ISI and Frontier Corps as the perpetrators. The Pakistan Rangers are also alleged to have committed a vast number of human rights violations in the region. No one has been held responsible for the crimes.”
- In late 2011, the Balochistan conflict became the focus of dialogue on a new U.S. South Asia strategy brought up by some U.S. congressmen, who said they were frustrated over Pakistan’s alleged continued support to the Afghan Taliban, which they said led to the continuation of the War in Afghanistan (2001-present). Although this alternative to the Obama Administration’s Af-Pak policy has generated some interest, “its advocates clearly do not yet have broad support”.
- In the 1980s the CIA, the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Pakistani Sunni extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and the Mujahedin e-Kalq supported a Baluchi tribal uprising against Iran.
So I have many questions, why are they cleansing the area of reporters and Human Rights Activists? What don’t they want the world to know? This abuse of torture, rape, murder and slaughter is a very dark side of Pakistan one that isn’t allowed to surface. A side that so many Christians there have already experienced first hand. Not only in Balochistan but the whole of Pakistan. Why do we keep finding, Iran, the Taliban, Al-Queda and even ISIS in these abuses and slaughter? Many unanswered questions. The more you peel away at the layers it’s like the onion, it stinks. Another Rights Activist in the region begs the question why do assassins think that killing one will silence everything? Which is a very good question, one that I’ve pondered many times. Killing someone who speaks out, does not silence everyone. We must band together, and stand in solidarity with those brave enough to speak out against the injustices of wicked men. The innocent, the weak, the minorities, those fleeing for their lives, we must be their voice. We will continue to follow this story and update on information as it becomes available.
C. Refsland, VOP Advocate/News Analyst