Balochistan: Our Human Rights Blind Spot

Mass-Graves-Found-in-Khuzdar-Balochistan-Pakistan-820x300Entire country’s effort to shame the global community into waking up to the human rights atrocities in Kashmir is encouraging and shows the power that even the common man can have when united behind the cause of justice. Now that we know what is possible, though, we must ask why the same level of effort is not being given to the human rights of our own countrymen. I am speaking of course about the human rights atrocities which are being committed in Balochistan. According to official documents, over 1,000 bullet riddled corpses have been recovered from Balochistan during the last six years.

Ironically, while we are protesting that the entire world is blind to the atrocities in Kashmir, the world has been reporting the human rights situation in Balochistan for years and we are the ones who have been ignoring it. Our Kashmiri brothers and sisters deserve justice and the ability to live without fear of state terrorism, but don’t our Baloch brothers and sisters deserve this also?

Democracy for Kashmir but not Karachi

Waseem Akhtargestures from an armoured personal carrier while being taken to jail after his arrestPolling took place on Thursday for 41 constituencies of Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly, and special accommodations were made for over 40,000 Kashmiri refugees also. This election is of particular symbolic importance because it is taking place while Kashmiris in Indian-controlled Kashmir are suffering human rights atrocities at the hands of Indian security forces. However, as unofficial results are eagerly awaited across Pakistan, we should also be asking whether we support democracy for Kashmir but not for Karachi.

Karachi elections were held over seven months ago, though the individuals elected have not been permitted to take their offices. Actually, it’s worse. They have been arrested and denied bail by Pakistan security forces. Now it has been reported that Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar has been handed over to the infamous SSP Rao Anwar known as ‘King of Encounters’ for the number of people killed without any trial under his watch and has even been suspended for giving sensationalist press conferences accusing suspects of being RAW agents.

King of Encounters SSP Rao Anwar

Now we are left facing the question of whether democracy in Pakistan is rigged for hyper-nationalists only, or whether we are really interested in letting the people choose their own fate.

March From Pakistan to Al-Bakistan

jamaat women

Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister, once said, “Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.”

Mohtarma, being a part of that environment, was well aware of it, where religious extremism was feeding under the shadows of Zia’s dregs. Radicalization is the main factor of extremism and extremism leads to terrorism, which according to statistics has caused 130,000 fatalities worldwide, between 2006 and 2013.

In Pakistan, around 60,779 people have lost their lives between 2003 and 2016 due to terrorism, and Pakistan stands at 4th out of 124 countries in a Terrorism Index, according to 2015 reports. Poverty and low standard of living are the main reasons for extremism. The majority of Pakistanis have middle class and lower middle class living standards, which has caused hopelessness and desperation. The quality-of-life index clearly shows the position of Pakistan; it stands at 93 out of 111 countries.

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Coup Lessons

Islamabad coup billboardsIn Islamabad, pro-coup billboards are showing up just as the Army chief’s retirement date draws near. No one is surprised, and while the boys are not taking credit, neither are they eager to take any action against the campaign. Retired officers are even expressing their desire for Gen Raheel to continue beyond his term, just as they have supported the same for every Army chief before him. Media has twisted the words of US officials including US Senator John Mccain to try to make it sound like America also wants an extension for Gen Raheel, and the usual suspects on social media have been chomping at the bit for “Go Nawaz Go” slogans.

However it was Turkey, not Pakistan, that has suffered a coup attempt, and the response has been amusing to watch. There are those who are clearly disappointed that Turkey’s coup did not succeed, and worry that this might send the wrong message to our own leaders.

Next there are the civilian leaders celebrating Turkish citizens fearlessly standing up to their military to preserve their democracy.

It has to be a dream for them that their own people would do something similar, but it is also a lesson for all of us that no matter how powerful, every Army depends on the support of its people and losing that renders it virtually powerless.

This brings us to the powers that be, who have remained bizarrely silent so far. And the boot polishers who are just bizarre.

Blind to Kashmiri Suffering

blind kashmirIt is supposed to be a way to inflict some pain without killing, but the end result it spreading blindness across Kashmir. I am talking about the pellet guns used by Indian security forces, but I am also talking about the Kashmiri struggle in a bigger way also.

Since independence, geopolitical powers have played a dangerous game where common Kashmiris are treated as their pawns. Maharaja Hari Singh ignored the sentiments of the people by choosing to join Kashmir to India in 1947. Since the past 70 years, India has been blind the natural wishes of the Kashmiris to choose their own fate, turning peaceful people into activists.

However India is not the only power which is blind to how their policies are hurting innocent Kashmiris. Our own government’s response to the Maharaja’s illegitimate decision has been equally as harmful. Instead of getting the global community to help, we have pushed them away by supporting militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Hafiz Saeed and Burhan Wani are pellets that have blinded the world to the suffering of actual Kashmiris, and we are the ones firing these pellets into their eyes.

Pellet guns are spreading hate and resentment and increasing the number of blind and disfigured, but so is militancy. Those suffering the most are the innocent Kashmiris who are caught in the middle of a terrible game played by security forces outside of their control.