More than 40 political leaders and activists from Balochistan have died in the last 4 months in Pakistan

Amnesty International accuses Islamabad of allowing abuses and reproves the country for not inquiring into the Pakistani army · Lawyers, political leaders and human rights activists are the main targets of killings and tortures · The organization warns against an escalation of violence.

According to Amnesty International estimates, more than 40 Baloch politicians, students and human rights activists have died in recent months as a result of an escalation of illegal arrests and enforced disappearances of members of the Baloch movement, one of Pakistan's most repressed political expressions.

Amnesty International has called for Pakistan to act "immediately" and stop violence. A number of sources suspect the Pakistani army and the intelligence services of planning selective killings. To AI, the government's failure to prevent abuses has given a boost to the perpetrators and therefore it has urged Islamabad to "show that it can and will investigate the Pakistani military and the Frontier Corps".

Besides suspicions aroused by the military attitude, new organizations have come on stage claiming responsibility for several crimes, such as Sipah-e Shuhada-e Balochistan. Balochistan might be soon facing increasing political tension if the situation is not reversed. Despite most of the Baloch movement uses peaceful means, abductions, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances could lead to an increment of armed activities. In fact, reprisals have been taken in recent months, such as the attack by the Balochistan Liberation Army in Punjab, which left 17 people dead.

According to the Pakistani journal, the governmental response to Amnesty International's report only referred to the implementation of political and economic measures to improve Balochistan's self-government, a plan that had been approved last year.

Politicians and lawyers, among main victims

The list of people assassinated and disappeared published by Amnesty International include political leaders, such as the general secretary of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) Habib Jalib Baloch, or other party prominent leaders such as Maula Baksh Dashti, Mir Nooruddin Mengal and Liaqat Mengal. There are also lawyers (Zaman Marri and Ali Sher Kurd), students (Zahoor Baloch, from the Baloch Students Organization) and members of other civil organizations (Faqir Mohammad Baloch, poet and member of Voice of Baloch Missing Persons).

Politics, economy and human rights

The Baloch movement has always proven to be strong, whether it is autonomist or favourable to independence. It has violently clashed with the state of Pakistan on a number of occasions -last wave of violence being in the 70's. The pro-autonomy wing is led by the BNP (Balochistan National Party), which has 7 of the 65 seats in the provincial assembly. Economy is at the root of many of Balochistan problems. Despite being a rich country in natural resources -particularly gas, Balochs claim that the revenues do not remain in their territory and so makes the country one of the poorest areas of Pakistan. In a move to silence Baloch unrest, Islamabad launched a package of economic and political measures -the controversial 'Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan'-, but it hasn't been applied completely yet.

As AI denounced early this week, "the Pakistani government has attempted to suppress this opposition by increasing the military presence in the region" and many people "have died at the hands of the security forces in extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody". However, "the confrontation between Baloch nationalists and the state is characterised by human rights abuses committed by all sides", the report further adds.

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