A poster from the Awaran Operation Twitter campaign (Image, Arawan Operation)
Its difficult to know what is going on in Awaran, a district in the south of Balochistan, Pakistan. National and international media appear to have very little access to report on the region. What scant information is coming out is through official government or military sources but what is often missing is the voices of locals. Reporting tends to be one sided through scarcity of opportunity and Balochistan does not hold a good safety record for locals and journalists that are often “disappeared” tortured and unlawfully killed. As Raza Rumi stated in September 2014,
“there is a dark history – and an equally murky present – when it comes to journalists working in Balochistan. Since the reawakening of the Baloch separatist movement after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006 and the subsequent security operations, the security situation in the province has deteriorated – with journalists being at the center of this conflict.”
What is coming from Pakistani media is that an operation was launched by Frontier Constabulary on Saturday 18th July 2015 which allegedly killed 9 militants including several from a banned group named the Baloch Liberation Front. The BLF are fighting for an independent Balochistan, claiming Balochs are a distinct nation which was annexed by Pakistan in 1947/48 following separation from India. According to Dunya, the Balochistan Interior Minster stated those who died in Saturday’s assault were terrorists “involved in killing of 44 personnel of FWO and were also involved in spreading terrorism in the province”. They were also said to be linked to incidents in Turbat and Mastung and a large quantity of arms were allegedly found. There are several insurgent groups active in Balochistan and some infighting which can also complicate the picture for those reporting on the conflict.
“Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch” (BLF) delivers his final message before death (Still from video)
Recently a video emerged on social media showing the final moments of “Shaheed Suleman aka Shehak Baloch” a BLF Commander before he died from gunshot wounds in what was claimed to be an encounter with Pakistan military. Several locals that were gathering for a funeral were alleged to have been “massacred” and dragged behind vehicles leaving their bodies barely recognizable. The video which appeared to show the bodies has since been removed. For background on the killing and some history of the troubles in Balochistan see following link,
“Balochistan, a troubled region: BLF commander delivers video message before dying of gunshot wounds”
Today Baloch activists took to Twitter to express their anger and concerns at what they claim is the second day of a military operation (Sunday) and called on human rights groups for support. Although comments could not be independently verified, here are some of the tweets:-
BRP (Balochistan Republican Party, Media Cell)
Pakistan Army conducting massive military operation in Geshkore area of Awaran, Balochistan.
Army operation in areas of Awaran entered in second day, several people have reportedly been killed & a woman..
Archen Baloch (Freelance journalist)
Military aggression continues in Awaran for the 2nd consecutive day. Heavy bombardment is underway in Bazdad village
Awaran is still under siege no local journalist is allowd to visit area to report the exact number of death toll
UN and international bodies must come to Awaran to witness Pakistani Army massacring Baloch children.
Three villages completely wiped out from surface of earth. Dozens stuck under rubble. No media or medical teams have access.
Activists were keen to point out that Awaran is under attack at the same time as talks are being held in London. Dawn states,
” three-member delegation of the Balochistan government headed by tribal elder and Minister for Services and General Administration Department Nawab Muhammad Khan Shahwani reached London to hold talks with the self-exiled Baloch leader and Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan.!
See link for details,
“Balochistan delegation in London to meet Khan of Kalat”
A post on Facebook regarding Awaran Operation (Image via Pirdan Baloc)
As talks are underway abroad there are claims of aerial bombardment, of attacks on civilian houses (which can constitute a war crime) and dozens of casualties. There is no way of ascertaining what is correct and what is not without independent reporters and human rights organizations being allowed into Awaran. There are now growing calls on Twitter for the Khan of Kalat to dismiss talks with CM Malik until the Pakistan Army withdraws from Balochistan.
“Breakthrough in Balochistan”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.