Violence against workers increasing in Balochistan, KP

The number of people killed in extremism incidents in the country in 2023 compared to 2022 has recorded a '65 percent increase'

Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are investigating the murders of six barbers in the tribal region of North Waziristan, a longtime stronghold of militants who want to enforce their strict Islamic law, which mandates beards.

On the night of January 1, 2024, these six barbers were shot dead outside their residence in North Waziristan's Mir Ali district, and the killings have spread fear among the locals. District Police Chief Rokhan Zaib Khan said, "The motive behind the incident is not yet known, we are investigating."

Political leader Mohsin Dawar strongly condemned the killing of six barbers and said that “Six working class hairdressers from Punjab were gunned down in cold blood in Mir Ali, N. Waziristan which is highly condemnable and very saddening. Our condolences to the families of the victims. The state has abdicated its responsibility of protecting citizens in our region.”

The six men, who ran various barber shops, were not local residents and were living together near their shops in Mir Ali Town, where they were targeted by gunmen. All the deceased barbers belonged to Punjab.

The attack comes amid a surge in attacks by militant groups, particularly the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, the TTP in a statement issued by its spokesperson to journalists denied responsibility for the killings, while no group claimed responsibility.

However, Balochistan's caretaker information minister Jan Achakzai has said that "terrorists of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have killed 6 barbers in Waziristan. Anti-national elements and the TTP have joined forces in Balochistan. The alliance has come to the fore, the blood of each Pakistani will be avenged."

"After this incident, I am very scared, I don't know whether to go to work or not," said a barber shop owner in Miran Shah, another town in North Waziristan, requesting not to be named.

"We are even more scared because we (Barbers) are non-indigenous, and we live here in rooms or shops, so we have no personal security," he added.

The incident has left the residents of the area in shock and fear. They say that all the persons who were killed were working as barbers in different shops. Javed Ali, a local resident, said he met one of the slain barbers last month when he went to his shop for a haircut.

This is not the first attack on barbers in Pakistan, but earlier they have been attacked in Quetta, Gwadar and other areas of Balochistan. But this attack is considered to be the most dangerous as six hairdressers were killed at the same time.

There are twenty shops of people from different areas of Punjab province in Hayatabad area in Peshawar where the number of hairdressers will be more than one hundred. Some of them are now feeling insecure.

Earlier, on the night of October 14, 2023, six laborers belonging to Punjab were killed by unknown armed men in the house of a local contractor in Turbat area of Balochistan. Two laborers were also injured in the firing.

According to the police, the laborers had come to Turbat for construction work with a local contractor and belonged to Punjab. The dead laborers were identified as Shahbaz, Waseem, Shafiq Ahmed, Muhammad Naeem, Sikandar, while Ghulam Mustafa and Tawheed were injured. Among the dead were 4 members of the same family including 2 siblings.

Banned organization Baloch Liberation Army issued a statement and accepted the responsibility of the killing of six workers. The organization claims that these people were working as informers for the security forces.

It should be noted that Balochistan's Kech district is one of the areas affected by the insurgency, where armed groups have been targeting security forces and government installations. Even earlier, there have been incidents of targeting workers here.

After that, on October 31, 2023, five people, including a policeman, were killed in an attack by armed men on the police station in Nasirabad area of ​​Turbat district of Balochistan. According to the police, 4 laborers were among those killed in the attack. The four deceased laborers belong to Muzaffargarh district of Punjab. The laborers killed in the Turbat attack were identified as Muhammad Uzair, Baqir Ali, Shehbaz and Shahzad. According to the police, the deceased laborers Shehbaz Ahmed and Shahzad Ahmed were brothers.

These three news reports were published on all television channels, newspapers and websites of Pakistan. But on the contrary, news like unrest in Balochistan, political restrictions, disappearance of people do not run in the national media.

These events have taken place at a time when the preparations for the February 8 general elections are in full swing in Pakistan.

According to the annual report of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies on the security situation in Pakistan, the number of people killed in extremism incidents in the country in 2023 compared to 2022 has recorded a '65 percent increase'. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa witnessed the highest number of terrorist attacks (174) in which 422 people were killed.

When Caretaker Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar was questioned at an event on the issue of killing of Punjabis, he angrily said, "Should a law be made that the killing of rabbits, dogs and Punjabis is permissible in Balochistan?"

"Organized attacks are taking place. Teachers and lawyers are being killed but not a word comes out of anyone's mouth. Is there any silence on the killing of four thousand people or not? My problem is not with the relatives of Balochistan, but with false and fake sympathizers."

Commenting on the caretaker prime minister's statement, analyst Muzamil Suhrawardy said, "People were brought from Afghanistan and resettled in the country; the wave of terrorism has started again in the country. Our security agencies are being targeted. Our soldiers are getting martyred. But we are not able to punish these terrorists immediately.”

It should also be noted that some journalists came to the ongoing Baloch sit-in in Islamabad and repeatedly asked the leader of the protest, Mahrang Baloch, to condemn the killing of Punjabis. Famous anchor Gharidah Farooqi also went to Mahrang Baloch. Mahrang told Farooqi that "If this problem is solved by condemning, then I am ready to do so. But also tell me this, who has created this problem?”

Journalist Hamid Mir said while talking about the issue of Balochistan, "Khan of Kalat, Akbar Bugti, Khair Bakhsh Murri, including all tried to support Pakistan, but the problem of this country is that real democracy has never come here.”

He added: “Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf come to power and find their own favorites in Balochistan, and try to run Balochistan through them. Unfortunately, there is no election in Balochistan but fraud. On 8 February 2024. The same fraud will happen in the upcoming elections."

 The writer is a freelance journalist.

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