Clashes Rage In Pakistan's Baluchistan Province

While Pakistan battles an Islamist militancy that seeks to overthrow the state, another lesser-known conflict rages on its soil. In the southwest province of Baluchistan, separatist fighters are clashing with security forces and killing anyone they see as the enemy.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

We have been tracking Pakistan's battles with an Islamist militancy that seeks to overthrow the state. In the next few minutes, we'll hear about a different sort of fight: militants in the remote province of Baluchistan want to break away from Pakistan all together. It's a fight where both the separatists and government forces are being accused of using viscous tactics. NPR's Julie McCarthy has more.

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JULIE MCCARTHY: Dust-clouded roads break up the sprawling capital of Quetta, a natural fort surrounded by desert hills. Soaking figs don't stay wet long in the open-air stalls. Almonds and the delicacies of an arid ancient land are also on display. With Afghanistan to the west and Iran to the southwest, Baluchistan is scarred by its own long-simmering war - of mutilated corpses, bombed pipelines, and missing lawyers and academics.�

On one side of this fight is an insurgency, a mix of nationalist groups such as the banned Baloch Liberation Front. Non-violent groups support independence as well.

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Their anthems defiantly blare from shops that line Quetta's Saryab Road, a treacherous strip that is the scene of many abductions.�These are blamed on the other side of the conflict here - Pakistan's shadowy intelligence agencies and state security forces.�And rights violations are intensifying, says the country's Human Rights Commission.

Ms. ZOHRA YUSUF (Human Rights Commission Pakistan): (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Targeted killings are being carried out on all sides, says the Commission's Chairperson Zohra Yusuf. There are victims of sectarian killings, minority killings, killings of Baloch nationalists and Punjabis who are targeted by the nationalists, she says, for settling in Baluchistan.

The families of the dead and disappeared suspected of being Baloch nationalists say the state's security apparatus is behind their abduction and murder.

Ms. HANI SAFEER BALOCH: My name is Hani Safeer Baloch. My father, Mr. Safer Baloch was abducted on 15 August 2010.

MCCARTHY: Hani Safeer Baloch recalls how her ailing father checked into the hospital on a Sunday afternoon when suddenly a group of men, wearing she says, the uniform of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, or F.C., pulled up in three vehicles, and took her father and a friend of his away.

Ms. BALOCH: They abducted my father in front of many people, there were many witnesses. They saw the people themselves that they were the forces of F.C. And there were no investigations at all.

MCCARTHY: In May, her father's bullet-ridden body was found dumped in a ditch near a waterway. Safeer Baloch was a teacher and reported to be a member of the pro-independence Baluchistan National Movement. It's not banned and daughter Hani Safeer says her father did nothing illegal. The ordeal has devastated her family.

Ms. BALOCH: Now we all have migraine attacks. We are going to psychiatrists. I failed in my test because I couldn't read. I was so tortured. And when I see this coming on the news that a body has been thrown, I've become so restless.

MCCARTHY: A variation of that story was repeated in a dozen clandestinely conducted interviews with family members of the disappeared. Fear and uncertainty pervade Quetta.�

Pakistan's Human Right Commission says it has strong evidence that Pakistan's security forces are involved in enforced disappearances and killings. It says since last July, the bodies of 140 Baloch men have been recovered, victims, critics say, of a state policy of kill and dump.

The number of missing varies from a hundred to a thousand. But I.A. Rehman, the secretary general of the Human Rights Commission, says there's no genuine inquiry to ascertain the facts.

Mr. I.A. REHMAN (Human Rights Commission): What action has been taken? The problem is there. But the degree of insensitivity, the degree of indifference, you know, is beyond description.

MCCARTHY: Even the Baluchistan government looks helpless in the matter. We asked Baloch Minister, Sadiq Ali Umrani, who is arresting and killing these people. Law Enforcement agencies, he says. Which ones, we ask.

Mr. SADIQ ALI UMRANI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: I have told you enough, he says. And with a slight laugh, adds, If I tell you more my body will also be found along a roadside.

A Baluchistan government official said privately that those apprehended were involved in anti-state activities and that the insurgency has been driven further underground.�

What increasingly troubles the people of Baluchistan is all authority in the province seems to vest with the security forces, though the Human Rights Commission says enjoy complete impunity.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

MONTAGNE: And NPR's Abdul Sattar contributed to this report.�

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