Trigger-happy in Balochistan

Published: June 9, 2011

The writer is chairperson of the HRCP and has spent over three decades in advertising zohra.yusuf@tribune.com.pk

Shoot first, ask questions later. Or sometimes it’s a case of questioning under severe torture first, before the shooting. This has sadly been the state of affairs in Balochistan where killings — some mysterious, some clearly attributable — take place with increasing frequency.

May has been a particularly bloody month and the early days of June indicate that the lethal trend will continue. The targeted killings represent a dangerous cocktail of sectarian, security and nationalistic motives. The victims are primarily political activists and students, as well as the intelligentsia and religious minorities. To these groups has been added the inexplicable killing of foreigners — initially identified as Chechen ‘terrorists’ and later as ‘Russians’ — killings currently under judicial investigation.

News items such as “Five more bodies found in Quetta and Khuzdar” are fairly common. Except the location could be Gwadar, Kech or Panjgur instead. Increasingly, the bodies discovered bear marks of torture and badly mutilated slips of paper are left in their pockets to make at least identification easier. Almost all the dead bodies found are of victims of enforced disappearance, mostly idealistic young political activists fighting for Baloch rights, not necessarily for separatism.

So who exactly are the trigger-happy ones responsible for the tragedy that has struck Balochistan? The usual suspects include the intelligence agencies, associated with the military. Personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), responsible for law and order in the province, have been clearly identified while picking up people by witnesses and family members of victims. Then there are Baloch separatist groups who openly claim to targeting non-Baloch ‘settlers’, primarily from the Punjab as well as some Pashtuns. The sectarian outfits are not far behind.

In the month of May alone, 13 Hazara Shias died in two incidents of targeted killings. The first incident, killing six Hazaras, occurred in Quetta on May 6, in an area reportedly close to an FC post. The other attack took place on May 17, in Killi Kamalo, on the outskirts of Quetta, killing seven including a minor girl. The ‘banned’ Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed credit for both attacks. Apart from Hazaras, Ahmadis and Hindus have also come under attack. Those who are able to, such as the Baha’is, have left the province.

However, while the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a known militant group, other shadowy groups appear to be surfacing. When an activist of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Naeem Sabir, was shot dead in Khuzdar in March, an organisation calling itself the Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem claimed responsibility. Again, following the killing of well-respected Baloch intellectual Professor Saba Dashtiari in Quetta on June 1, somebody claiming to be a spokesman of the Ansarul Islam group claimed responsibility. In this case, the chances of this being a ‘front’ organisation seem to be high as Islamic groups would really have little motive to kill a university professor known for his nationalist views. An idea of the scale of killings may be gauged from the official data provided to the Supreme Court by the government of Balochistan — 181 bodies found and 260 people dead as a result of targeted killings in three years. Coming from official sources, these figures can only be taken to be conservative.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is not losing any sleep over Balochistan. Filmmaker Sharjil Baloch recently told me about his interviews of people in Lahore that clearly established apathy towards Balochistan. Thanks to the blog Cafe Pyala, I was able to see parts of the video. The answers to Baloch’s questions mostly drew a blank. Not only were Lahoris blissfully unaware of the developments in Balochistan, most could not name even a single city or town of the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Nasrat Baloch
    Jun 9, 2011 - 12:22PM

    Ya you absolutely right that people of Punjab even cant name a single city of Balochistan. Its an irony that the urban Pakistanis are so naive and ignorant from the rest of their country.Lots kudos to you for writing on Baluchistan’s current situation. We hope that the intelligentsia from all over Pakistan also write on this.It is a fight to save Pakistan!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Salahud.Din
    Jun 9, 2011 - 7:08PM

    It is ridiculous that most of our countrymen don’t have any know how of the geography of our country. The literate as well as illeterate are alike in this matter because both have very poor mental immage of their surrounding. Geography should be included in the curricula of school and college as a compulsory subject. Recommend

  • M.Akthar
    Jun 9, 2011 - 7:15PM

    nice article, thanks for highlighting.Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala
    Jun 9, 2011 - 10:01PM

    We all know how the Baloch youths are disappearing day-in day-out .
    This has been already “practiced” in Karachi in the so called operation in the 90′s.

    All our sympathies with the bereaved families of Baluchistan .

    When would the murderers of Baloch youths would understand that hate begets hate and only hate , nothing less .

    Wish we had waken up from the siesta before things get beyond anyone’s control Recommend

  • Bangash
    Jun 9, 2011 - 11:00PM

    Baloch who are seeking rights need to be strengthened, that automatically weakens the separatists.Recommend

  • Fortune Cookie
    Jun 10, 2011 - 12:12AM

    It is time to look at SCHOOL curriculum.
    TEACH THE CORRECT VERSION OF HISTORY.
    Lies only begets lies.
    A country cannot be brought on LIES.
    Truth must Prevail…………Recommend

  • Jun 10, 2011 - 12:47AM

    I am sorry but such general angst ridden articles are going nowhere in terms of informing the people or stirring the establishment. That makes the loss of Saleem Shahzad so much greater. In a dispassionate style he reported from the front-lines of the battle – naming names and agencies. Yes he paid with his life, but that will change if investigative journalism gets a proper base a la Tehelka in India. Why did Saleem Shahzad have to write for a Hong Kong based online publication? The more mainstream investigative journalism gets, the fewer places the establishment will have to hide.Recommend

  • Jun 11, 2011 - 11:40AM

    Pakistani Army Killing Innocent Peoples of Balochistan to show its barbarism. Karotabad and even karachi trategy of Ranjers & FC(frontier core) video clips on medias are witness to whole HRO and for world to know the reality of genociding. Everyone know who are killing the Innocent Peoples. By killing Pakistani Militry giving messege to Baloch, stop chanting slogans and dnt raise voice for your rights.
    But actully they dnt know by killing you cant stop any voice bt by love and using sweet words u buy their souls.
    So i apeall to Pakistani militry stop killing with the name of devolping, by the name of Taliban, Baloch Masllah Defai Tanzem, Harkat ul Ansari and others etc.
    Whole world now know who are Killer and who are Victoms.Recommend

  • Jun 13, 2011 - 5:28AM

    Without any intention to sideline the more important topic of most of Pakistan’s oblivious attitude towards Baloch problem – I am sure that this Lahore part cannot be taken as a barometer of realities on ground. For sure they cannot even name most of the cities in Punjab 50KM outside Lahore!Recommend

  • shakeel Baloch
    Jun 14, 2011 - 12:50AM

    it is a nice and appreciable step on your part to highlight killings of baloch students professors and political activists along with killing of minorities in balochistan. but it is not enough as the responsibilities of being a journalist you should scrutinize the culprits behind these killings and take a bold steps to publish their names and organizations so that the world should acquire the real players who are plying such a game with innocent people of balochistan particularly the baloch people whose bullet riddled bodies have been thrown in different places across balochistan. Recommend

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