Amnesty calls for probe over Baluchistan violence

ISLAMABAD — Rights group Amnesty International called on Pakistan Tuesday to investigate the alleged torture and killing of more than 40 political leaders and activists in the insurgency-torn province of Baluchistan.

Amnesty said the cases have occurred in the last four months against a backdrop of increasing political unrest and Pakistani military activities in the southwestern province which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

Violence has surged this year in Baluchistan and human rights activists have raised concerns about an increase in targeted killings in the province.

“The Pakistani government must act immediately to provide justice for the growing list of atrocities in Baluchistan,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International?s Asia Pacific director.

“Baluch political leaders and activists are clearly being targeted and the government must do much more to end this alarming trend.”

Amnesty warned that bullet-ridden bodies of those who have been abducted, many showing signs of torture, are increasingly being found across Baluchistan whereas previously bodies of the missing were rarely recovered.

Victims’s relatives and activists often hold Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies responsible.

Amnesty said a previously unknown group, Sipah-e Shuhada-e Baluchistan, has also claimed responsibility for some of the killings.

“The Pakistani government must show that it can and will investigate the Pakistani military and Frontier Corps, as well as intelligence agencies, who are widely accused of playing a role in these incidents,” said Zarifi.

Hundreds of people have died since Baluch rebels rose up in 2004 demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s wealth of natural oil, gas and mineral resources.

Amnesty warned that the rise in disappearances and bodies being dumped has aggravated political tensions and led to reprisal killings by Baluch groups.

On August 14, gunmen shot dead at least 16 people in Baluchistan. Amnesty said 17 people — all from Punjab province — were killed and that the Baluchistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

In response to the report, Pakistan said it was working to implement a package of political and economic reforms, which was unveiled last November in a bid to grant the province more independence and boost wealth creation.

“The democratic government is trying its best to protect human rights as enshrined in the constitution,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

There was no immediate comment from the military.

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