Saba was unique and irreplaceable. You will not find a man who’ll spend his salary to impart cultural awareness and secular education at a time when the State of Pakistan is spending billions of rupees with the assistance of its Saudi cronies to radicalize the Baloch society by constructing more and more religious schools to counter the liberal nationalist movement.
During the past nine months, I have lost six colleagues in the conflict. I spent time with all these journalists, working on stories, participating in training programs or developing source networks in the country’s largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan.
Whoever killed him was not in a hurry. The murderer lent him time to mend his ways. But just because Saba Dashtiyari was an emotional man and used his heart more than his brain thats why he could not figure out how to make use of this ultimatum and how to play within the rules. He kept on playing with fire through his firebrand speeches and rousing work for the rights of the Baloch nation.
There is renewed anger across Balochistan over the dreadful assassination of one of the most popular icons of Balochi literature and civil society, Dr. Saba Dashtiyari. A professor of Islamic studies at the University of Balochistan, the fifty-eight-year old university educator was gunned down when he was taking a walk in Quetta on Wednesday night.
In mainstream media and civil society there is, with a few exceptions, complete silence on the killings of the Baloch. It is time that we all realised that silence makes us a party to the crimes committed in the name of the ‘writ of the state’
Those who have been kidnapped, tortured and killed are not just armed militants hiding in the mountains. A vast proportion of them are from the urban middle class, including students, engineers, lawyers, journalists and activists who have been engaging in civilian protest against what they perceive to be wrong policies of the state and the establishment. As the Guardian reported two months ago, a Baloch farmer went to court to file a case for his missing son but his lawyer was murdered. When he subsequently went to the media, the president of the local press club was murdered. Now, no one wishes to speak up for him.
According to Pakistani officials, in circumstances where law and order can't be maintained by a regular police force, its most trustworthy law enforcement agency, the Frontier Corp (FC), which is essentially a paramilitary force, has been given control of Balochistan to ensure law, order and to protect the lives of the people. But unfortunately, according to the relatives of victims, eye witnesses and human rights organizations, this "self proud" force itself is found to be guilty.
The summer of democracy and rights can only come when accountability becomes the norm. The FC can get away with everything from murdering the Baloch to the recent killings of five, reportedly, unarmed Chechens including a pregnant woman. The military too has been accused of killing militants in Swat and other troubled areas. Once this accountability is established, it can be followed with financial accountability, but human rights have to have top priority so that people do not live in fear and awe of state institutions. To bring about the sought summer of democracy, human rights abuses will have to be addressed urgently, relentlessly and forcefully. Without human rights being fully respected, there can be absolutely no empowerment of the people and, unless the people are empowered, the ‘establishment’ cannot be disempowered and this situation will persist indefinitely.
Sistan and Balochistan has been described as akin to Mars on Earth. For all the attention they get from Tehran, many Baloch feel they may as well be on another planet.
In dealing with a Pakistan that has careened from one unstable government to another, most of them dictatorial and with no genuine national interest, the West has had no effective basis for diplomacy apart from bribes, aimed at securing short-term goals, in the form of foreign aid and military hardware. Once Pakistan is broken up into entities with true and distinct national interests, grievances that give rise to strife and terrorism would abate and the problems the West now faces in Pakistan would become more manageable.