The call for international intervention in Sindh and Balochistan: legal and humanitarian aspects

Samad Baloch

The principle of humanitarian intervention is based on the notion of protecting people from being harmed. The actions of a consistent case of human rights violations by a state would transfer the duty of the protection to the broader community, which is to the international community. Many actions of the religious fundamentalist state of Pakistan during the last few decades are in clear violation of international laws concerning the protection of citizens. 

This is a brief analysis of the concept of international intervention and how it relates to the continuous and blatant violations of the fundamental human rights of the Baloch and Sindhi people.

The term humanitarian intervention has a broad meaning which contains a wide range of actions taken by state or states to protect people from violence or improve their conditions of wellbeing across the state borders. In other words, it is actions carried out by the international community to protect the political, social, and economic rights of the individuals. The universal human rights principles state that this is the duty of all states to promote and protect human rights regardless of their political and economic issues, meaning if a state is unable to protect or guarantee the rights of its people then there’s an international community that has to make sure that people have access to a just system. 

From a practical point of view, the humanitarian intervention may also take place through peaceful means if the country of particular concern would give in under the international pressure and allow the international observers and peacekeeping forces into the country. The peaceful method of UN operations is designed to ease the tension, monitor the situation, and provide an environment for negotiation. The UN missions can be deployed on the request or with the consent of the state in conflict or without consent or request.

The Genocide Convention and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, guaranteed the protection of people and individuals across the world. The declaration provided a collective and international response to the rights of individuals, and it was asserted that human rights would have primacy over the sovereignty of the state. For the first time in history, states came under the direct scrutiny of the international community and the non-governmental organizations about their domestic conduct. 

States are considered equal members of the international community and enjoy equal rights to maintain their various affairs. They also have equal duties for the entire community of nations and are expected to guarantee human rights and dignity. The obligation of a state regarding the rights of its citizens considered to be the part of its statehood and sovereignty. The sovereignty of a state is not holy per se;  it is the people who make a state respectful. The sovereignty of a state is important so the rights of its people as the people are the source of the legitimacy of the state. 

After the formation of the United Nations, there were two waves of international interventions occurring during the Cold War and in the post-Cold War era. In 1960-1964, Belgium and the United States intervened in Congo after violence broke out in the country which was followed by US interventions in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Panama in 1989.  France and Belgium intervened in Zaire in 1978 and in the same year Vietnam intervened in Cambodia. France has intervened in the Central African Republic seven times since its independence in 1960. Alongside the above interventions, there was one of the most significant humanitarian interventions that took place in South Asia in 1971. The systematic genocide committed by the Pakistan army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) prompted Indians to act and the Indian army intervened preventing the further slaughter of Bengalis. The second wave of interventions came after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was more collective in terms of international norms and organization.

Liberia was an example of a long-drawn intervention by the international community beginning in 1990. In 1991 the United States, France, and the United Kingdom established a no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from being massacred by the Iraqi army. The United States and the United Nations also became the part of international humanitarian efforts in Somalia in 1992, Rwanda in 1993, Haiti in 1994, and Sierra Leone in 1999.  The intervention of the international community ended the bloody conflict in Yugoslavia resulting in the creation of many independent states.  In 2011, a multi-state NATO-led intervention in Libya brought down the brutal regime of Colonel Gaddafi. Besides these humanitarian interventions, the United Nations played a great part in the independence of Eritrea in 1991, East Timor in 1999, and South Sudan in 2011.

The first and most important role of a state is to protect its citizens from being harmed and the second is to provide them justice according to the laws of the state and the rules of the international legal orders. But in Pakistan, things are very different, perhaps because Pakistan is not a normal country. Let alone protecting or providing the means of justice, Pakistan has been causing injuries and slaughtering its citizens. The only reason for that is that they dare to demand their democratic and national rights. On the other hand, the Islamic extremists, Taliban, and other outlaws enjoy the freedom of activity. They are allowed to incite and carry out violent acts against liberal politicians, human rights activists, and the minorities groups. The army considered them the part of the sacred security forces of the Allah-given state. These Jihadi groups are declared strategic assets of the state.  Many of the jihadi organizations patronized by the army are believed to be harbouring international terrorists who have carried out many acts of terrorism in countries including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and India. The Allah given country has become a haven for terrorists. It became hell for those who are raising voices for their national rights or opposing the exploitation of their natural resources. It became the worst place on this planet earth for the human rights campaigners and religious minorities.  

The army and its proxy jihadi organizations have unleashed a reign of terror throughout Balochistan and Sindh. Numerous death squads were created by intelligence agencies. They are assisting the military authorities in the dirty work of dumping the bodies of political activists in remote areas of Balochistan. The armed forces have been using heavy artillery and helicopter gunships against the Baloch people. These indiscriminate attacks on civilian settlements have caused heavy civilian casualties including women and children in many parts of Balochistan. In some cases, the entire town and villages were burned down by the army, making thousands of internally displaced persons. Thousands were lucky enough to flee the country and are now in various parts of the world away from their land and loved ones. Thousands of people have been missing for years and their fate is still unknown. There is strong evidence that the continued forced disappearances and the “kill and dump” policy of Pakistan has reached to a systematic genocide of the Baloch nation. These heinous crimes against humanity have been widely reported by many national and international organizations including, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch. 

In recent years, Sindh is witnessing new waves of enforced disappearances and kill and dump activities. Hundreds are verifiably missing for months and years. The surge in the kill and dump activities in Sindh is a replication of the army’s adopted strategy in Balochistan. Dumping of the tortured and mutilated bodies of Sindhi political activists and intellectuals has become a daily occurrence. The forced conversion of the Hindu minority population into Islam is a shameful reminder of the medieval ages where people were forced to abandon their ancestral faith with the use of force. 

The actions of the Pakistani state are blatant violations of fundamental human rights enshrined in the UN charter and various conventions. Pakistan is among the worse human rights violators in modern history and equally responsible for sponsoring Jihadists in various countries. The behaviour of the religious state is leading a disastrous situation which might be a great threat to the world’s peace and security. 

The Baloch and Sindhis are facing a grave humanitarian crisis. They are facing some of the worse subjugation, persecution, and genocide measures in recent history. They are seeking international intervention in the face of genocide actions of the religious state of Pakistan. When a state refuses to accept the internationally recognized human rights values or fails to protect the basic human rights of its citizens or a state descending into a civil war and unable to protect people from violence, it becomes the responsibility of the civilized world to intervene. The humanitarian intervention is a form of collective reaction of the international community against the violation of its core principle. The concept of a humanitarian intervention lies in the moral and legal responsibility of the international community, and the international legal system must not be hijacked by the bureaucratic rules and regulations in a situation where human lives are at stake. Searching for a flawless international legal approach would give us thousands of more Sindhi and Baloch dead bodies and catastrophic human suffering for millions of people in Sindh and Balochistan.

Samad Baloch is the Secretary-General of the Baloch Human Rights Council

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