Published On: Sat, Aug 24th, 2019
Published in Category: Quetta

Children, mine workers still vulnerable in Balochistan in 2018

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Quetta: At the provincial launch of its flagship annual report, *State of Human Rights in 2018*, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) notes that, in a year of general elections, it was perhaps

inevitable that the progress and observation of human rights issues might be suspended, if not forgotten altogether. The elections themselves were plagued by allegations of pre-poll manipulation and vote rigging as well as some appalling outbreaks of violence, notably in Mastung and Quetta, which left at least 180 people dead.

The report notes that sectarian violence in Balochistan has disproportionately targeted the Shia Hazara community. In Quetta, they remain confined to Hazara areas: their movement is restricted as is their

access to markets and schools. The state’s response has been to establish security convoys that accompany members of the community when they leave Hazara areas, but this does not guarantee their security and is, arguably, a short-term solution to sectarian violence in the province.

Citing the Baloch Human Rights Organisation and Human Rights Council of Balochistan, HRCP’s report states that at least 541 partial reports of enforced disappearance had surfaced in 2018. In August 2018, the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances said that ‘merely 131 cases’ of missing persons in Balochistan were being heard. The lack of more comprehensive official data on enforced disappearances – and the Balochistan media’s apparent powerlessness to report on these – is a poor reflection on the state’s political will to eliminate this searing problem.

The report also notes that malnutrition is still a serious threat to children’s health in the province, to the extent that a nutrition emergency was declared in Balochistan in November 2018 by the provincial health minister. While a Nutrition Cell was established to address chronic malnutrition, the state must prioritise and sustain its efforts to protect one of Balochistan’s most vulnerable segments.

Highlighting the alarming frequency of mining accidents in Balochistan, HRCP’s report documents at least three major accidents in 2018, in which at least 57 miners were killed in 2018 alone. It also points out that, in September, the Supreme Court asked the Balochistan government to file a reply on a petition moved to highlight the deaths of over 300 mine workers since 2010. Despite this, there has been no concerted effort to monitor and enforce occupational health and safety in Balochistan’s mines.