Balochistan and the Shadows of Genocide

February 28, 2024

Balochistan, via Wikimedia Commons

By Paria Anjum Rajput, ’26


Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan, yet the least populated and developed. While it is rich in natural resources, the people of the region live in deplorable conditions. Balochistan is the most politically and economically excluded Pakistani province. Basic necessities such as access to education have yet to be adequately provided by the Pakistani government. Consequently, the economic development of Balochistan has been hindered, and the situation is dire.

In part due to these conditions, Balochistan has become home to many separatist militants fighting to free Balochistan. In response, Pakistan has led a bloody counterinsurgency operation in the region. A major part of this operation has included enforced disappearances of suspected militants.

BBC News reports that, “The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances convened by the government records 2,752 active cases of enforced disappearances in the province as of January 2024.” And since 2004, approximately 7,000 cases have been registered with a non-profit organisation representing family members of those who disappeared in Balochistan.

Enforced disappearances place a person outside of the protection of the law through arrest, detention, or abduction by the State followed by the concealment of the disappeared person’s whereabouts. These disappearances violate human rights as well as international law.

Mahrang Baloch

A prominent human rights activist addressing enforced disappearances in Balochistan is Mahrang Baloch. She is at the forefront of the struggle against oppression in the region, and campaigns vehemently against the rampant issues of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings carried out by the authorities in Balochistan.

She has first hand experience with the horrors of these rights violations. On December 12, 2009, her father was forcibly abducted by Pakistan security forces while en route to the hospital in Karachi. At just 16 years old, she swiftly began protesting against his abduction, gaining recognition within the student resistance movement. In July 2011, her father was discovered deceased, bearing signs of torture. Her brother faced a similar fate; he was abducted in December 2017 and detained for over three months.

Following these events, Mahrang Baloch emerged as a prominent figure within the Baloch resistance movement, advocating against such atrocities and injustices.

The Long March

In December of 2023, Mahrang and the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) organised the Baloch Long March to demand the government to take accountability and end enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The March was instigated by the Counter Terrorism Department’s (CTD) alleged extrajudicial killing of a 24-year-old Baloch man, Balaach Mola Baksh, and three others in October of 2023.

Protesters marched to the capital of Islamabad, walking nearly 1,000 miles. As they walked they faced government pushback. BBC reports that, “at least 200 people were arrested and police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.”

This did not deter those fighting for their rights and loved ones. Mahrang told Voice of America on her way to the capital, “We demand that those who are disappeared should be released… we demand that CTD be disarmed so that in the future no one is abducted and then killed in a fake encounter. Our movement will continue until our demands are met.”

After their march, protesters began a peaceful sit-in in Islamabad. The protesters were primarily family members of victims of enforced disappearances, and included people from 2 to 80 years of age.

Still, the protesters continued to face governmental harassment. Amnesty International reports, “The Pakistani authorities mounted a campaign of disinformation against them and subjected them to repeated intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions.” The Programme Director for Law and Policy at Amnesty International said, “The Pakistani authorities should be ashamed.”

Conditions were only made worse for the protestors by the elements, as they slept in near-freezing temperatures during their month-long sit-in. Eventually, protesters had to return home.

Mahrang Baloch told Amnesty International, “The anti-Baloch attitudes of the state, judiciary, media and state-aligned intellectuals have forced us to conclude this phase of our protest. Over the past month, our peaceful protest has been surrounded from all sides by police…(and) we have been subjected to harassment, profiling and threats on a daily basis.”

But while the Long March may be over, Mahrang Baloch and others will continue their fight for justice.

Join them in calling the world to action against the human rights violations in Balochistan.

For more information on how to advocate for rights such as those currently being violated in Balochistan, visit the Human Rights Lab’s Advocacy Toolkit.

Paria Anjum Rajput, ’26, is a guest writer for the Albion College Human Rights Lab. She is a Political Science major and criminology minor at Forman Christian College Lahore, Pakistan. She has a passion for human rights and is also involved in different kinds of social work.

The views expressed here represent those of the author and not necessarily of Albion College.