Forced or volitional?


The problem of missing persons and torture is not a new phenomenon here. It has been practiced against dissidents the establishment felt threatened by, with varying degrees of brutality and gruesomeness. Balochistan has had more than a fair share of disappeared persons

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

“Speech is silver but silence is golden” is an adage that Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, the chief minister of Balochistan and chief of Sarawan, either never heard of or decided to ignore. A few days back in a press-talk at Khuzdar he came up with an outrageously insensitive and preposterous statement that most of the missing persons had “deliberately gone underground to malign the country’s intelligence agencies”.

Reiteration of Musharraf and Rehman Malik’s theory of volitional disappearances by one who as a tribal chief and chief of Sarawan is under moral obligation to protect the rights of any Baloch who has been wronged is beyond comprehension. Aslam Raisani’s statement has added insult to a grievous injury. He has forfeited his moral right to represent the Baloch people either as a chief or a chief minister.

The Baloch, already wary of the state’s intentions, will see his statement as affirmation of their fears that the packages and promises are no more than a ploy to buy time to bury the resistance for good.

The problem of missing persons and torture is not a new phenomenon here. It has been practiced against dissidents the establishment felt threatened by, with varying degrees of brutality and gruesomeness. Balochistan has had more than a fair share of disappeared persons; even the prime minister admitted to a verified list of 992 missing Baloch persons.

Dr Allah Nazar, Munir Mengal, Dr Safdar Sarki, Javed Lehri, Shahzaib Baloch, Dr Imdad Baloch, Hanif Sharif and many others were tortured in illegal detention. Students, professionals, journalists and tribesmen all fall prey. The fact that the state feels threatened from a broad spectrum of society proves that resentment is universal and pervasive.

Apart from enforced disappearance of the Baloch, executions after summary trials have been employed to break the will of the people, the seven shaheeds of Nawab Nauroz Khan’s struggle being the prime example. Shaheed Hameed Baloch too was executed on June 11, 1981, at the age of 23 for firing at an Omani recruiting officer in December 1979.

The disappearance of tribesmen from remote areas is easily denied and concealed. When arrests are made in full public view, as in cases with the Baloch National Movement (BNM) Chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Muneer Baloch, Sher Mohammad Baloch of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and Rasool Baksh Mengal, the authorities go for the brutal solution of extra-judicial killings. They know that they can do so with impunity and moreover their apologists will support them.

Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani, the head of the PPP in Balochistan, talking to the press after these murders had said that they were disappointed by the murder of Baloch leaders, and believed it was done by those who had played havoc in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. “Their intentions are clear. They are after us. We shall have to join hands to foil their conspiracies,” he said. When asked exactly which forces were behind the tragic incident and other destabilising developments in the province, he said, “You and we all know who they are and what their sinister designs are.”

He did not name those forces but the former Jamaat-e-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed in a speech at Mansoora Seerat College was more explicit and alleged that India and the US were involved in these Baloch nationalist leaders’ murders. Such absurd infantile logic for the defence of illegal and inhuman acts cuts no ice with the Baloch people.

I will recount some facts from personal experience about the disappearances during the 1973-77 period. I wonder if these five persons I mention too would be said to have disappeared of their own volition. I lived with these people for a few years before their disappearance.

Dalip/Johnny Dass alias Dali s/o Air Commodore Balwant Dass, a London educated youth who preferred to throw in his lot with the downtrodden Baloch, came to the mountains in December 1971. Gregarious by nature he was soon a friend of all. By the time the army operations began in 1973 he had picked up some knowledge of medicine from me and was helping the sick. He, by nature, was very caring and compassionate. I had fallen seriously ill due to a freak accident and he helped me recover. He would sit and read me books, especially Pearl S Buck’s All Men are Brothers for hours on end and helped me in hundreds of ways.

The Marris liked his simple ways and respected him. During 1975, the army operations intensified and most of the cadre was in Sindh and small fighting groups continued resistance. He wanted to come to Sindh to consult about matters of the camps, etc. His constant companion was Sher Ali Ramkani, a youth of some 20 years, a hard worker who endeared himself to all with his diligence and energy. They were both on their way to Sindh with a double agent who set them up and both were picked up at Belpat, never to be heard of again.

A few years after my return from Afghanistan I was contacted by Sardar Sher Baz Mazari who said Dalip’s parents wanted to meet me. I met them and they asked a lot about him and wanted to know if anyone knew about his fate. In me they had the consolation of knowing someone who had been with their son in the mountains. His mother still keeps asking me if there was any hope of his being alive. The 30-plus years have not erased hope from her heart. Imagine the agony of the mothers who have been recently affected. Little wonder that the mothers of the present disappeared persons brave the scorching sun and freezing temperatures outside the Supreme Court and press clubs to bring to notice the plight of their loved ones.

There was Bahar Lalwani, a tall man who was always eager to do the tasks within the camp. He acted as a courier and disappeared while on a trip, never to be heard of again. His aged father, Haji Murad Baksh, though never showed sorrow, but was never again the same man.

Shafi Mohammad Badani was a wiry guy, a good blacksmith and a sharpshooter. He was among the first persons I met when I went to the mountains; he had brought horses to take me to the mountains from the plains at the edge of Marri area. He too disappeared while travelling, never to be heard of again.

Dost Ali Durkani, a boy in his late teens, willingly accepted the inherent dangers and acted as a courier. He too went missing on a trip and no one knows about his fate.

Any missing people list would be incomplete without Asadullah Mengal and Ahmed Shah Kurd’s names. Kurd was an intrepid activist and put the Baloch cause ahead of everything.

The Marris are stoic people and never make much of a fuss about the loss of loved ones but whenever these disappeared people are mentioned, their relatives sigh deeply and longingly.

I miss these wonderful persons whose fate is unknown and perhaps will never be known because the state and its functionaries refuse to even admit that their disappearances are real. The Argentinean and Chilean authorities too refused to admit to the ‘dirty war’ they waged to suppress their people but now the chickens are coming home to roost there. Someday, hopefully, it will happen here too.

This article was first published on 26 December, 2009

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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