Pakistani state violence (in the form of aerial bombardments, raids, and collective abductions) against the Baloch has led to hundreds of thousands of Baloch migrating inside and outside Balochistan. International organisations (such as Amnesty International, Red Cross, Global Rights, Refugees International) which globally support displaced people and refugees either ignore the Baloch or are not allowed by the Pakistani State to aid them.
Beevarg Gwaram, is one of those who has internally migrated, he has two sons and a wife. He was a shepherd and spent his days tending to a herd of goats in the village of Shapuk, Kech district, Balochistan. After a series of military operations in the area he decided to move his family to Turbat City (which is 39 kilometres away from Kech). He told me that his sons are traumatized by the military violence and often wake up crying from nightmares recollecting the military operations. In Turbat City he lives without an extended family or network of friends and is therefore living hand to month. He noted, “Some of the migrants were lucky to have relatives here but we are not. We only hope that the world will come to help us but it seems impossible”.
External and internal migration of the Baloch has been on-going since the forced annexation of Balochistan by the Pakistani military in 1948. Baloch have migrated to the neighbouring Gulf States, to Afghanistan, to Europe, internally within Balochistan and to other areas, such as Sindh and Punjab.
Mass migration due to military operations began in the 1970s. In 1973 Bhutto dismissed the provincial government of the National Awami Party in Balochistan, arrested Baloch political leaders - such as Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri. He also sent in the ‘butcher of Bengal’, General Tikka Khan, to quell protests of the Baloch at the dismissal of the government that they had elected. Baloch fighters and civilians in the Marri and Mengal areas (Kohlu and Jalawan) began a counteroffensive operation. The Pakistani military responded with collective punishment of the Baloch. 7000 NAP members and another 6000 Baloch activists were put behind bars during the conflict. The military also attacked crops and livestock of the locals. It is estimated that up to half a million animals were confiscated from the Baloch and sent to be sold cheaply in Punjab. Deprived of all means of sustenance, more than 55000 Baloch migrated to Afghanistan. They mainly settled in the Helmand area.
The current military operation in Balochistan started in early 2004 and continues to date. According to UN estimates, by 2006, there were 84000 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in Balochistan including 26000 women and 33000 children. HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) believes that 50000 more have become IDPs since 2006. On the other hand a fact finding committee headed by the opposition leader Advocate Kachkol Ali Baloch whose son was abducted by the Pakistani Army, put the total numbers of IDPs at 250000 as the UN figures covers only 3 districts.
Migrants are not always spared in areas where they migrate to. Nehal Bugti, a refugee living in Afghanistan noted, ‘unfortunately after leaving each and everything behind the government has not stopped targeting us. Quite often the establishment conducts military operations in refugee camps, abducting young men. They have killed more than a dozen Baloch refugees who have been in their camps in Punjab and Sindh’. He added, 'they have not let our people live in peace even in Afghanistan. A few years ago six Baloch refugees were killed by the Pakistani intelligence agency in a car bomb attack on their camps in Spin boldalk but this does not end here, after that incident BRP Central Member Riaz Gul Bugti’s cousin was killed by the Pakistani Intelligence Agencies in Spin boldak'.
Not only are the Baloch being displaced by continued military operations and attacked in camps, the State of Pakistan does not allow NGOs and other aid organisations to help them. WikiLeaks reports reveal that UNICEF complains that it is still unable to assist IDPs in Balochistan due to “bureaucratic hurdles” and outright refusals from Pakistan government to deliver assistance to people who have been displaced by the escalating violence in Balochistan. 'They were not allowed because they can tell the world what’s happening with us', noted, an IDP from Bal Nigwar, Dasht on conditions of anonymity.
More recently, Baloch are being forced to migrate to make way for the so called, Pakistan-China Economic corridor. Military is forcing Baloch people to vacate many areas because they want to build a road to facilitate the Chinese at Gwadar port in Balochistan.
Dr Naseem Baloch (a political worker) noted that Pakistan military conducts regular military operations in most of the areas which come under the planned Gwadar-Kashgar road because the military wants the people to leave the area. He also considers the Awaran siege which started on 18 July 2015 and continued for several weeks as part of the military’s policy to force Baloch out of their villages and towns. He noted that the Pakistani army has started intimidating locals near the road to leave the area. Army personnel threw pamphlets saying that 'the locals living in mountains are supporting the Baloch Freedom Fighters. If the people living in mountains do not relocate from the mountains , Pakistan Army would not be responsible for any harm that they receive'.
Local sources claim that more the 1000 people have been killed since the Awaran operation in July. Many villages, and even livestock of local Baloch people, have been set to fire, so that they are forced to relocate. The intimidation tactics are summoned up by the commandant FC Turbat, who stated that his troops would be ok with killing unarmed civilians. He reportedly said, 'if the Baloch freedom fighters attacked any FC camps then we will strike back on the nearby villages and the civilians will be responsible for their own fate. If we saw any motorcycles in the nearby areas, we will shoot them at sight’.
The reason for internal and external migration of Baloch people has been in large part a result of Pakistan military operations. Human rights abuses and crimes against humanity are made possible due to the ban on NGOs, journalists and other international organisations. The international community needs to demand access to Balochistan and support the Baloch in their struggle against displacement and the Pak-China project of settler colonialism in Balochistan that is currently going by the name of 'Pak-China Economic Corridor'.