Five of the nine men killed by the Pakistan Army in Ziarat district of Balochistan in the past few days have been identified as persons forcibly disappeared by the Pakistani forces. Their families had registered them in missing persons’ list and were protesting for their release since, Balochistan Post reported.
Pakistan Army carried out a military operation in Ziarat district and adjacent areas following the abduction and subsequent killing of an army Colonel by Baloch pro-independence armed group, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).
The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing for the Pakistani armed forces, claimed that the forces have killed nine of the BLA members during the operation in the Harnai area. However, The BLA denied ISPR’s claims in a media statement and said that the nine men have no connection with the group.
“Pakistani military’s claims of killing freedom fighters of Baloch Liberation Army during its so-called search operation around Ziarat and Harnai areas are merely propaganda tactics to hide its catastrophic failures in Balochistan,” BLA said.
The group said that not a single fighter was injured or harmed in any way during the operation, Balochistan Post reported. ISPR also released photos of the alleged insurgents which show the men with a slovenly appearance — their beards are scruffy and overgrown and their clothes are untidy.
The photos made rounds on social media, sparking a debate whether the nine men were actually insurgents or Baloch missing persons. The bodies were moved to the civil hospital in Quetta for identification. Later, five of the nine were identified by their family members.
According to their families and the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a campaign group for missing persons, “These men were forcibly disappeared by the Pakistani law-enforcement agencies and they were missing since.”
The relatives of the missing persons from different areas of Balochistan are visiting the Quetta hospital for identification of the rest of the deceased. Among the first to be identified was Shams Satakzai, who was taken away allegedly by Pakistani security forces five years ago and was in detention ever since.
Such fake encounters were reported earlier also in Balochistan where forces reportedly killed missing persons portraying them as insurgents. Such incidents often occur when Baloch pro-independence armed groups carry out big attacks where the forces suffer heavy casualties or a senior army officer gets killed by insurgents.
The recent incident came at a time when BLA took away a serving Pakistan Army Colonel named Laeeq Baig from Ziarat and later killed him, Balochistan Post reported.
(With IANS inputs)