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Truth invites IRE

The government and its ministers along with the army are quick to blame the Baloch for putting up hurdles in relief work and the social media and the mainstream media join the chorus

Awaran, a place that already was suffering from shocks of long-drawn army and Frontier Corps operations in their effort to contain the brave and unflinching resistance that Dr Allah Nazar and the people there are putting up against their attempts to make people meekly submit to exploitation, was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on September 24. The UN humanitarian envoy, Dr Abdullah Al-Matouq, said the UN was ready to help with relief work in Balochistan’s earthquake-affected areas but the Pakistani authorities have refused.

This isn’t the first time that the disaster-stricken Baloch have been left at the mercy of the vagaries of nature and elements on a flimsy security concerns excuse for which the establishment itself is to blame. When Balochistan was battered by Cyclone Yemyin in June 2007 causing flooding affecting 1.5 million people, the international relief organisations were suddenly stopped on the security concerns excuse. Even the relief operations of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) and other nationalist organisations were stopped and camps disbanded.

The same is true today; early Thursday morning some Baloch students of Dera Ghazi Khan (DGK) put up a camp at the Traffic Chowk near the DGK Press Club to collect supplies for the Awaran quake victims but were soon rudely stopped by intelligence agencies personnel. Independent news reports confirm that the relief supplies being sent by individuals and NGOs are stopped by the FC, which says only it will distribute them. The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Agency handouts claiming relief are bogus as reports prove no supplies had reached either Gajjar or Malaar till Friday.

Relief work is the responsibility of the civilian authorities, the Red Crescent, the UN and other humanitarian organisations but Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar says 1,000 troops of the Pakistan army were on the ground and other units were being dispatched, apart from the thousands of FC men already there. Sanaullah Baloch tweeted that NDMA officials say they cannot give information without clearance from the ISPR.

Prior to this quake, the people of Awaran have been subjected to punitive operations by the army and FC because the intrepid Dr Allah Nazar has struggled ceaselessly and effectively, after his release in June 2006 in a near-death condition after brutal torture following his arrest in March 2005. He was arrested in 2002 as well after he formed the Baloch Students Organisation (Azad) but released after students’ hunger strikes. He today is the singularly most effective and legendary resistance leader on the ground, leading his Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and well complemented by the indomitable Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA). The people in Awaran view the army and FC as the enemy.

Lt-General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said Jam Kamal Khan, NDMA Chairman Major General Muhammad Saeed Aleem and their helicopters flying over Mashkay area were fired at by the Sarmachars (insurgents) on Thursday. Later talking to reporters he said, “The bullets passed very close to the helicopters. However, we escaped the attempt on our lives.” He said the militant leader Allah Nazar should realise that the army and Frontier Corps troops had gone to the area to help those devastated by the earthquake. “I would like to ask militant leader Allah Nazar and his men to join the rescue and relief operation in order to ease the pain of people whose loved ones have died or been injured.”

The fact is that the establishment wants to punish the people using instances of justified response by the Sarmachars against aggression by denying them aid from international organisations. Dr Allah Nazar assuring full safety for civil organisations and personnel involved in aid activities and added helicopters were engaged because of their hostile activities and it was a legitimate response. A military official in Awaran also confirmed that the rebels are only attacking security forces and not civilians.

The government and its ministers along with the army are quick to blame the Baloch for putting up hurdles in relief work and the social media and the mainstream media join the chorus accusing the Baloch Sarmachars of being inconsiderate and callous by obstructing help. Sadly even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) sometimes issues statements that seem to be ISPR handouts. Their patriotism blinds them to the plight of the Baloch and the resentment evoked by the unbridled brutality that they suffer at the hands of the security forces. They have no idea what image the army and the FC has there for the people who have been terrorised and traumatised by the operations conducted there to ensure that the BLF fish (guerrillas) are deprived of the sea (the people) that they have swum in since 2006.

The people there and the army are two warring parties; there are six-decade plus irresolvable animosities and antagonisms nurtured by brutalities and broken promises combined with devastating economic exploitation. Pray, tell me, how would the residents of Stalingrad have reacted had the 6th Army and the 4th Panzer Army of the Wehrmacht come bearing relief supplies to ease the besieged people’s troubles? Many affected people are refusing to take army relief supplies because their near and dear ones have either gone missing or been killed. My respected friend Shaheed Sheymureed Baloch (Raza Jahangir), Secretary General Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) Azad, killed by the FC on August 14, was from Awaran.

If the readers think I am exaggerating, this news report may help disabuse them of the illusion that the army can do no wrong. Recently, the Islamabad police booked 30 security personnel of the Strategic Planning Division (SPD), including an army officer, on charges of murder, attempted murder and terrorism. The villagers of Nilor, protesting the beating up of a villager, were fired upon, resulting in the death of one and injury to 10 villagers. In July the Army netball players had beaten up the Balochistan team after losing the game.

This earthquake and the emerging situation have forced the establishment to reluctantly admit to the scale and intensity of the resistance that they are facing. The army is trying to gain a foothold in the area in the guise of relief work and is punishing the people there for their unstinted support for the Sarmachars by disallowing international aid. This, however, will only strengthen their resolve. The help by other Baloch and NGOs will filter through and the people in the quake-affected area will survive, but the already incurable wounds and scars will deepen and they will never forgive the establishment for the miseries they are going through.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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