What is happening in the largest province of the country remains behind a veil of secrecy. There are some who dare to speak, but only if their privacy is protected. For “to be a Baloch openly is to embrace death,” says one such woman.
Sarah* is one of thousands of victims of oppression in Balochistan to whom the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has dedicated this year’s Human Rights Day (today).
Speaking to The Express Tribune by telephone from Quetta, Sarah, 35, cannot hold back her tears when narrating the story of her province, which she says has changed colours over the years – from dusty brown to blood red.
Working for a development NGO for seven years put her in the line of fire of intelligence agencies, she says, who claimed she was an agent of an Indian intelligence agency.
In 2008, she says she was forced to quit her job and put under house arrest. Men in white shalwar kameez surrounded her house and her phones were tapped for three years, she says. Threats and harassment followed everywhere before she was granted freedom. “I am a teacher and I believe in fighting for my rights. But, for how long? I don’t know.”
Many houses in her neighbourhood have seen worse. Young boys with an eye pulled out return home in a white shroud after being picked up, allegedly by security agencies.
However, there are the lucky ones who return home alive. Two boys who went missing and miraculously returned were not willing to talk. “Our phones are tapped. Please leave us alone,” they said.
Families of those who have died or have been abducted are unwilling to speak for fear that their words might take the life of another beloved one.
This situation in Balochistan has made thousands leave the province. According to HRCP’s estimates, around 100,000 people have left since 2007.
A surgeon who moved from Quetta to Karachi says her brother was picked up and charged with false cases when he was in college in Quetta. He was lucky enough to escape to a foreign country, while all his friends met the fate of death. “Raids and kidnappings are the story of every house,” she said. Locals believe that the younger generation is being targeted. “They are trying to scare generations so that they don’t raise their voice for their rights.”
Vice chairperson of the HRCP’s Balochistan chapter, Tahir Hussain, says from July 2010 to November 2011, around 300 dead bodies were found—some even of 14-year-olds. Two dead include two people from the HRCP as well, while the number of people missing range from 5,000 to 6,000.
While locals stay indoors, leaders fighting for the separatist movements remain miles away from the danger zone. Balochistan National Party leader Akhtar Mengal is in Dubai since 2009. “If I come back, my name will be included in the ECL and I need to go abroad for a lung treatment,” he said.
Despite the top leadership being away, he sees the separatist movements growing stronger. He claims that 26 people from his own party have been killed.
The separatist movements gained momentum after Akbar Bugti’s death. “Bugti’s national flag had four stars representing the four provinces. He believed in a federation. But by his murder, the government has given the message that Balochistan will never be accepted.”
Sarah, the surgeon and Akhtar Mengal are sure of one thing: ‘There is no foreign presence or Indian agents in the province. It’s our own men behind the killings.’
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ
Why not raise voice against the killing of the most peaceful race known as HAZARA, who have been living in Quetta for decades, and get killed (assassinated to be precise) in target killing scenes in quetta every other day just cuz they belong to a diff sect !!! WE'RE ALL MUSLIMS no matter what sect u belong to U HAVE NO RIGHT TO KILL ANYONE EVEN IF HE OR SHE IS A NON MUSLIM.. they why kill ur own muslim brothers ???
Seems rather hypocritical of us discussing abuse and freedom in Kashmir when the same issues exist in Balochistan.
Nothing apparently learned from 1971.
Like religious intolerance and violence wasn't bad enough, we still have persisting ethnic racism, hegemony, discrimination and in some cases cleansing that continues with different groups and sub-groups - Baluchis, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Kashmiris, Seraikis, Sindhis, Urdu Speakers, Punjabis, etc.
Unless we can put aside our biases and supremacist views, be fair and honest and accept each other's cultural diversity by being inclusive and acknowledge grievances others have of perceived discrimination and subtle bigotry...things aren't likely to improve.
These people who profess to be Baloch Nationalists and are looking for Independance do not represent even 1% of the populace of Balochistan today. These critters are mostly setteled outside Pakistan, particularly the gulf states, have money and are leading luxurious lifestyles. The depriviation and problems of Balochistan can be directly attributed to the Sardars, but let me assure you things are changing. The younger generation that has managed to acquire education despite the efforts of the sardars think very differently. The numbers that are joining the Armed Forces of Pakistan is indeed commendable and a happy sign. The day is not far when these so called Liberators will just disappear. The current rejuvenation of this already cured malady is the US interest in Balochistan with ulterior motives and fresh finances.
@Rafi Ka Deewana
Why India? India has got tons of crisis to solve in her own country. This is all internal game in Pakistan. What I think is all these crisis has direct link with Pakhtuns striving for greater Pakhtunistan. Involvement of Pakhtuns in Balochistan and Karachi should not be ignored otherwise native poeople and Balochistan in Sindh would see great loses in near future.
@Basit: Could you please point us to the source of your information? Could you please name a few victims of this practice?
DEAR BALOCHIS! don't tell anyone,its not going to change anything.no will believe you until they themselves experience something like this.we ,swatis have been through this.they say India support Taliban but we know who have been supporting them.pray to God.He will take to task these people but we don't know when but surely He will.
@EX: Grow some brains..In Sikkim, A referendum was held in which 97.5% of the people voted to join the Indian Union. Un resolution states that Pakistain must withdraw their forces from PoK before any referendum can be held. Pakistan must also get back the land they illegally ceded to China.
I'm really v hurt to read a few of the comments above.... Let me tell u my TRUE story. My father went missing in 2009 from the main bazaar. Hundreds of people in main bazaar witnessed the personals of F.C pick up my father. When we demanded their release F.C clearly refused to have kidnapped him.... I being a student of 1st year had to leave my education coz now there was no one to earn for us..... Mean while we continued our protest with a hope that maybe one day my dad would be realized. One day i saw these two videos on you tube, link text
I was sure that the same was happening with my dad in the torture cells. DO U KNOW WHAT WAS HIS FAULT??? HE ONLY WANTED THE RIGHTS OF BALOCH. HE WANTED THAT THE GAS WHICH WHICH IS SUPPLIED TO EVERY CORNER OF PAKISTAN SHOULD ALSO BE SUPPLIED TO THE BALOCHS WHO TILL TODAY BURN WOODS. HE WANTED BALOCHS TO HAVE THE SAME QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN BALOCHISTAN, WHICH IS GIVEN IN PUNJAB. ENTIRE BALOCHISTAN HAS ONE MEDICAL COLLAGE AND ONLY IN LAHORE THERE ARE 22. IS IT JUSTICE?????????? HE WANTED THAT BALOCHS IN GAWADAR SHOULDN'T ONLY BE GIVEN THE JOBS OF PEONS BUT OTHER IMPORTANT JOBS?????????? Just answer me was he wrong???????????????? One day when i came working, i got a call from my uncle informing me that two dead bodies have been recovered from mountains and it's being speculated that one of the bodies was of my dad. it thunder struck me but i was mentally ready for it coz the same had happened with countless people who were also on hunger strike along with us.... link text I'M PROUD THAT MY FATHER IS A SHAHEED. HE SACRIFICED HIS LIFE FOR MY BETTER FUTURE. FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE BALOCH NATION. I'M SURPRISED THAT HOW CAN PAKISTANIS EXPECT US TO LIVE WITH THEM WHEN ON EID DAYS WE GET THE GIFTS OF THE DEAD BODIES OF OUR BELOVEDS. IF TWO BROTHER WHO WERE IN FACT THIEVES, KILLED IN SIYALKOT BECAME AN ISSUE, WHY ARE THE 356 DEAD BODIES OF BALOCHS A PROBLEM FOR THE SO CALLED INDEPENDENT MEDIA OF PAKSITAN.. I personally m not ready to live with Pakistan, nether is any Baloch youngster. If you don't believe me i invite u to have a discussion held in the educational institutes of balochistan, u can't find a single baloch who is ready to live with Pakistan. it's not my story it's the story of 356 families of Balochistan.... (I EXPECT MY THIS COMMENT WILL BE POSTED WITHOUT ANY EDITING) LONG LIVE BALOCHISTAN AND STRUGGLE TILL INDEPENDENT BALOCHISTAN...
Pakistan is in total mess... Read history and correlate the situation of Pakistan with all the major failed states.. there are lot of similarities. ET has done a wonderful job that was earlier unexpected of Pakistan press. The only good thing in Pakistan today is its Print media especially express tribune and other papers.
Everybody knows Punjab runs Pakistan. Every other province in pakistan gets step motherly treatment. There is nothing new. God save Pakistan..Its surrounded by some many issues... Citizens in Pakistan who are moderate must rise for their nationhood like the Arab spring. You need a revolution, a change of ideas and fresh air into Pakistan..
@zaid hamid: "We stand united with our kashmiri muslim brothers and sisters in their struggle against cruel indian hindu occupation … we condemn the indian army… Kasmir will be free"
Has anyone noticed this? It is so easy for the Pakistanis to use Indians and Hindu's in one sentence and insult both whereas the Indians never say, "you Pakistani Muslims"?
This is by instinct, not planning. And this is where the two countries differ!
Very strange! How do the Governor of Punjab, Chief Secretary of Punjab & Head of PMLN Punjab survived for so long?
@Karthik: ok wat about khalistan ,more than 5000 sikhs have been killed by ur army ....and wat about gujrat riots???
reminds me of when a teacher in our college was telling us about her ex-student who had to flee the country for his cousin had just been killed and he had gotten threats too. Her explanaition was 'balochi hy na' (he is a Baloch) for that is taken as a reason enough to have your life in threat.
This incompetent government failed to catch the perpetrators that is why Balochistan is now slipping from Pakistan. Justice & provincial autonomy is the key to success for "Pakistan".
to all my baloch brothers, i am extremely sad about your problems, you have been deprived of infrastructure, education, health and all, even we (in other parts of the Pakistan) have been paying for gas that we use and which is coming from balochistan. i am also sad that because of our elders, your share of the resources were given to few people like sardars and then these sardars kept you in ignorance that they are being paid heavily for loyalty. I support your rights of education, health and development and i also support your cause of raising your voice in diplomatic way but not in arm struggle, even with the support of indians, need not mention here that bramdagh being received in dehli and provided arms from indian consulates in afghanistan.
from, your sincere brothers in punjab
@balochboy:your above comment itself tells that either you have never been to balochistan or you are deliberately trying to mislead people.we baloch believe in democratic values and we express our will peacefully by voting for pro pakistani leaders,unlike separatists whose private army is forcing people to pick guns against state.if separatists think that they have any support in masses,then they should come forward and mobilise people to show their power politically by taking people in the streets like kashmiris who have been doing so since 62 years.but iam sure separatists won't do so because they know very well that balochs have rejected ideology of separation.
I am quite sure that India is not supporting Balochistan's cause so far but after reading the article I feel that India should give full assistance to Balochis as it gave to Bangladeshis so that they can achieve total freedom.
I am no historian nor a Baloch. I feel extremely sorry for whats happening to the "Baolch" and "Non Baloch" alike in the land of the Balochs. But somethings just keep boggling in my mind. Please i would appreciate if someone clears my mind
Akber Bugtti was the governor of Balochistan when the gas reserves in Sui where discovered. Why didnt he invite investors to come to Baloch cities and industrialize it? Since its not just feasible for an Industry to grow near a port or a fuel reserve or a generating station like a dam, but its good for the local people as it brings jobs to them. Infact Mr. Bugti opted for his personal loyalty charges and let the pipeline (which BLA loves to blow now) go all the way to Faisalabad and Gujrat where heavy industrialization brought huge prosperity!. Then he realized, I made a mistake. Not the one I mentioned earlier but the mistake he thought was "Damn! I should ask for more royalty! These Punjabis are making a fortune and I get so little!!" Refusal to this by Mr. Bhutto led to the 1971 conflict. Military action, always results in a collateral damage!. Innocent people where killed (who were ignorant as well of the whole story). And then a whole blame game on Punjab began. And since we are a nation which has no policies for any matter at all, so this issue got mishandled as well! The fire of hatred cooled occasionally when the GoP agreed to the increase in loyalty by the Baloch sardars. However hats off to Pervaiz Musharraf and his arrogance that we are now facing in Balochistan at present!
@zaid hamid: worry about ur own country first. Ur govt is killing ur own citizens and all u worry is kashmir. Ajeeb log ho yaar. And learn to see human beings as humans first rather than hindus and muslims. Earth will be a much better place to live.
@Balochboy: nd ur an indian i think ...we baloch know the better than u ..we have actual problem with sardar system ,.....not much more with government ....mind it ...
@Indian: we don't need you in our internal matters, otherwise we are coming to interfere in your problems with shooders (low level caste people), sikhs, christians, asaam, kashmir, tripura etc.
The truth about the atrocities committed in Bangladesh by agents of the Government has never been told to the citizen. When neither the citizen nor the State is interested in knowing or revealing the truth, History may unfortunately be repeated.
For God sake...I m Baloch living in Balochistan & I m certainly proud of that...Title tells us all about ET's intentions...What ever is mentioned in the exaggerated story is not a norm in Balochistan....those who r the culprits are treated in the same manner...Only problem in Balochistan is the people of Balochistan themselves....Otherwise the opportunities provided to us are enough to rise... Khuda ne aj tak us qoum ki halat nahi badli Na ho jisko khayal aap apni halat k badalne ka
Misleading article....Far away from Ground realities
Isn't it amazing how Pakistan is accused of exactly the same things that India is accused of by Pakistan in Kashmir? Perhaps it is time for India to provide "moral and diplomatic support" for Baloch self determination. Oh wait... there the occupation is by 'dirty' Hindus trying to enslave the Muslims but here it is by pious Muslims just trying steer their fellow misguided co-religionists who have strayed down the wrong path of diversity. So I guess the two are not comparable. My bad!!
@Kamran: i don't understand, if pakistanis have this attitude for their brothers, this country will go to the dogs! it's actually your kind of people who are the root of this problem!
i dont know why people makes up number in their mind. when IHRC with WHRC studied they found out close to 11000 kashmiris missing or dead in Indian jammu and kashmir. but back here in pakistan the number goes on increasing with the no of post from 11000 to 50000 to 500000 to million. just to instigate the fear and resentment among pakistanis either media or mullahs/jihadis prop up the numbers. same may be said when people says that in balochistan millions died because of punjabi rule.
but history around the world tells about the military taking away the balochistan for paksitan on gun point, the bugtis hanged in public after giving amnesty. they also tells about the rejection of east pakistan govt after polls.
in all pakistan makes its own trouble and then pass on the blame to others
I truely dissagree with your views, your opinions but not the facts , i am a Baloch , and i know foreign involvement and funding is taking place , but the faces we see are our own. And as far as Quetta is concerned , what happened with Sarah is not a norm , i live in Quetta , have friends there and family, this article just proves you speak the HR language , these HR orgs carry an agenda to mislead the populace. I am saddned by this wrong statement of facts and issues in this Article, Very Misleading.
@Kamran: this is the type of mentality which led us this current state of affairs......please grow up now.
Indian trolls asking for a referrundum in Balochistan. Balochistan is a different story. Its a very small population that is concerned here. The Baloch want seperation because its been ignored by Pakistan GOVERNMENTS, an issue that can be solved and will be solved with new governments. While the Kashmir want to be a part of Pakistan because they believe they are Pakistanis rather than indians. Free our Kashmir!
I am non-baloch Pakistani and i am with Baloch people who want to live in peace but our rulers are not giving them their rights.
Everybody knows that Baloch people are oppressed in their own province, but we do not speak this truth because 'powerful people' in Pakistan will get upset?
Those who think that this fire will not reach their houses are either unaware or living in fools paradise. I urge Army and then government to immediately find solution of this grave problem of Pakistan.
Thanks for writing on this issue when everybody is tyring to avoid Bachistan issue 'even in the age of free media' in Pakistan.
Kudos to the author for the befitting caption - ‘To be a Baloch is to embrace death’. The title says it all..
Rabia, given how difficult the topic was to tackle because of access issues, I'm glad you at least took on the challenge. There are many colours and shades to this story, and as with all violence, reaction and counter-reaction. But what makes me sad is that this is happening in our own backyard and we haven't been able to find any solution other than force.
story is so exaggerated that it feels as if writer has tried to portrait balochistan a slaughter house.while the fact is that common baloch never faced such situation in balochistan,only miscreants who are trying to force peaceful balochs to pick up guns are targeted by security agencies.
An oridinary pakistani fails to understand the violance going on in Balochistan since independence, Almost all baloch sardar even the so called nationalists, have enjoyed Governorships, Chiefministerships, Federal ministeries, and have ruled Balochistan while the violance still continuing. Are thay not responsible for under development, poverty,and illitracy of oridinary Baloch? These Sardars hold the the key to solve Balochistans problems. They should stop collecting money for their selfish needs. Balochistan is the richest province of Pakistan. It is time that they sincerely work for the people of Blochistan. forgetting their own rivallaries. Take advantage of provincial autonomy and democratic process. Give young baloch the leadership and oppertunity to develop and bring Balochistan into twenty first centurury. Remember this that it is only the Balochi poeple who can change the destiny of Balochistan, I visisted Balochistan soon after independence and again recently and found a lot of devevelopment but a lot more need to be done.
@Indian: Lol no Kashmir is international disputed territory occupied by India , where as Baluchistan is a political issue nothin to do with Radcliffe line . Perhaps Manipur and Sikkim should get referendum
Hello what about the thousands murdered and tens of thousands displaced non-balochs. I am among those whose friends and relatives killed and numerous families displaced from interior Balochistan. We can't even sell our property, we had to leave it without a single penny there.
I love Balochs and Balochistan but I am totally astonished as to whome's agenda ET and HRCP is working on. They should show both sides of the picture. I'm against any agency run-out of law killing and kidnapping of young Baloch workers with BLA links but I doubt the objective of this holy campaign from our liberal media and human rights groups
Why only Balochistan. Its no diferent in Seraikistan. My own family member went missing; google Fakhar Mehmood Kanjoo, u will know that people who demand their basic rights ain't missing only in Balochistan, we found his heavily tortured body by chance... Its only one Saleem Shehzad in millions who become lucky to be emerged even after death to tell the stories of our same one oppressor...
Many in Pakistan would want referendum in Kashmir, should they not be asking for a referendum in Balochistan first?
Why forget the civillians killed by drone. Anyone checked where HRCP funding comes from?
there should be end of sarkar raj in balochistan ..... ..wat about the tribes people of balochistan whose have been fighting and killing with each other for years .....sardari is the main problem of balochistan ....
we baloch hate BUGGTI and MARRI ,means to say there should not be "SARDAR SYSTEM " in balochistan pakistan ..
My heart bleeds for my people, For sure we will take the revenge sooner or later. Thanks a lot ET for raising the voice for oppressed people
these balochis are the root cause of all the problems in balochistan
6,000 missing ? no they are just lost in the corrupt pakistani judicial system
How come Pakistanis act so holier-than-thou when they have such ugly skeletons in their Human Rights cupboard?
I doubt that story. I personally know a person from Kohlu. He is a very senior person and is a government employee for many years now stand retired. He told me that there is an armed movement being prepared at Kohlu and the personals receive Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 on monthly basis. Now the question is from where they are getting this money if there is no foreign involvement. Secondly, why are Baloch sardars and their generations so educated while the poor and ordinary baloch is so illiterate? Why not the spy agencies stop these sardars and their sons from attending high-fi colleges of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad? These Baloch sardars are the main hurdle behind the advancement of Baloch nation. If Baloch nation needs freedom, it's from these Baloch sardars and their sardari. No one is snatching their rights. It's very normal throughout the world that groups are often dominated by those who have majority in the groups. Bureaucracy and army has majority of Punjabis while do you even tell me about 5 Baloch generals, brigadiers or colonels in army? The only Baloch hi ranking army official I know is Lt. General Abdul Qadir Baloch. Baloch don't want to take part in Pakistani system. No one is snatching any right of them but their sardars. This story is baseless!
Why don't I see the news of Human rights abuse in Indian Occupied Kashmir? Balochistan's matter is a complex one, anyone who goes missing is blamed on Intelligence agencies, even if someone was killed or kidnapped because of family enmity. Straight up your path ET.
Well sadly until the mass media doesnt start airing these issues the urban populace of the country will continue to believe that Baluchistan is nothing more than from where there gas comes from. In the mean time, blaming Zardari will suffice for most people as their act of showing sympathy for our fellow countryman in Baluchistan.
what a provocative title. Tell that to this Baloch: "http://tribune.com.pk/story/301986/ji-eyeing-alliance-with-imrans-party-baloch/"
Why not mention the countless Balochs killed and kidnapped by the BLA/BRA terrorists for not wanting to pick up a gun and kill innocent people?