“Disappearances of people of Balochistan are the most burning issue in the country.”
– Supreme Court Justice Javid Iqbal
A few years ago, plight of Baloch people and the tragic stories of families desperate to find some answer about their missing family members. International Human Rights organisations released terrifying reports of atrocities by security agencies. In recent years, journalists were warned against reporting on the situation in Balochistan. Suddenly, the narrative changed and we were being fed stories about Baloch militants surrendering by hundreds to Pakistan forces. Like much of what we are told today the reality is not as clean than the official version. It is almost impossible for journalists to travel to Balochistan, but some international journalists are starting to report what they are terming as ‘the bloodiest war you’ve never heard of‘. In Pakistan, there are also beginning to be traces of the bloodstains reappearing in media reports.
A new report about Frontier Corps killing Baloch militants notes that more bullet riddled bodies are being found dumped.
Meanwhile, two bullet-riddled bodies were found in the coastal town of Pasni in Gwadar district.
The two men were killed in a shootout with the security forces in Ward No 7, Pasni SHO Imam Bakhash Baloch said.
The bodies were shifted to Civil Hospital Pasni, where they were identified as Younas Yousaf and Hanif Kulanchi.
However, the family members of the victims claimed the men had been missing for a while before they were found dead.
According to sources, Younas went missing on February 20, 2013 while Hanif had been missing since June 23, 2015.
‘Kill and dump‘ operations have been commonly used in Balochistan since long. After giving some small hope for justice, Supreme Court has once again turned away from. Can’t the honourable Justices feel some sympathies for the heartbroken mothers? If our Baloch brothers and sisters are denied justice, what can we expect when Army vows to ‘go to any length‘ in Karachi?
Anti-Terrorism Court in Quetta has acquitted Gen Musharraf in Akbar Bugti murder case. The outcome is not a surprise. Convicting any military officer, even those of lesser rank than General is nearly impossible. To convict a former Chief of Army Staff? Unthinkable. The fix was in since long, too, as police and other officials conveniently ‘lost’ most of the evidence.
With this acquittal, Gen Musharraf joins a long list of Pakistan’s “untouchables” – individuals who no court can convict and no amount of evidences can satisfactorily condemn. Others include Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Amir Jamaat-ud-Dawa Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, and former head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Malik Ishaq.
This inability to convict certain people has been a disaster. Diplomatically, it has cast doubt among foreign nations about whether we are honest in our efforts to fight terrorism, feeding those who accuse the state of playing double games and using militancy as a strategic asset. At home, it has deteriorated law and order by causing doubt about the willingness or the ability of security agencies to go after certain groups. This only encourages others to commit the same acts.
In the case of Akbar Bugti murder, it is a doubly dangerous outcome because it sends the message to Baloch that the estimated 21,000 missing and 6,000 killed and mutilated are worth less than one General. Anger erupted in Balochistan after Bugti was killed. Do we expect our Baloch brothers to celebrate when his killer walks scot free?
As CPEC commences, Pakistan Navy has raised a special battalion to protect Chinese citizens from Pakistanis. While much of the rest of the nation anxiously awaits the Chinese investment to transform them into rich, many Baloch are actually worried that they are being left out of the benefits.
“We are not against the Gwadar deep sea port, CPEC or any other developmental project but if it is meant to marginalize the native people and make them like Red Indians then we will not allow it to happen,” Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmad Muhammad Shahi told The Nation.
The obvious response should be to address Baloch concerns and make sure that they are not marginalised. However the sad reality appears to be very different.
پاکستان کے صوبہ بلوچستان سے جبری طور پر لاپتہ کیے گئے افراد کے لواحقین کا کہنا ہے کہ سال 2015 کے دوران صوبے بھر سے مزید 463 افراد جبری طور پر لاپتہ ہوئے ہیں۔
Thousands of Baloch have been arrested with no reason given.
’آٹھ ہزار افراد کی گرفتاری کی بات تو اخبار میں آئی ہے لیکن اس بات کی کوئی وضاحت نہیں کی گئی کہ یہ کون لوگ ہیں اور ان کو کن مقدمات میں گرفتار کیا گیا ہے۔‘
PM has said that ‘Pakistan’s path to prosperity starts from Balochistan‘. To succeed, though, it must be understood that it is Pakistan’s prosperity and not Punjab’s prosperity as many fear is the true aim of CPEC.
Education is important, not just so that a child can learn to read and write, but so that a nation can prosper. Researchers with the United Nations found that “each additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 per cent and increases a country’s GDP by 18 per cent”. This should make education a central part of national policy in Pakistan where economic growth has lagged for decades despite the country being located in one of the fastest growing economic regions of the world. Actually, Pakistan is second from last in economic growth in the region. The only country worse is Afghanistan, which has been a war zone since more than 10 years.
If we are lagging in economic growth, and education is a proven way of boosting economic growth, what is our current education policy? Once again, we are almost at the bottom. Not only of the region, but of the entire world.
Pakistan has the second highest concentration of out-of-school children in the world after Nigeria
Some efforts are being made to improve things. Punjab government has successfully enrolled in school 18,622 children from brick kilns. However, it is a drop in the ocean of the problem. 360 schools were destroyed in Fata this year. And while 18,622 children have been enrolled in school in Punjab, 1.6 million children are out of school in Balochistan.
Pakistan’s education emergency is not new, but it is not improving and it is pushing us towards economic disaster for coming generations. Education is a matter of uplifting the poor and improving girls empowerment, but treating this emergency as such has been a failure till date. We need to treat the dire education emergency for what it is: a national security crisis.
The loud slapping sound you heard yesterday was not a cracker, it was the sound of millions of simultaneous facepalms when news broke of a new proposal to require visa for Pakistanis to travel to Gwadar…in Pakistan. Even though some were shocked by the news, the move was immediately appreciated by those like Ahmed Quraishi.
He explained his approval by comparing to other cities requiring entry visas like Hong Kong and Macau.
Giving credit where it is due, Ahmed Quraishi might have a point this time. After all, both Hong Kong and Macau required entry visa because they were foreign controlled colonies. Hong Kong was a Chinese city controlled by the British Empire, and Macau was a Chinese city under control of the Portuguese Empire.
In an official ceremony tomorrow, Pakistani authorities will formally hand over 2,281 acres of Gwadar to China. The Chinese will have formal control over this part of Pakistan, and Pakistan will provide extra security to Chinese citizens to protect them from Pakistanis.
There is strong belief that these are the necessary steps to develop Balochistan and save the nation’s economy. Maybe that is true. But even if it is true, we should be willing to submit to this without pretending that it is something other than what it is…colonisation.