Failing Balochistan

A month ago Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed by the Indian Army in a raid at a small town in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Since then, in a month the Indian Army, Paramilitary Forces, and Police has tried to brutally suppress a reinvigorated freedom movement and killed 60 more Kashmiris, and blinded dozens and maimed hundreds by the use of violent pellet guns. With that said, I have to confess that the purpose of mentioning Kashmir and Burhan Wani here was to grab an average Pakistani’s attention, who otherwise would rather care more about what is happening in Kashmir than any other regions, especially of course Baluchistan.

In less than 5 minutes, 60 or more perished in Quetta, and hundreds lie injured, many fighting for their lives. This is not intended to be a mere comparison between the two regions. The movement for Kashmir’s autonomy and right to self-determination is a brave and honourable fight. More than that, Kashmir deserves freedom. However, caring about the human lives in one region and not one closer to home is both irresponsible and hypocritical.

Quetta is not unfamiliar to terrorism. It’s a mess of sectarianism, disillusioned nationalists, surrounded by safe-havens of the Afghan Taliban (often referred to as the Quetta Shuurah). It was hardly a surprise that the Emir of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Mansour Akhtar was killed in a drone strike on his way to Quetta after crossing in from Afghanistan and clearance from Pakistani officials. Today, there is the added spectre of foreign involvement (often blamed on Indians, Afghans, and Iranians). But the fact remains, Afghan refugees have existed in the province since 1980 and their number peaked at the end of the decade. Indian Intelligence or as the it is called RAW, which CM Baluchistan Sanaullah Zehri conveniently blamed an hour after the attack without even an investigation instead of accepting the failure of his government to protect citizens from such threats, has been active against Pakistan ever since its existence. Then, why are these two factors blamed for escalated violence today, if they have existed before the birth of many of us?

There were no suicide bombings at such a massive scale in Pakistan before 2004. Naturally many questions arise. Were the Afghan refugees (now alleged to have turned against their hosts) or RAW (and operatives like Kulbushan Yadav) sleeping all that time, just to bite us when we have cable TV and high-speed internet to telecast gory images of dead-bodies, which Pakistanis are always eager to consume and share? Or is it that by inviting NATO and the United States into Afghanistan, and by renting out our supply lines and Airforce bases, General Musharraf effectively allowed them to pushback our creations back to their training grounds i.e. the frontier? Or is it that by bombing Baluch Nationalist leaders in 2006 and disenfranchising them from the mainstream, again General Musharraf effectively invited them to relaunch a cooled down separatist movement? Or is it that the ruling government’s Zarb-e-Azb in Punjab was only launched to tackle the “very” dangerous terror outfit known as ‘Chouttu Gang’ and not to uproot Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, whose operatives frequently cross over to Baluchistan to attack Hazara Shias in Quetta? I am afraid if I continue on asking such questions, the very obvious answers will not go very well with many of my patriotic brethren who are stocking up on crackers and flags for the upcoming Independence day.

The nation should mourn what has happened. Young and old men, some who were the top most lawyers in Baluchistan, others who used a camera to make ends meet, lost their lives, and their families lost their bread winners. But do not be hopeless. In fact, I am quite hopeful, that one day this fog of ignorance will part aside and each and every one of us will know the truth. When the DG ISPR Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa came to LUMS and refused to answer any questions on Baluchistan, or when our little effort to talk about Baluchistan was muzzled, it only reinforced the belief of many of us that the state is hiding skeletons in its closet.

When the Baluchistan Government recently invited groups of hand-picked students from Punjab to visit Quetta for a “See-and-tell” trip, that all is well, just go back and tell all your friends this story, it further solidified our belief. So, as you mourn, also remember, that whoever was behind today’s heinous act, the failure of governance made it possible, and accept that it needs to be fixed and held accountable.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt