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Pakistan urged to probe Baluchistan killings

Pakistan must investigate allegations that its security forces played a role in the torture and killing of more than 40 activists, student leaders and politicians in its restive Baluchistan province, Amnesty International has said.

Amnesty’s alarm over the killings raises fresh questions over the human rights record of Pakistan’s army just days after the US promised a further $2bn in military aid to support its campaign against Taliban militants.
Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have repeatedly been accused of abuses in Baluchistan, where they have spent decades fighting insurgents demanding greater political power and, more recently, control of the province’s reserves of natural gas.

The conflict in the desolate, thinly populated region has received far less international attention than Pakistan’s US-backed campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the tribal areas on its north-western border with Afghanistan.

Amnesty identified some of the victims of a four-month spate of abductions and killings in Baluchistan as a poet, a former senator, two lawyers and several students. Many of the bodies showed signs of torture.

The human rights group said the killings reflected a new trend of “kill and dump” operations in Baluchistan, where the bodies of victims are found weeks after their abduction. In recent years, Baluch activists have accused security services of orchestrating the disappearance of hundreds of people.

“The victims’ relatives and activists often accuse the Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies of carrying out these violations,” Amnesty said.

A senior government official in Quetta, Baluchistan’s provincial capital, dismissed calls for an investigation.

“The people cited by Amnesty were not eating ice cream in a parlour. They were directly or indirectly involved with an active conflict,” he said. “This is a war, a conflict, where casualties have taken place on both sides.”

Abdul Basit, a foreign ministry spokesman, said the government was studying the statement.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director, said failure to prevent abuses in Baluchistan had emboldened the perpetrators. “The Pakistani government must show that it can and will investigate the Pakistani military and Frontier Corps, as well as intelligence agencies,” he said.

Pakistan’s weak civilian leaders have proved largely incapable of holding the military to account. Concerns over abuses resurfaced earlier this month when General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, ordered an inquiry into an internet video that shows men in Pakistan army uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes.

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