COMMENT: Awaran II — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


Teertej village is half an hour’s dirt track drive outside Awaran, where 95 percent houses had collapsed, 22 people died and many survivors had suffered fractures, broken arms, ribs and head injuries

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurThe purported relief for Awaran’s quake affected people seems to be making no headway either on ground or paper as the nationalist Chief Minister Dr Malik and his mentors do not seem to be on same page. He appeals for international aid but his bosses refuse accepting aid with express purpose of punishing the people of Awaran on flimsy security grounds. They do not want to admit that it is their security at risk and not that of aid organisations. Not a single journalist or non-governmental person has been hurt. The Baloch have made it abundantly clear that they will not be accepting aid from army or the Frontier Corps (FC).

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COMMENT: Awaran — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


Shahzeb Jillani reporting for BBC said that the Teertej village is half an hour’s dirt track drive outside Awaran, where 95 percent houses had collapsed, 22 people died and many survivors had suffered fractures, broken arms, ribs and head injuries. The villagers told him that when after some 48 hours Pakistani soldiers arrived with a truckload of tents and food supplies they turned them away. A villager said, “We told them we did not want anything to do with them.” Teertej’s people turned them away for good reasons too because this August 14, its brave son, my respected friend, Shaheed Sheymureed Baloch (Raza Jahangir) Secretary General Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) Azad along with Imdad Baloch of Balochistan National Movement was killed by FC in Turbat.

Jillani also talked to the Baloch Student Organisation’s (Azad) head Baloch Khan, formerly a student of history in Karachi, who abandoned higher education and took to the mountains of Balochistan because in his words, “This is my homeland, which has been occupied by the Pakistani army. We are fighting for a free Balochistan.” This talk took place in Awaran in spite of the fact that Baloch Khan who is wanted by Pakistani security agencies said, “If they find me, they will kill me.” Shahzeb said, “For someone opposing the mighty Pakistani army, he appeared surprisingly calm and at ease with his surroundings.” This is because the Sarmachars trust the people as they are the fish and the people the sea. The Sarmachars fighting for freedom have reposed confidence in the resolve, determination and fortitude of people and that is why Dr Allah Nazar, Dr Manan and Baloch Khan have said they will not accept relief from the army and FC and would continue to resist.

Jillani is not the only one who presents a grim picture of peoples’ misery and establishment’s historical apathy towards Balochistan. Neha Ansari, a columnist, says she was told Awaran begins where the road ends. Ironically, Awaran has no Sardars but yet it doesn’t have roads; the establishment always blames the anti-development Sardars for Balochistan’s lack of progress. She says they went to Labach, a village at a distance of two miles from the military headquarters. There, angry people surrounded their car but cooled down on being told who they were. She talked to women there who said because there were no shrouds for the dead women’s dupattas were used instead. A truck with some supplies had accompanied her team and Labach people received relief for first time. If Labach at the distance of two miles from military headquarters, which independent reports say has seen considerable expansion since quake, does not receive any relief then the fate of those far away can well be imagined. This also shows that the army doesn’t venture out much.

Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif had to have that picture of the latter handing over Rs 100 million cheque for the Awaran relief efforts taken. This money will never reach Teertej, Labach or hundreds of other places where some 35,000 thousands houses have been destroyed and nearly 300,000 people affected. Awaran is billion light years away from Islamabad and Lahore because Labach just two miles from military compound could well be on the other side of moon. Incidentally, Dera Ghazi Khan’s Baloch students initially restrained from collecting supplies took DCO’s permission on September 27 and continued but on October 2, the intelligence and police disbanded the camp and kept them in custody for five hours. This is how people trying to help Awaran victims are treated and Sharifs do not tire of showing concern.

This Rs 100 million is peanuts for the establishment-nurtured politicians. It would surprise many to know that during the recent Supreme Court bench hearing of the allegation against Mr Nazir Naji it was disclosed that R. 400 million from Investigation Bureau’s secret fund had been used to counter insurgency in Balochistan in 2008-09. This spending had been certified by the controlling authority. No outrage was expressed because this money doled out to conniving politicians and their death squads was to ensure that the Baloch voice was crushed. Apparently, it went to waste for though death squads’ viciousness intensified manifold the Baloch struggle achieved new heights. How much more money from other institutions has fed the parasitic Baloch politicians and their death squads can only be deduced by the level of desperation state exhibits.

The dire straits that people are in have had no effect on Balochistan’s selected assembly as frivolity prevails there. A member, Engineer Zamruk Khan, said it was pointless and useless attending the Assembly sessions because as he put it, “The Balochistan Assembly session takes place only to eat pakoras and tell jokes.” Scuffles followed and session was postponed for 15 minutes. Verily, they are good at eating pakoras and as for telling jokes the CM takes the cake by making inane statements of talks with Sarmachars or about the grand scale of non-existent relief.

To add insult to injury people who lost their CINC cards in the earthquake are being denied relief. Those entrusted with relief provision want quake victims to prove they are Pakistanis to qualify. Ironically, Baloch, the residents of Balochistan, have to be Pakistanis to get relief; this truly is pathetic. The historic injustices combined with the post-quake discrimination and retribution against affected people by denial of relief and increased army presence will only reaffirm the belief of Baloch people that their salvation lies in their becoming the masters of their destiny. They have now realised that slogans of political freedom, fair development, modernisation, equity and equality only strengthen their shackles.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at @mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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