VIEW: Islamabad’s barbarism —Mohammad Akhtar Mengal - Friday, March 18, 2011

Source :\03\18\story_18-3-2011_pg3_2

Islamabad’s policy of eliminating the political backbone of Baloch society through a ‘kill and dump’ strategy will further the Baloch resolve to look for alternatives rather than sticking with merciless Islamabad

According to reputable human rights organisations and media reports, as many as 110 bullet-riddled bodies of moderate missing Baloch political activists have surfaced in the past seven months of 2010 and 2011. This alarming trend of ‘kill and dump’ started in mid-2010 and has been going on unabatedly, with the criminal silence of the international community that upholds the banner of human rights and provides belts and bullets to our rogue security establishment.

In fact, the Baloch-Islamabad conflict is a known reality. The Baloch people want to control their own destiny and Islamabad wants to suppress the political will of the people through western-provided guns and cannons.

The International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC’s) concern regarding the alarming human rights emergency in Balochistan is a wakeup call for the international community to urgently react to the Balochcide, a slow motion systematic genocide of educated and moderate Baloch political youth.

Moderate Baloch political parties have been voicing their demand for the right of self-determination and fundamental changes in Pakistan’s ethnically structured state system, which is based on discriminatory principles and policies. But Islamabad’s reluctant institutions failed to address their genuine grievances, which furthered the Baloch people’s mistrust of the state system and institutions.

The ongoing merciless military operations since 2005 neither improved political conditions nor helped stabilise the security situation. Flawed and ill-conceived socio-political engineering of Baloch society by Islamabad’s vision-less and biased establishment turned peaceful Balochistan into a quagmire. Each and every policy is furthering the divide and hatred between the Baloch and the state.

The mounting anger and distress is not due to external involvement; the Baloch frustration and reaction towards the colonising forces, particularly the non-Baloch paramilitary force (Frontier Corps), is due to their heavy-handed policies and disrespect towards the Baloch people.

Actually, the onus lies on the federal government, especially the establishment that comprises the military, bureaucracy and policymakers, responsible for maintaining a pugnacious approach towards Balochistan. Their policy is not much different from colonial policies. They want to control Balochistan politically, economically and socially.

In order to control society and politics of Balochistan, Islamabad has unleashed a policy of divide and rule under which it is pampering some pro-establishment sardars, nawabs and criminal groups. The prevailing state of poverty, lawlessness, anarchy and disappointment is, in fact, the fallout of the federal government’s deliberate policy of negligence and suppression.

Political conflicts mainly originate from social and economic deprivation. The main cause of unrest in Balochistan since 1947 is political oppression and the people’s deprivation. The province is economically controlled and a special security apparatus rules the province. The official narrative is that they want to develop Balochistan but the Baloch do not accept their model of development. Therefore, they justify the use of brute force against the Baloch.

Thousands of Baloch youth are jobless and living in appalling conditions, but around 150,000 army, navy, Frontier Corps (FC), anti-narcotics force (ANF) and coast guard recruits are appointed from the dominant province [Punjab] to systematically suppress and economically control the province.

Besides acknowledging the role of the FC in the disappearance of people, even the Balochistan government has expressed its helplessness in controlling this force. Balochistan’s Advocate General Salahuddin Mengal submitted to the Supreme Court on March 2, 2011 a report on the killings, murders, abductions and kidnappings for ransom in the province. “We are recovering dead bodies day in and day out as the FC and police are lifting people in broad daylight at will, but we are helpless. Who can check the FC?” Mr Mengal asked. “End the burning issue of missing persons first and then blame the Balochistan government for not controlling the law and order situation,” he said.

The Baloch people have always demanded an end to the presence of a third party, i.e. military and paramilitary forces in Balochistan. While there is no such heavy presence of security forces in the rest of the country, why is lack of trust shown toward the Baloch by deploying so many troops in Balochistan? The heavy deployment has made it impossible for the local people to grow economically, socially and politically. There are around 800-900 checkposts of the FC across Balochistan. There is one checkpost for every 8,000 people. You cannot see such an overwhelming and aggressive presence of the forces in the remaining three provinces.

The FC has been granted powers under the Customs Act, which means it can even monitor the movement of the Baloch people on the roads, which discourages economic activities. If the FC is going to perform every job, then what is the need to have other state institutions?

Moreover, the FC has a very colonial structure. For instance, the Rangers in Punjab, Sindh and FC in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa predominantly comprise locals of those provinces but in Balochistan the FC is entirely manned by ‘outsiders’ who often treat the local population as their slaves. The FC is a major cause of resentment because it has always had a key role in stirring trouble in the province. It is a major bone of contention rather than being part of the solution to the problem.

There are nearly 350 arms manufacturing factories in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The government endorses, encourages and legalises those factories by recognising them as a source of income for the tribal people. In Balochistan, the tribes and their chiefs are disrespected by the forces, an attitude which is intolerable and unacceptable to us. Regardless of our differences with certain political figures, we believe they must not be disrespected and mistreated.

The human rights situation is further exacerbated since the mainstream national media and superior judiciary is playing a partial role and siding with Islamabad’s powerful security establishment. The media is under-reporting the Balochistan truth, and the judiciary is silent over extra-judicial and targeted killings of ethnic Baloch political activists. This policy of blackout is encouraging the security forces to take extra-constitutional and extra-judicial actions to eliminate political dissidents.

Islamabad’s policy of eliminating the political backbone of Baloch society through a ‘kill and dump’ strategy will further the Baloch resolve to look for alternatives rather than sticking with merciless Islamabad.

The writer is the president of Balochistan National Party

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