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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Land of Fear and Darkness-Balochistan



COMMENT: Something is rotten in the state of ...—Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


Dera Bugti in fact is a microcosm of Balochistan, governed at the whims of the military establishment with the political and civil establishment as its comic sidekicks

The disclosures made at the Supreme Court hearing on Balochistan's enforced disappearances exposed the intentions of the state in the province. The Dera Bugti Deputy Commissioner, when asked who was running the affairs there said the Frontier Corps (FC) and Levies kept an eye on elements opposed to peace. The court observed: "Irrespective of the circumstances the provincial government shares with the court, we have reached the point that Dera Bugti has been left to the mercy of the Frontier Corps."
Little wonder the FC keeps its eye on the Baloch with its 21,500 posts all over Balochistan; add the Customs, Coast Guards, Police and Levies posts and you have a Balochistan besieged by the state, where the people are constantly under threat and watch. The Baloch people are being systematically asphyxiated of their liberty. The irony of it all is that in spite of this overwhelming presence, Hazaras and other Shias are regularly targeted; doctors, lawyers and business persons kidnapped, plus rampant smuggling flourishes; certainly, all this cannot be happening without the army's, FC's and administration's knowledge?
August saw the absentee Dera Bugti Deputy Commissioner's removal because he was imitating his political boss, Chief Minister Aslam Raisani, who is hardly ever in Quetta. The police chief too prefers to stay at Sui. Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad admitted that negligence and continuous absence of officials caused problems for the people of Dera Bugti and resulted in uncertainty and insecurity. Although all Dera Bugti state employees are paid regularly, a majority of them, including doctors, teachers, engineers and heads of various departments are absent and receive salaries at home. A treasury official admitted he was unaware of the number of employees being paid and added that most educational institutions, including an intermediate college in Dera Bugti and girls school in Sui, had not been functioning for two years. This is how Dera Bugti has been run for the last six years; both political and bureaucratic administrations have relinquished authority to the army and FC and are only concerned with pelf for power is beyond them.
Little wonder the Human Development Index of Dera Bugti is the lowest at 0.285 and considered the least developed in the world in spite of its resources. The situation has definitely worsened since the report. Interestingly, even where there are no Sardars as in Musa Khel, it too lags at the bottom of the table, which simply proves that the deprivation is because of what the state has been and is doing in Balochistan and the Sardars have been useful scapegoats.
Needless to remind readers that Dera Bugti's backwardness was previously blamed upon Nawab Akbar Bugti; it is six years now that the army, the FC and their horde of pro-government Sardars, who also are the members of assemblies, have ruled Dera Bugti; it should have become a paradise on earth by now but is a literal hell for the people. The Hindus who lived there peacefully for eons were forced to migrate because of the danger to their lives and even the former MPA Arjun Das migrated to India. Dera Bugti in fact is a microcosm of Balochistan, governed at the whims of the military establishment with the political and civil establishment as its comic sidekicks.
Not only Dera Bugti but Khuzdar too suffers immeasurably. Qahir Shah, assisting the court, informed it that Khuzdar District had been closed for a full month due to the deteriorating law and order situation. Barrister Salman Raja, referring to the situation, said that he was informed by the local people that a local armed group, which they believe was backed by the secret agencies, was behind the deteriorating situation in Khuzdar. Asking for the impossible, he suggested that the Supreme Court give orders under which if the secret agencies and the government resort to excesses, a mechanism should be in place for their accountability.
The brutish reality of the situation in Balochistan was exposed when a senior lawyer, Munir A Malik, pleaded for a conciliatory approach on the grounds that, "If the court will press too much on the recovery of missing persons, they might turn up dead." Unsurprisingly, Justice Jawad S Khawaja said that the Supreme Court had held 70 hearings on the Balochistan situation and issued orders for the implementation of the law and the constitution but despite government assurances, nothing had been done. Assuredly, even 700 hearings will prove equally fruitless because the Supreme Court has passed an interim order that is as wishy-washy as could be expected. The utter helplessness of the Court in dealing with the missing persons issue poignantly haunts the order.
In Balochistan the state and its institutions — military as well as civil — have resolved to curb the rights of the Baloch even if that is achieved by giving a free hand to mercenaries with 'rahdari' (permit) for smuggled vehicles, provision of arms and ammunition, and immunity from prosecution for the crimes they commit in making Balochistan easy to exploit. In trying to achieve this objective, the state and its henchmen have let loose a reign of terror against the Baloch and since 2002, thousands have gone missing. Numerous journalists, lawyers, educationists and doctors have been targeted and in only the past two years, more than 600 activists were abducted and killed.
Hitler used the policy of Lebensraum (meaning 'habitat' or literally 'living space') for Europe. In Mein Kampf, he detailed his belief that the German people needed Lebensraum, living space, i.e. land and raw materials and that principle was central to his expansion in Europe. In it, land and resources alone matter while people are superfluous. People do not enter the equation where lucre is the only goal. Pakistan too needs Balochistan exactly for this purpose, but there is a clash of purpose because the Baloch are staunchly resisting the state's goals, which it tries to cover up in the rhetoric of Islam and national integrity; and this in turn has resulted in conflict with the state since March 27, 1948.
The present situation is the cumulative effect of policies adopted since partition. The situation prevailing in Balochistan is ideal for the state functionaries — military and civil — to benefit exponentially from, which simply means that the worse the conditions are the more they profit. Willy-nilly one has to say what Marcellus says in Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." And there certainly is much that is rotten here.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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