Human Rights Defender Named Killers Before Death
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2009
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Human rights defender names his alleged murderers shortly before his death; government fails to provide protection
Mr. Nisar Baloch, aged 46, was shot dead on November 7, by motorbike riders. Police have refused to mention the names of the murderers in the First Investigation Report (FIR), owing to the fact that the accused persons belong to ruling political party, MQM, which has a background of target killings. On November 6, the day before his murder, Nisar Baloch addressed members of the press at a press conference and clearly stated that the City’s Nazim (mayor) Mr. Mustafa Kamal, as well as the Town Nazim of the SITE town, had the intention to murder him. He stated further that he would be murdered the next day by the aforementioned people and by activists of the MQM Altaf Hussain group. He blamed the party in ruling alliance for their encroachment onto the land of Gutter Baghicha, an amenity plot of 1017 acres.
His death is the second incident in the victimization of housing rights defenders in the past five years in Karachi. During both incidents, the MQM was in power. The son of Baseer Naveed, radio broadcaster and leader of the resistance movement against the construction of the Lyari Express, was abducted on November 8 2004 and his body was found with torture marks on the wall of Naveed’s radio station, two days after his abduction. Nisar Baloch was another activist in the movement against the construction of the Lyari Expressway, through which more than 300,000 people were supposed to be displaced.
Mr. Nisar Baloch was a well-known figure who worked against the grabbing of amenity plots by the government and other such powerful people. The land of Gutter Baghicha, a park, was declared to be an amenity plot in 1972. However, when the MQM took control of the city’s mayorship in the early 1990s, parts of the Gutter Baghicha were illegally allotted to officers of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). The local people of trans-Lyari resisted, and refused to allow the KMC to encroach upon the park. The Karachi NGO Alliance, (through which Mr. Nisar Baloch was running the people’s movement against the grabbing of this parkland) got a stay order from the Sindh High Court against construction in this park. However, the MQM, which has remained in power since 1989, (whether the ruling government was civilian or military,) did not respect the court’s order. The details of other land-grabbing incidents by the MQM can be read about below:
Clearly, the values which uphold law and order in this country have deteriorated to a state of abjection. When a man says in a press conference that he will be killed the following day by the mayors of Karachi and the SITE town, and the police fail to provide protection to him because of the political pressure they are under, it is clear that the situation is deplorable. Even the journalists present at the press conference did not take Baloch’s apprehensions seriously, and did not give coverage of his concerns to the public. Furthermore, the police at the Soldier Bazar Police Station, in whose jurisdiction this murder occurred, have refused to put the name of murderer on the FIR. This is illegal, and clearly indicates that the police have become sub-servants to the cadres of ruling parties.
Housing and resettlement policies in Pakistan are unclear and ambiguous, leaving room for manipulation by those in ruling political parties, and the opportunity to grab land and convert it into commercial plots. About half of Pakistan’s population lives in slum communities, and often in a state of squalor. Judicial negligence, combined with the inaction and ineffectiveness of the courts in dealing with the housing needs of the people and matters of land-grabbing, has benefited the land-grabber tremendously.
The government of Sindh should act immediately to arrest the culprits on these murder charges including, Mr. Mustafa Kamal, City Nazim and Mr. Izhar Uddin, Town Nazim of SITE town, (the name of the latter was stated by Mr. Nisar Baloch during his press conference, one day before his death,) and the high officials of the Karachi Police, including the Chief Police Officer and Station Head Officer (SHO) of the Soldier Bazar Police Station. A thorough inquiry should be conducted into the extra-judicial killing of Nisar Baloch.