COMMENT : Credibility compromised — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


The mala fide equating of the Baloch nationalists with the fundamentalist sectarian/jihadist outfits is aimed at maligning the Baloch 

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurThe raison d’être of human rights organisations under all circumstances should solely be the protection of human rights, without any deviation for any consideration. The members of these organisations should transcend all personal, political, social, national, economic and cultural prejudices to stand up for human rights because any departure leads to the irreparable loss of the credibility and influence of the organisation. The duty of these organisations is to defend human rights at all costs; they cannot and should not appear to be a party to any state or institution. Sadly, sometimes, these organisations — though ostensibly safeguarding human rights — get carried away by state-inspired narratives and the establishment’s interests, which they consciously or subconsciously subscribe to or identify with. Their becoming a party to a set of ideas irreversibly harms the struggle for protection of human rights.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) press release in August, while condemning the killing of 13 persons in Mach, Balochistan, “urged the government to take appropriate steps to ensure protection of the right to life of all people irrespective of ethnicity and to redouble efforts to restore peace and the writ of the state in Balochistan through political means and only rely on the use of force as a last resort.” Sadly, if even the HRCP is ready to compromise on the use of force, even if as the last resort, then certainly the protection of human rights is imperilled beyond redemption here. This cowardly concession compromises its credibility and defeats the very purpose of its existence — which is protecting human rights — because Pakistan, ever ready to find excuses to use force, will find justification on the flimsiest of excuses if human rights defenders opt to sanction it. Imagine the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) agreeing to and justifying disappearances in some circumstances. Consenting to violence even as a last resort by an establishment whose approach towards the Baloch is exclusively violence-oriented is unpardonable and is having disastrous consequences.

Mahvish Ahmad reported that on the eve of Eid, the Pakistan army occupied Mashkay, forcibly uprooted medical camps run by Baloch activists, rounded up hundreds of people and beat up people, including an Edhi ambulance driver. Ironically, an army representative announced that the “Pakistan Army had come to stay for the next five years”, and that the residents had “nothing to fear. We have come to help you in your time of need.” If indeed this is their way of helping then one is forced to wonder what their punitive action would be like. The Mashkay operation coincided with the Eid holidays to ensure a news blackout.

The recent HRCP report titled “Balochistan: Giving the people a chance”, seems more like a policy statement of the Pakistani establishment rather than that of an organisation committed to protecting human rights. It says that the HRCP is fully aware of the risks to Baloch nationalists by state actors but still it expects them to denounce violence. The HRCP, forgetting the dirty war being waged against the Baloch and the prevailing culture of immunity for the perpetrators, expects victims of state violence to denounce violence in the interests of peace.

Zohra Yusuf, Chairperson HRCP, in a BBC interview, while ignoring that international aid was being denied to Awaran quake victims despite the chief minister’s repeated appeals, blamed the nationalists for obstructing relief. The immoral human rights violation of denial of international aid by the government is justified while the establishment’s narrative that nationalists obstruct aid is unquestioningly accepted. Reports by organisations like Edhi that no relief worker was hurt or intimidated are ignored as is the government facilitation of overtly jihadist outfits, which are ancillary forces for the offensive against the Baloch in Mashkay.

Oddly enough, while admitting that it had no proof to verify that there was operational coordination between the sectarian/fundamentalist groups responsible for perpetrating terror against the Hazaras, Shias and the Baloch Sarmachars (insurgents) fighting for independence, the HRCP deemed it fit to make the preposterous conjectural accusation that this was so and that it needed to be investigated. It needs to be emphasised that the Pakistani establishment’s sponsored fundamentalist/sectarian outfits and their Baloch proxies, who also double as anti-nationalist death squads to counter the independence struggle, want to create an Islamist/jihadist ethos, which is in stark contrast to the Baloch Sarmachars/nationalists’ secular ethos. Sarmachars/nationalists represent Baloch society’s historical secular ethos, which is Baloch society’s hallmark and is adhered to by the Baloch majority. The mala fide equating of the Baloch nationalists with the fundamentalist sectarian/jihadist outfits is aimed at maligning the Baloch and creating doubts in the minds of sympathisers of the Baloch struggle. Maligning the Sarmachars was previously limited to some journalists and anchors but now a prestigious organisation like the HRCP has picked up the mantle too.

With the sole exception of Daily Times, no other paper was perturbed by the fantasies in the HRCP report. In its October 15 editorial, “HRCP report on Balochistan”, Daily Times said, “It is commendable that the report has identified that a messy situation exists and that there are multiple perpetrators, but it has tipped the balance by laying more blame on the insurgents than those elements that are running a parallel government in the province, i.e. the FC and the military. It is these elements that are preventing international and local aid agencies from entering the earthquake-hit areas to provide relief. It is these same elements that are the cause of the insurgents’ armed resistance. To lump the nationalists with the terrorists is to add insult to injury; to lay the burden of a peace tantamount to surrender on the nationalists’ shoulders is to sprinkle salt on their wounds.”

Certainly there are good things to HRCP’s credit including the book, The Baloch who is Not Missing Anymore and others by Mohammad Hanif, but if it starts acting like a spokesperson and appendage of the establishment, it will definitely not be able to protect human rights anywhere, least of all in Balochistan. If I am wrong, the HRCP should kindly educate me, and if the HRCP is wrong as is evident, it should redouble its efforts to protect the oppressed people rather than encourage the establishment to continue to use force against the Baloch as it has for the past 65 years. Human rights protection has to be unqualified, it cannot be convenience-based. If the HRCP is to maintain its credibility among those oppressed by the establishment here, it should respect and abide more by the HR of its acronym than it does presently for the P in it.

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

Courtesy: Daily Times 

 

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