“When crimes become invisible”: On the Mass Graves of Khuzdar, Balochistan

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurA mass grave was discovered in Tootak, Khuzdar on the 25th January by a shepherd after which the locals converged there to recover bodies. The number of the bodies found, which the middle class government representatives are at pains to limit to 13, while reports filtering out put the number at around 150 and more. Even a Supreme Court (SC) judge said the number is 25. The numbers aside what this supposedly representative government fails to understand is that even a single body is one too many but then this government like that of the previous one is more concerned about surviving rather than serving the people.

According to Gregory H. Stanton, the President of Genocide Watch genocide consists of eight stages which are Classification, Symbolization, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial. This process in Balochistan may not have been as blatant as that of the Nazi Germany or as it was overt in Rwanda but it is subtly in progress with lot of political trappings to cover it up. Two genocidal processes are going on simultaneously in Balochistan one which targets Baloch and the other which targets Hazaras and Shia.

The Baloch are systematically being marginalized to make their suppression easier and the illegal exploitation of their resources justifiable. The Hazaras, as my friend Dr. Mohammad Taqi Sahib in his piece, ‘Balochistan bleeding’ (Daily Times 30th January) has rightly said are being ‘ghettoized’. The threat of use of force is ghettoizing them while Baloch being the majority cannot be physically ghettoized in the same manner are being politically and economically ghettoized by Pakistan so that eventually they can be physically ghettoized. Instrumental in this process is the Dr. Malik government in the same manner that Raisani government was before it and their mentor and master the army and Frontier Corps (FC).

The use of force against Baloch is also being systematically and ruthlessly employed and the proof of it is the thousands missing and more than eight hundred of them killed and dumped apart from the fake encounter killings which also are of the same magnitude. This is being done to terrorize the Baloch population into submission and acceptance of their relegation to second class subjects of state who would then have to acquiesce to whatever is meted out to them and whatever political and material crumbs are thrown their way.

The Baloch have not meekly accepted this as their destiny and inevitable fate. They have resisted it tooth and nail since 27th March 1948 and this has been their salvation and helped them maintain their Baloch identity and also thwarted the complete domination that Pakistan desires and strives for. Had not the Baloch resisted force with force Balochistan would have been swamped by other ethnic groups and monopolized and owned by multi-nations and Gulf state rulers. The Baloch have paid a heavy price to maintain their identity and dignity and the mass graves of Tootak, which certainly are few of the many that exist, and all the missing and killed are a proof of and reminder of that. The Baloch haven’t hesitated to pay the price which history exacts of those who want to live with dignity and pride.

Nearly two hundred thousand Bugtis were displaced from Dear Bugti and adjoining areas in 2005 when the army under Musharraf unleashed a vicious operation against them to ensure that they would be obeyed unquestioningly and resulted in death of Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006. The impact of this exodus of such a large number of Bugtis can be understood when we realize that this number amounts to an overwhelming majority of Bugtis living in their ancestral lands. These Bugtis who like any other people anywhere in world would like to live in the place they know and is theirs but they have been kept away from their ancestral lands because their loyalty is suspect in eyes of army and FC whose writ is ultimate there.

Shahzain Bugti, a grandson of Nawab Akbar Bugti, always at pains to prove his loyalty to Pakistan was promised passage to Dera Bugti with many of the long displaced Bugtis on orders of SC and assurances of the puppets in Quetta but they were denied entry by the FC which wants certain conditions of assurances of loyalty to be met before they would allow anyone to return. The displaced Bugtis are being denied their inalienable right to live in their ancestral land by force and this injustice doesn’t even stir those who claim to be nationalists and are the government there. Dr. Malik and his government, if this cringing, groveling and pathetic band of persons can be given this respectable designation of government, are so indebted to their mentors-the army and FC- that they cannot utter a word which may jeopardize their lucrative positions.

To return back to the mass graves of Tootak one has to mention the gems which the Sarfaraz Bugti who holds the mock title of interior minister in Balochistan. In an interview to BBC Urdu while denying involvement of his mentors in this horrendous crime tried to shift on the blame to RAW and Baloch Sarmachars. He forgot that the very pusillanimous SC, which in spite of a hundred hearings on the issue of missing persons has not been even able to charge let alone prosecute a single person for the missing or killed, has quite candidly blamed FC and intelligence agencies for the missing persons and the ‘kill and dump’ policy. But Dr. Malik and his pathetic band can see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of those they are indebted to for what they are and where they are today. Even a hundred mass graves, there may be even more, are going to move them or prick their conscience enough to at least speak the truth if not resign.

The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons’ Long March led by the redoubtable Mama Qadeer with his equally intrepid Banuks (ladies in Balochi) and Warnas (young men in Balochi) has become even more poignant and momentous with the discovery of the mass graves. The participants’ resolve is strengthened even more with this gruesome discovery. Their march is an entirely new chapter of Baloch struggle for their rights and the injustices against them. They have earned the thanks and love of Baloch nation the hard way. These brave souls deserve unreserved thanks and gratitude of the Baloch Nation. One can only stand in awe in front of these dedicated Baloch who have set new bench marks of not only patience and endurance but also of innovation of political struggle. They protested against the mass graves at Multan Press Club on Thursday to highlight the issue of the atrocities and ‘dirty war’ that is being waged against the Baloch. Their protest is unique and has made millions of people aware of the injustices. A million speeches and articles could have achieved what their historic march has. They have so far walked nearly 1700 kilometres and are still 730 kms away from Islamabad.

The injustices against Baloch do not seem to register in minds of people and Pakistani media. They are listless and apathetic towards the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against Baloch and of late against Hazaras. Could this apathy be because of what as Bertolt Brecht says that, ‘When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.” Most likely people become inured to injustices against others especially if the persecuted are stigmatized for religion as Hazaras are or for political aims as the Baloch are. To further show the apathy and the reason I will end my piece with Bertolt Brecht’s quote from his Selected Poems:

“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror.
Then a hundred were butchered.
But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.”

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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