If the leaders want to become more than a footnote in Baloch history, they’ll have to change their ways and change them soon. Only those who love themselves and their self-interest more than Balochistan will find it hard to unite.
Sahib Jan’s family knew the worst had happened since a day before he had gone missing from Matiyari town where he had gone to buy essentials for the family which lives some distance away.
When they reached there they spotted Sahib Jan’s body. He had been shot point blank; once in face, as had been the other two who were Bugtis. One of the Bugtis, Sher Dil aka Jarro s/o Dur Mohammad, was abducted on 18th June earlier this year. The other, Sabzal Bugti, was abducted the same day as Sahib Jan.
Jarro was 22, Sabzal 20 and Sahib Jan 45. The police said their bodies were tossed from a Mazda truck near Magsi. The relatives of Sahib Jan blocked the road in protest as police refused to register an FIR which they later reluctantly registered against unknown persons.
Later that day senior journalist and Secretary General of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), Irshad Mastoi, trainee reporter Abdul Rasul, and a an accountant, all working for a news agency,were gunned down in Quetta.
Leave alone prosecution no one has even been charged for murder of journalists in Balochistan or for that matter anywhere here because those who target the journalists lay beyond the pale of law. Little wonder that in 2011 the International Press Institute had placed Pakistan as the fourth most dangerous place, globally, for the journalists. At a workshop on ‘Media and Civil Society in Balochistan’ on July 8, 2012, held in Quetta, it transpired that 22 journalists had been killed in Balochistan since 2008. Incidentally, addressing the workshop, the late Irshad Mastoi had said: “All resistance movements approach us for coverage while the political parties and some institutions consider the media as a resistance group.”
He had also accused the political leaders of coercing reporters into covering their ‘press releases’. One can imagine what fate awaits any conscientious journalist if certain institutions and their puppet political parties consider media as a ‘resistance group’ mere because instead of publishing ISPR press notes, they dare present reality as it is. Irshad Mastoi’s murder is an outcome of just such a commitment to journalistic values.
Later on, the same day there was a fatal armed attack on Zikris in Teertej who were worshipping in their Zikr Khana, near Mashi. Seven persons were martyred including Bakhtiyar, father of Raza Jehangir [Secretary General of Baloch Students Organization-Azad (BSO-Azad) who was killed on August 14th last year by Pakistan army], and thirteen-year] old Niyaz Baloch.
It wouldn’t be out of place to mention that a month back a bus carrying Zikris was targeted by religious militants in Khuzdar and seven persons were injured. It should be remembered that the militant outfits were facilitated by the army in Awaran area after the devastating 7.6 earthquake of September 2013. It was only after the earthquake that army moved in and brought in religious groups in its tow to counter Baloch nationalism with religion. Balochistan’s tolerant secular landscape is being transformed into a grotesquely intolerant and sectarian battlefield by the establishment.
The powers that be have for the time being put Hazara genocide on hold and are targeting Zikris to irreparably split the Baloch society to undermine the struggle for rights. The burning of school in Panjgur also fits in the larger scheme of things and is aimed at depriving Baloch of education. Last August, the Baloch have suffered heavily as 38 have been killed, some 20 wounded, and over hundred abducted. Dozens more were killed in ‘skirmishes’ with the army.
The incidents of August 28 are a wake-up call. The readers will wonder why I consider it a wake-up call is: all the three incidents were neither random nor unrelated. These are part of a systematically organized brutal attempt by Pakistani state and its institutions to undermine the Baloch struggle for their rights and resources.
The abductions and killing of Sahib Jan Marri and others are continuation of the abhorrent abduct-kill-dump policy aimed at depleting ranks of Baloch activists and intimidating others to refrain from supporting Baloch rights.
The killing of Irshad Mastoi is to ensure silencing those who dare expose the injustices and atrocities in Balochistan. The attack on Zikris in Awaran and elsewhere is to inject the cancer of intolerance and bigotry into a historically secular Baloch society and to change the political ethos by corrupting the social ethos.
Now who is this wake-up call for? Naturally I am discounting the likes of Dr. Malik and Co. here. They are there to adorn the sports galas and cultural shows organized by the military. They legitimize the illegal plunder of Baloch resources and brutal repression of Baloch under the charade of development and maintaining the law and order. They have nothing to do with Baloch rights or sorrows. My claim is amply proved by the Tutak Commission Report exonerating all and sundry of blame as if the bodies had rained on Tutak in a freak storm. It further shows that there will be no justice for Baloch ever from those who are there just to serve Pakistani interests. Their hands, like those of the collaborators before them, are tainted with Baloch blood. They cannot be expected to respond to Baloch anguish.
This wake-up call is for all Baloch in general, in particular, for those leading the Baloch resistance for Baloch rights and resources. As long as Nawab Khair Bakhsh Khan Marri was alive he with his overpowering stature had a sobering effect on the minds and action of those struggling for Baloch rights. With his departure a vacuum has emerged with no single leader of his stature among us. This vacuum can only be filled by a larger united front of Baloch. But that will demand sacrifices and wisdom. I hope that the present leadership of Baloch resistance will be upto the occasion.
The onus is on them to counter the nefarious designs of the establishment’s attempts to drive wedges into Baloch society, silence the voices that uphold the truth and deter those who struggle for rights. The leaders have a responsibility to come up with a coherent strategy to counter all this and this will only come about when they understand the seriousness of the situation and shun their differences. The differences and disunity among the leaders is confounding people as activists are giving up in despondency and frustration. Dedicated activists disheartened by disunity are withdrawing into themselves while some are forming factions as if there weren’t enough. To them I say: the struggle is much larger than individuals and they should persist with the honorable journey they began.
If the leaders want to become more than a footnote in Baloch history, they’ll have to change their ways and change them soon. Only those who love themselves and their self-interest more than Balochistan will find it hard to unite. Egos and differences need to be put aside. All organizations have a responsibility towards Baloch people to serve the people and motherland selflessly. If they fail in their task of serving and leading the people history will not forgive them.
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 email@example.com