Murder and mayhem

Last month, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif urged all political parties to call an All-Parties Conference (APC) on Balochistan. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has finally decided to convene an APC to discuss the Balochistan issue. Mr Gilani said that even though the government tried to reach out to the Baloch through the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, the deteriorating law and order situation overshadowed the initiative. When the package was announced, we had cautioned in this space that “bringing normalcy to Balochistan may not be as easy a task as may appear because the people of Balochistan carry a history of neglect, exploitation and repression” (‘Balochistan package’, Daily Times, November 25, 2009). The penny has finally dropped for the government that addressing the woes of the Baloch is not so simple. Since then, there has been a lot of bloodshed in the province, mostly carried out by our intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces; the damage has already been done. Balochistan is not just the most neglected of all provinces but has faced the worst sort of state oppression, much like the Bengalis faced when East Pakistan was part of our country. Balochistan is no stranger to insurgencies and uprisings against state oppression. So far there have been five insurgencies in the province — 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63, 1973-77 and the latest one that started in 2002 and took off after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

Threats, harassment, enforced disappearances, bullet-riddled bodies and mutilated corpses are a norm in Balochistan. But it seems that the modus operandi of our military and its spy agencies is the same all over the country. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), “more than a dozen bullet-riddled bodies have been found in Sindh” since January 2012. From the 11 prisoners who went missing from Adiala Jail to missing persons in the tribal areas, Balochistan and Sindh, it is quite obvious that the military has a general policy on how to deal with any dissenting voices. The 11 prisoners, four of whom died in custody, were accused of terrorism against the security forces. No charges were proved. It was only after the Supreme Court ordered that they be produced that we saw how inhumanely they had been treated. When the security forces carry out extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnappings, they are damaging their own anti-terrorism cause. The Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun nationalists are not even accused of terrorism, but their nationalist credentials are somehow treated as being ‘treasonous’. If this is the way our military is going to treat the citizens of Pakistan, it is no wonder that the Functional Committee of the Senate on Human Rights has asked that the spy agencies be reined in before they do any more damage to the federation. How much more havoc will the military wreak before the nation and our political class wake up?

It is important that the APC on Balochistan is convened as soon as possible and the political class must stand united so as to stop the military’s myopic and cruel activities. The APC must not be full of usual rhetoric without any results. It must be conclusive. Baloch representation is a must. All political parties must join hands to stop the bloodshed in Balochistan and elsewhere in the country. Our mighty military will only listen once the political forces assert themselves. Our apathy towards East Pakistan has already cost us half of our country. Let’s not allow the rest of Pakistan to be destroyed. The present course has already done enough damage. Now it must be checked and the military sent back to the barracks, where it belongs.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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