Quetta: At the provincial launch of its flagship annual
report, *State of Human Rights in 2018*, the Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan (HRCP) notes that, in a year of general elections, it was perhaps
inevitable that the progress and observation of human rights issues might
be suspended, if not forgotten altogether. The elections themselves were
plagued by allegations of pre-poll manipulation and vote rigging as well as
some appalling outbreaks of violence, notably in Mastung and Quetta, which
left at least 180 people dead.
The report notes that sectarian violence in Balochistan has
disproportionately targeted the Shia Hazara community. In Quetta, they
remain confined to Hazara areas: their movement is restricted as is their
access to markets and schools. The state’s response has been to establish
security convoys that accompany members of the community when they leave
Hazara areas, but this does not guarantee their security and is, arguably,
a short-term solution to sectarian violence in the province.
Citing the Baloch Human Rights Organisation and Human Rights Council of
Balochistan, HRCP’s report states that at least 541 partial reports of
enforced disappearance had surfaced in 2018. In August 2018, the chairman
of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances said that ‘merely
131 cases’ of missing persons in Balochistan were being heard. The lack of
more comprehensive official data on enforced disappearances – and the
Balochistan media’s apparent powerlessness to report on these – is a poor
reflection on the state’s political will to eliminate this searing problem.
The report also notes that malnutrition is still a serious threat to
children’s health in the province, to the extent that a nutrition emergency
was declared in Balochistan in November 2018 by the provincial health
minister. While a Nutrition Cell was established to address chronic
malnutrition, the state must prioritise and sustain its efforts to protect
one of Balochistan’s most vulnerable segments.
Highlighting the alarming frequency of mining accidents in Balochistan,
HRCP’s report documents at least three major accidents in 2018, in which at
least 57 miners were killed in 2018 alone. It also points out that, in
September, the Supreme Court asked the Balochistan government to file a
reply on a petition moved to highlight the deaths of over 300 mine workers
since 2010. Despite this, there has been no concerted effort to monitor and
enforce occupational health and safety in Balochistan’s mines.