On 9th June, Sunday, World Baloch Organization and the Baloch Republican Party jointly launched a human rights awareness campaign in London with the aim of garnering international attention to the abuse of the ethnic Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun, Mohajir and other religious minorities in Pakistan. The campaign is strategically organised at a time when London potentially has the highest number of tourists from across the world with the on-going Cricket World Cup but in light of the previous protests staged across the UK and Europe, Bhawal Mengal, a representative of the WBO, hopes to draw widespread support from the community.
“The reaction from the Pakistan government is the same regardless of where we protest. But these ads look to bring the attention of Londoners and foreign tourists towards the dire situation, and we hope the International community stands up for our rights and pressures the Pakistani establishment into putting an end to the inhumane practice,” said Bhawal Mengal.
Balochistan was previously a British colony that was granted independence in 1947. It was forcefully annexed by Pakistan in 1948, against the people’s will, and has been militarily occupied ever since. Pakistan has consistently refused a referendum on independence. WBO activists allege that Pakistan is seeking to impose on the UK the same censorship about Balochistan that it imposes inside Pakistan. It’s iron-fisted rule is so brutal that it will not allow journalists, human rights monitors and aid agencies to enter Balochistan. This campaign is intended to focus on the issue of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, where according to some activists, thousands of civillians have been forcibly abducted by the country's military and its intelligence agencies. Sharing his personal story, Mengal said-
“My uncle was abducted from Balochistan, taken to Kashmir in 1974 and he died during the interrogation process. Imran Khan had previously gone on record and stated that he would resign from Government if he wouldn't be able to take action against agencies who are responsible for such forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. But, so far nothing has happened and we have to understand that it does not matter who is in power in Pakistan because the government virtually has no control of the country,” said Bhawal.
Activists claim that most of these civilians are extra-judicially killed and their bodies dumped on roadsides bearing signs of extreme torture, while others stay missing forever. Amnesty International, has labelled this as the he kill and dump policy. Victims include activists, teachers, students, doctors, intellectuals and journalists who have voiced their opinions against the military’s iron grip over the country. The military’s control over the local media is such that anyone reporting such incidents risks falling victim themselves.
In the first phase of the campaign, advertisement bikes were seen riding all around London’s city centre carrying banners with “Help end enforced disappearances in Pakistan” slogans on them. However, in the following stages, the organisations are wary of revealing too much information pertaining to the protest with regards to possible counter-action from the opposition.
The organizers of the campaign have long been engaged in efforts to highlight the worsening human rights situation in Balochistan at international platforms, organising events around Europe and in the United States and focusing on advocacy activities in the European Parliament, the US parliamentary houses, and the United Nations.