By Khalid Hayat Jamaldini
What is going on in Balochistan? Is it terrorism? Is it struggle for provincial autonomy? Or is it a Baloch revolutionary movement, aimed at breaking the chains of slavery and changing the status quo–Pakistan’s totalitarian colonialism?
Baloch professors, politicians, intellectuals, human right activists and journalists are brutally gunned down during daylight, while students, political activists and poets are kidnapped in the darkness of night. Their bodies, when found, reveal cruel and agonizing deaths.
News reports make it sound as if the government of Pakistan is unaware of who is behind the chain of murders; the country’s law enforcement agencies also feign ignorance. The victims, however, blame the country’s intelligence agencies for these hideous acts. National and international human rights organizations, like the Human Right Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, draw similar conclusions: they all blame the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.
Officials of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, however, deny such allegations. To date, these intelligence agencies have held foreign hands responsible for the chain of assassinations in Baluchistan. If Pakistan’s intelligence agencies claims are true, the fundamental question is why have they failed to prevent these brutal acts and bring the perpetrators to justice?
Logically, there are three possibilities that account for the failure to prevent the serial killings of Baloch intellectuals: 1) The government, particularly its intelligence agencies, is unwilling to prevent these criminal acts, 2) they are incompetent to do so, or 3) they themselves are behind the murders.
The overall impression of the public is that the Pakistani government at large is not willing to take any actions to prevent these organized crimes against the Baloch people. In the last six decades, not one individual has been caught or brought to justice for any of these murders. This injustice and failure on the part of Pakistani officials has widened the mistrust and disrespect of Baloch people towards Pakistan.
In the past 60 years, Pakistani officials at both the federal and provincial levels have continuously made false promises about positively changing the conditions in Balochistan, whose people have been reduced to poverty. Each ruler coming to power in Pakistan apologizes to the Baloch people for past wrongdoings and promises to change the living conditions of Balochs, a suppressed nation, but they all have failed to abide by their promises. Instead, the stated mission of “doing more,” in effect, translates to a kind of torture on a variety of levels related to the quality of human life, e.g., economical, educational, basic rights, human rights–all are negatively impacted by Pakistan’s efforts to do more for the Baloch.
Considering the bitter experiences of the past, as well as the present’s fearful circumstances, many Balochs have once again given up hope and have stopped dreaming of a better future within Pakistan. The reason and logic behind such decision is vivid: their future will never be bright while living under, in effect, Pakistani captivity.
For the Balochs to rid their lives of brutality, racism, totalitarian rulers, inequality and injustices, those men and women who have a vision of national prosperity–a prosperity that can be enjoyed by the entire Baloch nation–have again organized and started a revolution with the aim of winning the rights of the people of Baluchistan. Simply put, they are organizing to secure their human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and democratic rights as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Like every other independence movement, this struggle or movement for liberty has been continuously suppressed by Pakistan and labeled as “terrorism and anti-state activities.” The irony is, of course, that every meaningless visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani or Interior Minister Rehman Malik to Balochistan (aimed at reconciliation) is welcomed by the recovery of innocent, disappeared Baloch youth’s tortured dead bodies.
Mir Sohaib Mengal, in his latest article “The killings and the promises” published in a leading Pakistani newspaper, Daily Times Pakistan, on 19 October, 2011, writes about the recent visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister to Balochistan. It seems that Mr. Gilani was unaware of what his men in uniform and plain clothes were doing in Khuzdar, Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan while he was enjoying dry-fruits in the garrison city of Quetta on his short visit. In the very short span of three days, nine mutilated bodies of Baloch missing persons were found in different parts of Balochistan.
Similarly, Mr. Rehman Malik, who was recently awarded an honorary PhD degree by the University of Karachi (a very divisive point among scholars who question in which capacity he was awarded such a prestige degree), has always filled his pocket with lot of phony stories about issues in Balochistan during his visits. Just recently, for example, Dr. Rehman claimed that he is in touch with the leadership of Baloch separatist groups and has made them agree to table talks. He has said further that the nation would soon hear good news related to this matter.
Prior to Dr. Malik’s statement, the same tactic was used by Senator Lashkari Rasani, the younger brother of the Chief Minister of Balochistan. Both statements were rejected by different pro-independence groups who described them as propaganda for the purpose of creating misunderstanding among the groups and among the people of Balochistan, and to jeopardize the movement by employing mischievous strategies to fan hostility within the Baloch groups and political parties.
For their part, Baloch insurgents reject accusations that they are involved in terrorism or anti-state activities. They characterize their activities as a revolution, one in which hundreds of Balochs of different ages and backgrounds have lost their lives at the hands of Pakistani intelligence agencies who disappear and extra-judicially murder Baloch. Baloch locals also describe military operations carried out by Pakistani forces in many different districts of Balochistan. In this insurgency, Baloch tribal chieftains have also not been spared. The Chief Minister, the Governor, ministers and bureaucrats have all been attacked, as have Balochs who belong to various pro-autonomy parties and who would prefer to remain a part of Pakistan, as well as settlers, particularly the Punjabis (an ethnic group from the Punjab province of Pakistan and also known as the ruling class of the country). Some of these attacks are claimed by Baloch insurgents. Responsibility for others is harder to determine for claims and counter-claims are routine and there is no one to investigate anything in the fog of this war. Baloch insurgents have long appealed for international human rights investigators and journalists to come to Balochistan to conduct their own investigations, but very few have ever responded to this plea, primarily because the Pakistan government both discourages and/or outright prohibits outsiders from visiting Balochistan.
The Baloch insurgency shares some features with sister revolutions in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Like the citizens of these countries, the Balochs suffer from relative deprivation, meaning that they are deprived of real political power and democracy. In addition, many are tortured to death because of their political activism. If the Baloch, like others, want to change their future, they have to rid themselves of the tyrannical regime under which they live. 60 years of rule by successive Pakistani governments has done nothing to improve the lot of the Baloch people. In fact, the Baloch, as a whole, probably suffer a level of deprivation greater than many of the citizens in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, for little revenue from resources extracted from Balochistan by Pakistan has ever reached the Baloch public. It is this overwhelming deprivation that drives the insurgency. The Baloch want to harness Balochistan’s natural resources to meet the needs of its population long deprived of adequate food, shelter, health services, physical and mental security, and an ability to assert its identity and so on.
This time the current movement has an edge over previous ones–and that is the enthusiastic involvement of educated Baloch youth from different professions, intellectuals and women. There is an eagerness on the part of the public and activists to bring change in order to enjoy a better future in their homeland. Furthermore, it is observed that preference is not given to emotional speeches and press statements by the leadership, the effects of which are not lasting.
What the Baloch have to admit, however, is the harsh reality that their unity, at present, is not healthy enough to bring rapid change. The Baloch still have to work hard to overcome their flaws. Due to their hard work, the world now knows about the barbarism of Pakistan towards the Baloch people. But now the Baloch pro-independence political parties have to step up. They should come up with clear policies regarding how they can make Balochistan a better place to live and invest in. They have to focus on how to unite their people and they have to stop sniping at each other. They should concentrate on table talks to end their differences, rather than giving rivals ammunition with which to imperil the revolution. They still have a long way to go to accomplish that which can only be achieved by unity, committed persons, visionary leadership and excellent team work, but start they must–this fog of war will never lift and development will never begin without it.
The writer belongs to Balochistan and writes on the issue of Balochistan for international and national websites and papers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org