VIEW: Please don’t lose the opportunity —Azizullah Khan - Friday, April 15, 2011

If the relatives of missing persons went back to Balochistan without getting their demands fulfilled, imagine what message would go to the Baloch as a nation. The neutral Baloch people will become disillusioned and will be more attracted to the agenda of the insurgents

The situation in Balochistan is moving from bad to worse and there is no positive response from the government’s side. Everyday bullet riddled bodies (claimed to be of missing persons) are found, peoples are kidnapped, power transformers and electricity pylons are blown up and state machinery is targeted. Uncertainty and insecurity is reigning over the people of Balochistan. People over there are fearful of law enforcement agencies, which have no respect for them.

It seems that strategic policy makers in Islamabad are persistently trying to resolve the issue through ‘kidnapping’ and ‘targeted killing’. Some pseudo-patriots expect that this policy would pay dividends but it is quite obvious that it will backfire. Given the fact that the female relatives of the missing persons came out of their homes in protest against illegal and shameful kidnapping of their loved ones, it can be easily deciphered that their male relatives will be inclined to join insurgent groups. So how kidnapping and targeted killing can help us solve the issue? Is not this policy strengthening the hands of the insurgents?

Stories of kidnappings of the missing persons are full of horror, brutality and cruelty. The sister of one the missing persons told the BBC, “One dark night a few people jumped into our home, threatened us, overpowered my brother, severely beat him and then whisked him away.” She held the intelligence agencies responsible for the kidnapping of her brother. Heartrending stories of other missing persons, which are believed to be in hundreds if not thousands, are not much different from this story.

Relatives of these missing persons are protesting for a very long time, using their democratic right of peaceful protests but their cries fall on deaf ear. They are staging protests in Islamabad under the platform of ‘Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons’, but, unfortunately, they have not received any positive response so far. In fact, Interior Minister Rehman Malik rubbed salt into their wounds by saying that “criminals” are behind the kidnappings in the province, though he did not provide any evidence in support of his claim. Senate Chairman Farooq H Naek announced that a parliamentary committee would be set up to look into the issue. But we know, in Pakistan, when any matter is passed on to committees one can be sure that it has been thrown into a dust bin, so it is a non-starter. The relatives are asking the government to announce the arrest of missing persons and file charges against them in courts. Some of us are quick to argue, “Why don’t the Baloch resort to democratic means to raise their concerns?” I ask: how will they believe in democratic principles if their democratic struggle of almost three long years for the recovery of their loved ones has not shown any results?

Protestors are not demanding release of their relatives: they are demanding their appearance; bring them before the courts if there are valid charges against them and let the independent courts to decide. They are ready to fight their cases in courts. That security agencies are not bringing them before the courts is due to two reasons: either they do not think that courts are independent, i.e. they fear that the courts will favour the missing persons or they, just like other non-state actors, consider themselves above the law. Both the scenarios are dangerous.

It is shameful that the protestors were whisked away and interrogated by intelligence agencies after their arrival at Rawalpindi’s railway station and our eagle-eyed media did not cover it. What more can we expect from the media which failed to cover an event related to Balochistan in Islamabad?

It is extremely unfortunate that our security agencies are held responsible for the missing persons. It not only undermines the credibility of our most stable institutions both at home and abroad but also attracts world attention towards their human rights violations. The matter has become public; it is now debated everywhere with stark references to security agencies. We want the concerned authorities to put an end to the issue as we do not want our stable institutions to remain in spotlight and publicly criticised for such wrong deeds.

If the relatives of missing persons went back to the Balochistan without getting their demands fulfilled, imagine what message would go to the Baloch as a nation. The neutral Baloch people will become disillusioned and will be more attracted to the agenda of the insurgents. If the demands of the protestors are addressed, they will carry home a message of brotherhood, peace and integrity to Balochistan. The middle class of Baloch will celebrate it, which will be a great blow to the agenda of separatists. The Baloch people’s hate against security forces will recede, which will greatly help in refurnishing their faith in the political system of Pakistan.

It is hoped that the security agencies extend their sincere assistance to the Supreme Court, which is hearing the missing persons’ case and a major breakthrough is achieved. If concerns of the protesters are addressed and they are sent back with smiles on their faces, it will deal a blow to separatist demands. So let us take it as an opportunity, not as something embarrassing.

The suppression of the Baloch is suppression for the sake suppression; neither is it a policy nor wisdom. It is sheer insanity to attach expectations with suppression. To dishearten peaceful protestors who are protesting on such a sensitive issue at such a crucial time is disastrous. So, please, do not dishearten them, address their demands and send a message of brotherhood, kindness and sympathy to the Baloch people. It is a time for you to soften your image and correct your record.

The writer is a graduate of Government College University, Lahore, and can be reached at

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