Old saga: dangerous new dimensions

ANALYSIS: Old saga: dangerous new dimensions —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Settlers’ deaths in Balochistan evoke widespread condemnation but there is deafening silence at Baloch deaths. Silence is equated with condoning the crimes and encourages perpetrators to more barbarism

The old saga of missing persons in Balochistan has recently assumed dangerous new dimensions. A new and more gruesome chapter of atrocities has been opened. Baloch from all walks of life — picked up by the agencies — turn up dead, shot point-blank. Then these black deeds are claimed by fictitious organisations going by the name of Sipah-e-Shuhada-e-Balochistan, etc. How do persons arrested by agencies turn up in their hands? No one bothers to explain and no one bothers to ask.

States that realise that they cannot prosecute or control dissidents, even under their unjust, biased laws, employ the tactic of killing incarcerated or forcibly disappeared persons. More importantly, it is the fear of defeat in their minds that prompts the use of this gruesome tactic. Indications are that now it is an officially sanctioned tactic and will be used indiscriminately. This tactic, incidentally, is the first building block in the larger strategy of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and may win them the ‘Battle of Algiers’ but, eventually, the Baloch will prevail.

When the 1988 Mujahideen-e-Khalq attack on Kermanshah was routed with 4,500 casualties, Iran initiated proceedings against the mujahideen and other leftist prisoners held by them and already sentenced on lesser crimes. They were questioned about their intentions and beliefs and then were hanged on charges based on this questioning. Conservative estimates put the dead at 5,000 prisoners, including women. Some say 30,000 were killed, but the true figures will never be known. Montazeri’s opposition to these hangings led to his removal.

On July 28th, Daily Times, probably the only English daily to do so, reported: “A division bench of the Balochistan High Court consisting of BHC Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Muhammad Noor Miskanzai on Tuesday expressed serious concern over media reports of the killing of two young missing persons, 25-year-old Ashfaq Ahmed Mullahzai and 30-year-old Muhammad Farooq Mengal.” The paper also commented that, “We are extremely perturbed with the deaths of Ashfaq Ahmed and Muhammad Farooq Mengal and the same are of great concern.”

Perturbed they should be because they were hearing a petition by Ashfaq Ahmed’s father on his son’s abduction by unidentified persons on May 28th, 2010; the respondents were then summoned for an August 3rd, 2010 hearing. The bodies of these two cousins and friends were found in Killi Qambrani area, Quetta. Apparently, their murderers were not prepared to present them before the court. Relatives inform that Farooq Mengal was picked up from Lak Pass and Ashfaq from Quetta.

The honourable court should be genuinely perturbed. Its writ does not quite extend over those who make people disappear and neither can they punish those responsible for these horrific murders. These gruesome killings followed the equally gruesome and similar disappearances and murders of Najibullah Lango, a relative of Shaheed Majeed Lango, and Faiz Baloch. In spite of expressions of concern here and internationally, these disappearances have become increasingly vicious, brazen and all too frequent.

On August 6th, the bodies of previously disappeared Ghulam Qadir Marri and Bahar Khan Bangulzai were found from Killi Khali area of Brewery Road. Baig Muhammad Bangulzai, Bahar Khan’s father, had filed a petition in the Balochistan High Court saying that his son was whisked away by security personnel on June 31. Ghulam Qadir Marri, arrested twice before but released after severe torture, was a teacher at the Girl’s Primary School, New Kahan and was arrested a month back. He was unlucky the third time round; luck naturally runs out when one is in the clutches of a ruthless enemy.

Nasrullah Baloch, Chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons says, “We have received six dead bodies of missing persons within a short span of two weeks and the issue of missing persons is obtaining a new dimension as they are being killed.” BSO-Azad and other radical groups are particularly targeted. Tariq Baloch of BSO-Azad was abducted from Quetta some time back. His abductors left him unconscious in an uninhabited place in Wadh on August 7.

Surprisingly, some killings in Balochistan receive full media and authorities’ attention while others are indifferently overlooked and forgotten. Unfortunately, the media and state propaganda have tuned public minds in such a way that the state’s horrific crimes seem justified while dissidents’ actions are condemned. For example, the ‘necklace killings’ in South Africa were condemned in the West while the decades long suffering of the entire black population due to apartheid was conveniently overlooked. To quote Robert Fisk, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not just about clichés — this is preposterous journalism. There is no battle between power and the media. Through language, we have become them.”

A different standard for evaluating the lives of people from different ethnic groups encourages state terror. Settlers’ deaths in Balochistan evoke widespread condemnation but there is deafening silence at Baloch deaths. Silence is equated with condoning the crimes and encourages perpetrators to more barbarism. Apathy only reaffirms the Baloch belief that the state’s promises are worthless. Little wonder then that the Baloch youth celebrated August 11 as Independence Day.

Recently, a Marri living in the Jamshoro area worriedly called me. The Baloch living along the Super Highway, eking out a livelihood by extracting stone, were being taken a census of by the army. No official census is underway so the reason for registering them is actually to keep tabs on them. Ironically, the hundreds of thousands of Afghans living illegally in Sindh are not bothered about but a few thousand Baloch seem to pose a threat. This unofficial and illegal census should be immediately ended.

The saga of missing persons has assumed dangerous dimensions because those responsible have found a convenient method to thwart even the lukewarm interest of higher courts to deal with the problem; shadowy organisations cannot be summoned to explain actions. Those responsible for this tactic think terror will deter the Baloch from struggling for their rights; on the contrary those who are neutral today will enter the fray to fight against this state-sponsored terrorism.

Keeping past experiences in mind, asking for justice from the perpetrators of these horrific crimes would be very naïve because even the apparently powerful and independent courts are helpless. So what I ask for is that those waging an undeclared war against the Baloch people should show some courage and at least accept responsibility for the killings in the way the Baloch groups do when they kill someone. But then bullies never own up to their crimes.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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