Separatism online

Published: July 6, 2011
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The writer is web editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque_ (jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is web editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque_ (jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk)

They’re on Facebook, using pseudonyms, real names, protected profiles, unabashedly open profiles, busy friending like-minded activists and sympathisers. They are creating Facebook pages, groups and coordinating events. They’re on Twitter, disseminating information, articles, blogs and videos in support of their cause. They have their own daily updated YouTube channels and stations, their own Yahoo! mailing lists chock-full of their leaders, their own crowd both inside and outside Pakistan — and they are angry.

Downplayed by the mainstream media, ignored intentionally or unintentionally by what they term ‘fake civil society’ and facing a government and army with a zero-tolerance policy (to put it mildly) for engaging its troubled citizens, Baloch separatists — those who believe they are being ruled by a foreign occupying force, and are demanding their own state — have taken the battle to the internet, where the playing field is more even and nearly impossible to police.

What can the Pakistan government and army do about the rising tide of Baloch separatists and sympathisers online? Yes, they may be able to successfully block a few websites, but with a proxy in hand even a layman now knows how to access blocked material, and if a website is hosted in Ukraine, or India, it is unlikely the site can be dismantled and taken down permanently. And even if it is, so what? It can simply be hosted on another server, and another and another.

Forget individual websites and blogs, what about Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! Groups and YouTube? Imagine the logistical nightmare of attempting a coordinated silencing of individual Facebook and Twitter accounts. Imagine trying to take out YouTube channels and cutting Yahoo! groups at the source.

Obviously, attempting a blanket ban of these websites is ludicrous. Hopefully this much has registered with those at the helm of such affairs. So now what? Form teams of agency folk to use any tactic and channels necessary to shut down as many ‘anti-state elements’ as possible? Would threatening emails and messages to say 20-30 per cent of such anti-state folk spread enough terror to curb the flow of information? Or would that result in fuelling the movement, propelling it from strength to strength? And what about anonymous bloggers? Or those in foreign lands? Can they be prevented from saying what they want to say? The answer to this basic question is one Google search away: Type ‘Baloch freedom movement’ and see Pakistan’s great untold story for yourself.

No sir, there is no scope for policing the internet. Bigger, better nations have tried and failed. However, ignoring this growing online chatter is also no longer an option. Just listening to it and trying to formulate strategies to fight it on-ground ‘where it actually matters’ will also fail, as we have seen in recent times just how powerful the internet can be when it comes to dissent and revolution.

So should the establishment be alarmed? Should we, the general public who believe in a unified Pakistan, be alarmed by Baloch separatism leading to our second Bangladesh?

Hopefully not. What needs to be done is to start talking in an open, frank manner. Stop treating citizens, no matter how deep their hatred and dissent, as ‘the other’ who must be silenced. Initiate dialogue, and what better place to do that than online — a level playing field built for communication where even we, individuals, can play the role of diplomats, listening to our estranged brothers and sisters. While it is the responsibility of the government and the armed forces to step up efforts (and step down violence) to tackle this volatile situation with empathy and intelligence, it is also up to us citizens empowered with new technology to breach the widening gaps threatening to tear this entire nation apart.

You want to start a real revolution? Log on, and have a heart.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • antony
    Jul 6, 2011 - 9:04PM

    This is the medicine we indians are applying to indian side kashmir .I know I know you will say kashmir is freedom struggle whereas balochistan is internal struggle or whatever!! .IT does not work . All in same category(chechenya for russia, urumqi province of china list goes on) and in the end who treats its citizen better will win in the end.Recommend

  • Talha
    Jul 6, 2011 - 9:05PM

    Allow/invite them to write about their grievances in this websites like this where the readership includes the power circles of Pakistan.

    I grew up with Baloch feudals, my paternal family is from such a region. What I have noticed is that they lack the ability to highlight their grievances or perhaps they aren’t given their due space.

    Now would be a good time to hear their side.

    I am sure the country is with the Baloch and would listen to the problems that they face.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Jul 6, 2011 - 9:10PM

    These cyber revolutionaries are no big deal. Recommend

  • Roflcopter
    Jul 6, 2011 - 9:45PM

    Baloch separatists lolololololoolRecommend

  • Jul 6, 2011 - 10:02PM

    Jay, this piece is nicely written! I love the way you address this particular issue!Recommend

  • Sindhi-Pakistani
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:05PM

    Although I feel Pakistan is unnatural country and nation, but unlike other provinces Balochistan is an occupied land (google Balochistan) and its resistance will continue. Dozens of bullet riddled bodies of Baloch nationalists, scholars, separatists are found every day by our law enforcing agencies. Even the civilian ministers are helpless (http://www.npr.org/2011/06/30/137519040/clashes-rage-in-pakistans-baluchistan-province)
    It seems we have learnt a lesson from Bangladesh. There we killed thousands of Bengali within few days and it cost us alot so now we prefer slow genocide with media blackout, perfect.Pak sar zameen shaad baad!

    If people of Pakistan wants to solve this issue, we all need to stand up show unity, address the concerns of Balochs, improve law and order situations and solve their problems. Balochis are more dear and important to us than the land and resources of Balochistan. Let’s not make the same mistake we did in Bangladesh. If they want to separate, referendum should be done to decide not genocide. Power to the people.Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2011 - 10:14PM

    What’s wrong if Balochs are demanding Independence ? Didn’t Muslims of the subcontinent demanded a separate homeland? I think if Balochs are struggling for a separate homeland we should support their cause and raise voice to help them and killings of INNOCENT Balochs should STOP RIGHT AWAY !!Recommend

  • M Ali Khan
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:22PM

    Baloch nationalism/separatism is one of the elephants in one of the rooms of the house that calls itself Pakistan. How long can the housekeepers ignore this elephant??Recommend

  • Mir Agha
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:22PM

    If you live in an online world, then yes, you should be concerned. If you live in reality, not really. Doesn’t mean one should have a constructive dialogue. There will be people blabbering on about East Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisa, etc, not realizing that the dynamics of each are completely different. One was a situation where there was no geographical continuity, the other two ‘revolutions’ succeeded only when their armies pushed out the dictators.Recommend

  • nafisa mubarak
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:32PM

    Stating the obvious. Recommend

  • Xam Xaffa
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:47PM

    Gosh, I Had No Idea. Nice ArticLe.Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2011 - 10:50PM

    This was coming, owing to the treatment Balochistan has been getting. Small wonder when I hear people saying “Humara mullak to Balochistan hai!” (Balochistan is our country). No doubt, connecting with balochs on a national level is what we can start with. We don’t want Pakistan to become another Sudan!Recommend

  • Talat Haque
    Jul 6, 2011 - 11:30PM

    Well written! It’s the need of the hour! Recommend

  • annonymous
    Jul 7, 2011 - 12:36AM

    There is a sayingin urdu, laaton kay bhoot baaton say nahin manta, i do. ot think diplomacy world would work.sure the govt of pak has treated them like rats, baloch feudal lords are treating them worse, instead of spending millions on arms they could invest on their own people,but do they ever do that,no sir, they want land power man and resources all to them. first tell these seperatists to stop killing settlers then we talk.stop the ethic cleansing in balochistan.Recommend

  • Abdur Rehman
    Jul 7, 2011 - 2:50AM

    We wronged them and now we must face consequencesRecommend

  • MKD
    Jul 7, 2011 - 3:01AM

    Pakistan was created for all muslims and Islamiyat was the uniting force against the kafirs.Now after 64 years why Balochis wants a separate state for themselves?
    Aren’t they muslims? Recommend

  • Arindom
    Jul 7, 2011 - 4:50AM

    Balochistan will break away any time – better forget Kashmir! Recommend

  • tauseef amjad
    Jul 7, 2011 - 11:39AM

    another one sided article telling us of the baloch plight but why no articles,blogs in ET about the over thousands of punjabis deliberately killed in balochistan? all the media hype and coverage of the people wanting to destroy pakistan but not one article of the ethnic cleansing of punjabis living and serving in balochistan for over 40 ,50 years.

    around 2 lakhs punjabis have been forced to flee their homes in balochistan selling their properties for pennies but no one in our media gives them any coverage,no one highlights their plight,no one takes interviews of their families.This extreme media bias against punjabis in our media has created an apartheid like situation where akbar bugti and missing persons get thousands of hours of airtime on tv but punjabis getting murdered gets 0 hours of coverage.

    Is a crime not a crime when the victim is a punjabi???Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 7, 2011 - 12:31PM

    So just by creating few blogs or some website one can create a lala land known as Independent Baluchistan. In the dreams of the enemies of Pakistan. If these blogs and websites would be the criteria for someone’s independence then Kashmir and Palestine would have been independent by years before from now. Anyways there are no two words when it comes to solving the problem of Pakistan. The grievances of people of Baluchistan should be addressed. And they should be given opportunity to develop and prosper in this country. Other than that there are no second though when it comes to geographical territory of Pakistan. We aren’t going to compromise on even an inch of land and these fools so called separatists living in dubai and london should remember that.

    @Tauseef Majid

    Very true. A murder is a murder. Whether of Baloch or Punjabi. And this western aided biased media should speak for both of them. Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • Asad
    Jul 7, 2011 - 3:36PM

    Why don’t they write about their sardars who have manipulated their people for a very long time and have kept them in virtual slavery? Why not also write about the killing of other ethnicities by the so called baloch nationalists?Recommend

  • Baloch
    Jul 7, 2011 - 4:56PM

    Just wait and see guys!Recommend

  • Bambaayya
    Jul 7, 2011 - 8:17PM

    Just go for a election … FREEDOM or BIND with Pakistan ??? you will know ,….
    same as ur demanding for kashmir …Recommend

  • BruteForce
    Jul 8, 2011 - 10:07PM

    When a Country is based on the importance of Division, divided it will find itself. Bangladesh was first..could not be the last.

    Recommend

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