Target killings: If you want to survive, lie that you are not Baloch

Published: January 23, 2011

They drive up to corners where men lounge in the evening and ask if they are Baloch. They then take out the gun. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Lyari residents are known as Pakistan Peoples Party loyalists but the neighbourhood’s roads and sewage have been long ignored. PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS They drive up to corners where men lounge in the evening and ask if they are Baloch. They then take out the gun. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: One of the young men had the good sense to say he was Katchchi when they asked if they were Baloch. Suleman did not. All that remains of him today is a baseball cap.

His mother Pareeda, who has lived in Lyari since 1949, cannot help but unknowingly lie to herself. “Lyari is a peaceful place. What was my son’s crime for ending up in a gunny bag?”

Someone who saw the abduction three months ago told the seamstress that men came up to the mechanic’s workshop and asked, ‘Are you Baloch?’ Twenty-five-year-old Suleman and a co-worker innocently answered yes, only to be bound, gagged, beaten and spirited off. Their bodies were discovered in sacks in Nazimabad.

The government has banned pillion riding or double-sawari, ordered a swoop in Orangi Town and politicians and coalition partners have held countless meetings to stem the haemorrhage. For the most part, young political activists from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, Karachi three main parties, have been paying the price. But an ethnic war simmers too as Suleman’s case proves. News of a planned operation by the Rangers is just ‘talk’ for the families of those who have been killed. “If they can actually capture someone who was involved, it would be useful. But this doesn’t happen,” says Syed Qamruddin, whose eyes well up when he is asked about his 29-year-old son Bashiruddin who met the same fate.

Syed Qamruddin, who works at the Edhi Centre in Kharadar, is no stranger to death. “You only realise the pain of losing someone when it comes to needle you,” he sighs. His son was standing near the Peoples Aman Committee office in Lyari Town when he was shot seven times. “My daughter has not gone to school since the conditions of the city have worsened,” says Qamruddin.

Imran’s was another life that was snuffed out. The 22-year-old had just married the girl he loved. He was shot dead a month later during the violence that followed Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Raza Haider’s assassination.

“We used to call him baghicha (garden) because he sold fruit,” recalls his brother-in-law Abdul Qadir. “I cannot even imagine that he is dead. It is not something you can prepare yourself for like when people are hospitalised.”

But while workers of political parties have their leaders to campaign on their behalf and highlight the target killings, Lyari’s residents feel ignored. They complain that no government official has visited to condole, let alone announce any compensation.

Lyari Town has been a stronghold for the PPP since its inception. Despite winning a seat comfortably from this constituency for decades, representatives who make it the National Assembly have done little. Allegiance to the Bhuttos is strong here but the PPP’s profile has taken a hit since Nabeel Gabol was elected MNA in 2008. “What has Nabeel Gabol done for us? Where is the Lyari development package? Why can’t he come here to meet the families?” asks Rizwan Baloch, a member of the Peoples Aman Committee. “He hasn’t been seen in Lyari in two years. We may have to issue ‘missing person’ notices for him.”

“There was a time when every child here said, ‘daal roti khayeinge, Bhutto ko layeinge’. Now they say, ‘Tere bhai, mera bhai, Khan bhai,’” says Shakeeb Baloch of the committee’s central secretariat about support for Sardar Abdul Rehman Baloch, the reformed name of Rehman Dakait, who was killed in 2009. What better measure of the state of a bloodied neighbourhood, than the fact that its residents harken back to a dead man’s spirit?

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Mirsohaib
    Jan 23, 2011 - 2:41PM

    A very nice piece. The Balochs in every part of country are being oppressedRecommend

  • Jan 23, 2011 - 3:33PM

    As You Sow So Shall You Reap. Don’t forget how Punjabis being target killed in Balochistan.Recommend

  • Qaisrani
    Jan 23, 2011 - 3:39PM

    It is really depressing & sad that Baloch in Karachi are feeling helpless and abandoned / left alone by the PPP government. The Baloch in Karachi have always overwhelmingly supported the PPP and voted for it, but PPP has done almost nothing for them. Recommend

  • Jan 23, 2011 - 3:58PM

    Punjabis are killed in Balochistan because of their own behaviour vis-a-vis Baloch nationals. Punjabis are single highhandedly responsible for the fate of the province. So kindly do not mix the issue. As for the target killing of Baloch is concerned within Karachi, that is a fairly new thing for me. Only our security setup can explain that. Recommend

  • Zubair
    Jan 23, 2011 - 6:12PM

    Ameer Hamza,you could’nt get any less racist than that ,could’nt you ?

    Balochs in Balochistan have been held hostage by their own incompetent sardars and Yes even by army but I guess you like many saathis and Ethnic nationalists also believe in the rant of ‘Punjabi army’ – typical racist attitude.

    It is sad what is happening in Karachi and elsewhere and balochs in particular have suffered alot. It is time,government goes ahead with Low-scale operation in KHI to sort this problem out. As for Balochistan,autonomy’s the solution.Recommend

  • sandeman farangi
    Jan 23, 2011 - 7:33PM

    why Punjabi are asking for military action against mazari balochs of kuchha of river indus what is their fault yes the fault lye’s with balochs of province of balochistan because they never own their people in lyari or sindh/south of punjaab they are mast with pashtun/hazara bridesRecommend

  • Jan 23, 2011 - 7:46PM

    @Ameer Hamza:
    You mean Punjabi labors and teachers are responsible for whatever is happening in Balochistan ? Since when teaching and development became a sin in that part of Pakistan ?

    The Baloch killings in Karachi is also “NEWS” for me as assassinations only take place in Karachi either on ethnic or religious basis however we should also keep in mind how ethnic groups are involved in drug peddling, kidnapping for ransom and gang wars in their very own vicinity i.e LYARI. If a couple of Baloch die it must be due to their own rift.Recommend

  • sobriquet
    Jan 23, 2011 - 7:59PM

    Strange that people in Pakistan inquire about their counterpart’s tribal ethnicity before a kidnapping or killing takes place. The outside world is under the impression that Pakistanis don’t waste time in polite conversation; they just shoot each other!Recommend

  • Jan 23, 2011 - 8:22PM

    We are groping for shadows in the dark, unfortunately there will never be anything to hold onto, leaving two options, either fall or find balance from your own strength. The quagmire is so thick with disparate forces at play, disentangling them is impossible, we need a counter cultural revolution, that will bring up people with true concerns for the future. And pray for success, for we don’t want to be like South Africa where out of Apartheid emerged abject corruption that subjugates the poor worse then the white minority.Recommend

  • Mujtaba Abid
    Jan 23, 2011 - 8:45PM

    I don’t know why we are so busy in proving our selves Balochi, Sindhi, Mahajir, Punjabi and Pathan !
    why can not we live as a PAKISTANI ?
    even this article is targeting one ethnic group, why can not they just say the Pakistani living in liyari or the people living in liyari ?
    is the life of mahajir means more then the life of pathan, or the life of sindhi means more then the life of punjabi ?
    we are all same, HUMANS !Recommend

  • Baloch Khan
    Jan 23, 2011 - 9:23PM

    @ Tanzeel Your wrote “Since when teaching and development became a sin in that part of Pakistan ?”

    That is whole point Balochistan is NOT a part of pakistan and was never a part of it. We do not any any development and education from the occupiers. An occupier could not develop us in 1000 years they work for their own interest. We do not want Pakistani education and development all we want is that Pakistan must leave Balochistan as soon as possible.

    We do not support the gangsters whoever they maybe Baloch or Mohajir or the PPP. They are all allies of the government and most of them are member of PPP and MQM. The point about Sardars has become the talk of the past. Moreover, mos of the Sardars are puppets of the Establishment and they do not care about Baloch. In the last six month of 2010 over 100 Baloch have been killed in custody – non of them were sardars. This trick is not going work any more. Recommend

  • Zubair
    Jan 23, 2011 - 10:58PM

    @Farangi

    South Punjab is predominantly Seraiki and Most seraiki are of Baloch lineage followed by Rajputs,Jatts,Gillanis,Hashmis etc etc. The Likes of Khosas,legharis,Mazaris belong from seraiki belt. and Most want separate seraiki or Bwp State,not want to incorporate back to Balochistan.Recommend

  • TKhan
    Jan 23, 2011 - 11:31PM

    Couldn’t expect anything better from Tanzeel but sad to hear others blaming Balochs too for their demise. How the Balochs of Lyari killed by a particular ethnic party linked to the killing of Punjabis by the terrorists of BLA is beyond my compression. Does it mean calling all Muslims terrorists also a fair game now? Sometimes people in such forums disgust me; can’t imagine how can be someone so inhumane and racist. Pathetic and Disgusting. Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Jan 24, 2011 - 5:16AM

    I dont know why these criminals want to kill innocent people whether they are punjabis in Baluchistan or Baluchis in Karachi. All this just creates hatred among Pakistanis. The government needs to find these killers put them in jail and throw the key away for ever.Recommend

  • Aristo
    Jan 24, 2011 - 11:34AM

    All are victims: Baloch, Sindhi, Pathan, Kashmiri, Urdu Speaking and common Punjabi in the land of the pure and the perpetrator is the land mass that came into being 63 years ago that failed to evolve into a nation. Recommend

  • hgggf
    Jan 24, 2011 - 11:49AM

    **stupid people has killing each other will you become king

    **Recommend

  • Hammad
    Jan 24, 2011 - 12:12PM

    Let set aside the differeces we have & become a nation. It is our duty as young generation of pakistan that we should unite on one platform which is greater pakistan & not about one ethnic group or area.we as a nation must analyze taht whether to support this system or make one of our own with no one greater cause. love pakistan or leave it….. Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 5:11AM

    it is all because of lack of justice in our country. the baluch and pashtons are treated in this way because they have resources but illiterate. they were kept backward by their mullah and khans (landlord) and their new lords (the ruling class of pakistan).Recommend

  • Sana
    Feb 2, 2011 - 2:21AM

    @Baloch Khan
    Stop dreaming man and think of a solution or any plan to develop your province. Get education and expertise to handle issues of your own province rather than complaining. People from other provinces come to Baluchistan to help, not to occupy. The sooner you get this idea, the better.Recommend

  • Sana
    Feb 2, 2011 - 2:23AM

    The question is who is targeting them? This is new. I though that the fight was between Muhajirs and pushtuns. Looks like they are targeting everyone.Recommend

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