Cry for Balochistan must be heard too

Baloch tears

The Baloch are victims of slow, grinding wheels of genocide spearheaded by Pakistan Army with active and passive connivance of the country’s political leaders as well as the civil society.

Manzoor Ahmad

There is a wave of great anguish and sympathy for hundreds and thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and other countries desperately trying to find an asylum in European countries. Several nations have come forward to provide succour to the hapless citizens of war-torn countries in the Middle East. A little of this anguish and sympathy for the Baloch people would go a long way in helping them to fight a brutal army which is determined to wipe them off the earth.

The Baloch are victims of slow, grinding wheels of genocide spearheaded by Pakistan Army with active and passive connivance of the country’s political leaders as well as the civil society. This genocide has been going on for decades with occasional murmurs of protest from the international community. Pakistan which leaves no opportunity and excuse to raise the issue of Kashmir remains pathologically indifferent and mute about the gross human rights violations in Balochistan. The Baloch people have been crying for justice and humane treatment from Pakistan even before the dispute over Kashmir was even conceived.

The Human Rights Watch in its 2015 annual report summed up the situation in Balochistan as “abysmal“. The report pointed out that  “enforced disappearances linked to the security forces continued with impunity, ‘despite directions from the Pakistan Supreme Court and Pakistan government’s commitments under the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2012.

A local NGO working on the issue of disappearances, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, petitioned the Supreme Court highlighting the brutality of the state agencies and the callous indifference shown towards the victims of atrocities. It said the mutilated bodies found in different areas in the province were that of persons forcibly abducted by the security forces. It pointed out that “many dumped bodies are found to be in such a horrific condition that it is impossible to ascertain their identity` `and yet the government had not made any provisions for DNA testing of bodies for identification and proper morgue facilities. The NGO pleaded that it was a humanitarian issue and the bereaved families had the right to give their loved ones a decent burial. Accepting the plea, the apex court had ordered the provincial governments to identify the bodies through DNA testing and other methods, publish their names in the media and preserve the bodies till the family members identified them. But the court’s rulings have had no effect on the goings-on in the provinces. The mutilated bodies continue to pile up in street corners and ditches and there are no facilities for DNA testing and proper storage of the bodies. The Baloch people are now fast losing faith in the Supreme Court also.

The reason is not difficult to know. In a recent interview, a well-known Baloch leader, Brahamdagh Bugti, summed up the disenchantment with everything Pakistani thus: “ the Pakistani and Punjabi elite have a history of betraying the Baloch“. He articulated the depth of distrust Baloch people have towards Pakistan–“ the Punjabi army and its entire establishment cannot and must not be trusted. Whenever they talk about negotiation and peace they mean to hit us harder than before. It means they will kidnap, torture and kill more of our people. This has been their policy since 1948, when they illegally invaded our homeland. “

Till date, Pakistan has launched four major military operations and all of them have been brutal, extracting a heavy price in terms of lives and property of the Baloch people. It is another matter that the Baloch people have remained resilient and brave in the face of such relentless state brutality and have not given up their fight for survival.

The recent phase of brutal military offensive against the Baloch began during the regime of the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. He was determined to finish off the Baloch insurgency. He took the cue after the hue and cry over the rape of a woman Baloch doctor in Sui, an area known for its gas fields and a major bone of contention between the Baloch and the state. The woman was raped by a junior military officer. General Musharraf did everything possible to save the army officer and browbeat the victim, and succeeded because the people of Pakistan kept quiet and so did the international community which was feasting the General as the “best bet“ they had in Pakistan.

The Baloch refused to cow down to the brutal arm twisting. This Baloch resistance infuriated the General even more and he ordered a major military offensive against the veteran and well respected Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Bugti was not a strident militant leader but a moderate voice which wanted Pakistan to share the revenue which it generates from Balochistan with the people of Balochistan and to give the people a level playing field in terms of jobs and other economic opportunities. But the power-drunk General was not interested in any such move; his aim was to quell forever the Baloch voice of dissent.

He did so with vengeance. He dispatched combat jets, helicopters and artillery guns to target his own people. The political parties remained mute and distant. The civil society remained missing from the streets. The media looked the other way. In August 2008, Bugti and his men were driven to the mountains where they were relentlessly bombed and killed. The Baloch protest, lit by the rape of a Baloch doctor, was snuffed with bombs and bullets.

Since no one protested the brutal manner in which the Baloch were targeted by the Pakistan, neither at home nor abroad, the military dictator took it as a support for his action and he went several steps ahead in brutality. He began the Kill and Dump policy.

Hundreds of young and old Baloch disappeared from their homes, streets and shops and offices, not to be found for several weeks. Many of them turned up dead, their brutalised bodies dumped in ditches, road sides, forests and in anonymous mass graves in different parts of the province. Some returned home brutalised, silenced by torture, only to be picked up again by the security forces and sent either to their death or dungeons.

Despite the petitions and rulings by Supreme Court particularly during the tenure of the pro-active Chief Justice Iftiqar Chaudary, the military operations and the Kill and Dump policy continues even today. The number of Baloch people in the custody of security forces is large but unknown. The number of dead is multiplying as mass graves continue to be discovered in the province. There is a military clampdown in several areas in the province. The media is kept out of the zone. Protests are suppressed. The international community is either continue to be hoodwinked or is not interested in the goings-on in the province.

But this must change. The West, which is making such a song and dance about the refugees of war in the Middle East, cannot shun and ignore the tragic decimation of a proud people of Balochistan. The world must step in, help the Baloch cause, sanction Pakistan Army and its civilian leadership for the relentless brutalities imposed on the Baloch people. Or else, their show of sympathy for the refugees will remain a shallow attempt at charity.

Courtesy: Daily Kashmir Images

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