November 24, 2023
By Xari Jalil
A protest sit-in reached its second day at the Fida Hussain Chowk in Turbat on Friday, November 24, after a total of four people were killed in an encounter by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). Three were identified, as Shakoor Baloch, Saif Baloch, and Balach Mola Bakhsh while one remains unknown.
On November 23, the CTD claimed that terrorists from ‘a proscribed group’ had been killed in an exchange of fire in Turbat. The family of Balach clarified that he had already been in the custody of law enforcement.
According to CTD, Balach was arrested on November 20 and while he was in their custody had confessed to terror plotting. Based on information he gave to the CTD, a raid was carried out by the forces, during which counter-firing by the ‘terrorists’ ended up killing Balach.
A Different Narrative
But Balach’s lawyer, Advocate Jadain Dahshti while speaking to Voicepk said that Balach had been abducted from his home on October 29, and an FIR against him was not filed until 22 days later on November 20. He called the encounter a fake one.
“They filed a case under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) where he was charged with possessing 5kg of explosives. The next day, he was brought to court, where 10 more days of remand were granted. His bail plea was scheduled for November 24, but the night before, he was killed in this fake encounter.”
Dahshti says that Balach was ‘completely innocent’ of the charges against him, and to end his life like this was an abominable act.
“He was never even involved in activism, in fact, he worked part-time in a tailor’s shop in Turbat’s Five Star Market,” said Dahshti.
Activists and citizens in Balochistan have been calling out on fake encounters for some time now. They claim, missing persons are abducted, kept under their custody, and then killed, their bodies dumped anywhere in any condition, only to be found by a citizen. In the entire situation, those who have been killed are attempted to be passed off as having links with terrorist organizations.
Citizens are questioning the justice system. Former Senator and human rights activist Afrasiab Khattak said:
The latest news about the extra judicial murder of Baloch prisoners in fake encounter at the hands of CTD is very disturbing. This is not only a grave violation of HR/law but it can also further escalate the conflict. Credible judicial inquiry without delay is a must.
— Afrasiab Khattak (@a_siab) November 23, 2023
Only Three Identified
Only three people from the four killed in the encounter were identified. One of them was Balach. Another was identified as Saif Baloch, who is known as the ninth member of his family who was killed by security forces. Saif owned a grocery store and was abducted from there on August 1.
The third youth was identified as Shakur son of Noor Jan, who was abducted from his house by the forces on June 25 this year from Phalabad farmers in Tamp area.
“The investigation into Balach s/o Moula Baksh’s killing in yesterday’s encounter should be fair. He was already in law enforcement custody, presented in court just three days ago. If he’s dead now, someone needs to be held accountable!”
– Senator Tahir Bizenjo
Dr Naseem Baluch who lives in self-exile due to his abduction and torture under General Musharraf’s regime, says that the sudden increase in these fake encounters is because of the approaching elections. “Baloch parliamentarians are mere spectators, securing their seats through collaboration with the (establishment). It is crucial for the Baloch masses to unite against the Pakistani military and its puppet politicians.” He said in a harsh statement online.
A ‘Kill and Dump’ Policy
Meanwhile, Paank, a human rights organization that works on issues of missing persons among others stated that all four were previously abducted persons.
“The “kill and dump” policy in Balochistan is a grave human rights issue that has persisted for years, raising serious concerns about the treatment of individuals in the region,” said Paank in a statement. “Urgent attention and international scrutiny are imperative to address and rectify this systematic abuse, ensuring accountability for those responsible and working towards a more just and secure environment for the people of Balochistan.”
According to Paank, the disappearance of Nabi Bakhsh Baloch and Adil Asa was highlighted in their August 2023 report, both of whom, they claim, were reportedly abducted by Pakistani forces on 22 August 2023 in Turbat City. Their bodies were discovered in Balgathar on November 19, along with a third unidentified body.
Paank named Saif Baloch as another person abducted on August 1, from his grocery store. The organization states that the family of Saif Baloch had been repeatedly targeted by the forces, with some of its members killed & others abducted in the past.
The previously abducted Shakoor Baloch was identified as the third victim in November 23’s alleged encounter by the CTD. Shakoor was abducted on June 25 from Pulabad.
The protest against the alleged fake encounter of Balach Molabaksh is ongoing at Shaheed Fida Chowk for the second day. Alongside, a shutter-down strike is being observed in opposition to this incident. We are determined to continue our sit-in until our demands are met. pic.twitter.com/qsmEJZ2ede
— Baloch Yakjahti Committee – Kech (@BYCKech) November 24, 2023
Sadia Baloch, who is a prominent activist from Balochistan, said that even to ask for justice from this system was useless.
“From whom do (you) expect justice from for Balach?,” she asked on a social post. “The court that is involved in the murder of Balach? The Baloch who are the bargaining chips of the state? Today’s youth is born amidst this cruelty and brutality.”
Activist Mahrang Baloch of the Baloch Yekjehti Committee also posted on social media X, expressing her distress and anger. Mahrang’s own father was the victim of a ‘kill-and-dump” act in 2011, two years after he was abducted.
“The basis of this state has used innocent Baloch blood for its foundations. (We see) the oppressed sister of an innocent Baloch in pain and agony is protesting against the murder of her brother. But how can you expect mercy from a State that does not even give us the right to mourn the murder of our loved ones.”
According to Paank’s report on missing persons, in October 2023, reports of enforced disappearances continued to surface. Security forces were accused of committing numerous human rights violations, specifically, 34 cases of unlawful and extrajudicial detainments, resulting in forced disappearances of individuals across different regions of the country.
However, it was also documented by Paank that 21 individuals who had gone missing allegedly at the hands of the Pakistani military, were released and reunited with their families, marking a significant development in some of these cases.
At the same time, alarming incidents of extrajudicial killings emerged in October. State forces were reported to have staged encounters, resulting in the deaths of two individuals who had been subjected to enforced disappearances earlier. The alleged involvement of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in these extrajudicial killings added another layer of concern.