Fear Overshadows Daily Life in Balochistan
By Muatasim Qazi
Life is a treacherous partner, as the adage goes in Balochi, but in today’s Balochistan its treachery seems to be in the superlative given the volatile situation the insurgency-struck region faces with almost daily kidnappings, bomb blasts, surfacing of bullet-riddled and mutilated corpses of missing persons found alongside roads or hanging on trees. And worst still, an unending target-killing spree of teachers, political activists, journalists and rights activists by government-backed death squads is on the rise. You name it, they have it on their who-to-kill-when list.
In a situation where people’s right to life is compromised by the state, it is natural to develop an acute sense of fear and trepidation. That’s exactly many people in Balochistan already feel. A friend of mine from Quetta, currently working in a non-governmental organization as a social worker and rights activist, tells me how dejected the whole civil society in Balochistan feels at recent killings in the region. “They kill almost every Baloch who is doing some good work for the community,” he said, citing the recent killing of Mir Rustam Marri, a political activist and social worker who was shot dead in Jaffarabad district on June 23. Rustam Marri was working on the cases of Baloch internally displaced persons, or IDPs, who were driven out of their homes from Dera Bugti and Kohlu after the Musharraf regime started a full-fledged military operation in the area to control the region, rich in oil and gas, and also to wipe out prominent Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
With death almost imminent, my friend asks me in the most hapless and helpless of voices to write a good obituary of him in case he gets killed, like Rustam Marri. “I know because of the kind of work I am doing for the betterment of my community, they won’t spare me,” he tells me as if the angel of death is about to knock the last knock. I don’t bother to ask who for everybody already knows.
My friend’s fears hold credence given Rustam Marri’s killing and earlier of two other prominent rights activist, Naeem Sabir and Siddique Eidho. Sabir, 35, was the coordinator of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Core Group in Khuzadar. He was gunned down in the same town in March 2011. Sabir had been documenting cases of enforced disappearances and the number of bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch missing persons that surfaced in his town. Eidho, 31, was also a coordinator for HRCP in Pasni town in district Gwadar and also a journalist. He first became a victim of enforced disappearance in December last year and then his body was found in Ormara on April 28, 2011.
These killings, including that of more than 170 political activists, journalists, lawyers, doctors, teachers and other human rights defenders, not only have further aggravated people’s fears but also have led to some other serious psychological problems among many quarters of the population. Hani Safeer Baloch, daughter of Master Safeer Baloch, a political activist and a teacher who was kidnapped in my hometown – Panjgur – on August 15 last year and his bullet-ridden body was found this May in a seasonal river along with two other activists, told America’s largest public radio network, NPR, last week that all members of her family have migraine attacks. “We are going to psychiatrists,” young Hani Safeer told NPR. “I failed in my test because I couldn’t read. I was so tortured,” she said. But her sufferings don’t end here as mutilated, bullet-ridden bodies of Baloch missing persons surface almost every day. “And when I see this coming on the news that a body has been thrown, I’ve become so restless.”
What further adds to the fears of people in Balochistan is that all these killings have gone uninvestigated. Perpetrates of these murders whether committed extra-judicially in a torture cell of covert intelligence agencies of the country or when the victim went for an evening walk when he found the bullet of a government-backed target-killer, enjoy absolute immunity. However, one thing is for sure: When people overpower their fear, they tend to achieve what history remembers as milestones. Is it going to happen in Balochistan as well? Only time can tell.
The writer is a staff member. He also blogs at muatasimqazi.com.