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Negligent dereliction of duty

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

These loyalists have not dissented since Ataullah Mengal’s government, perceived as hostile, was summarily dismissed in Balochistan in 1973

The Balochistan government is plumbing new depths in misgovernance and it has prompted the unobtrusive and ineffective Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Ali Magsi to express his dislike and discontent with the state of affairs there. Speaking to the media after the 10th Convocation of the Balochistan University, he expressed concern over the worsening law and order situation in the province, and said that it was the responsibility of the provincial government to improve security to the satisfaction of the people. He added, “As a governor I believe that the elected members of the provincial assembly are responsible for this worsening law and order situation since they are not playing a positive role in retaining durable peace. Merely expressing helplessness or inability is not a solution.”

More importantly, when asked about the missing persons and the daily dumping of dead bodies of the Baloch, he said the issue had been taken up with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and categorically stated that it would not bode well for the country and its people. As the governor, he certainly must know who is behind all these crimes against the Baloch people. The army and the Frontier Corps (FC) deny any involvement in these killings but then when has anyone involved in atrocities ever accepted their responsibility? The apartheid regime denied the custodial killing of Steve Biko.

Zulfiqar Magsi blamed the stooge assembly and government, in which he as the Centre’s representative is an integral part, of being indifferent and carefree. He cited the presence of only one member of the 65-member Balochistan Assembly at the Convocation as an example of their indifference. Nearly all Balochistan Assembly members are ministers and devotedly building empires for themselves. He accused influential people of involvement in kidnapping for ransom; certainly influential these days translates as those close to the Pakistani state.

The Pakistani state always tries to negate the Baloch national struggle with the claim that they have a representative assembly and cabinet to serve them. Zulfiqar Magsi’s condemnation has exposed the level of commitment these representatives have for the welfare of the Baloch. These collaborators are assured of state support simply because they have given up on Baloch rights to look after their own material interests. They have sold their souls for a pittance to the tormentors of the Baloch people. They can afford to be indifferent because there is no accountability; they mostly win elections with bogus votes. The police, the bureaucracy, the army and the judiciary actively abet in their corruption and loot as long as they make the right noises and keep aloof from Baloch rights.

The state mollycoddles them because they give them the desired face of Baloch representation. It is only when they move away from the agreed script of conniving to deprive the Baloch people of their resources, their land and their coast does the Centre and other institutions perceive them as a threat. These loyalists have not dissented since Ataullah Mengal’s government, perceived as hostile, was summarily dismissed in Balochistan in 1973.

The practice of providing free rein to the state and the army to commit atrocities is common the world over. There were terrible excesses against the people in Latin America in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s of the last century with the connivance and consent of the US and except for a few prosecutions, nothing significant happened to the perpetrators. After three decades of delay the then Guatemala’s military ruler Efrain Rios Montt is to be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity; in the civil war nearly 200,000 people died. The dice is heavily loaded in favour of the perpetrators.

A very recent example of a travesty of justice was seen in a judgement against the accused of the Haditha Massacre. In it, 24 unarmed Iraqis — among them seven children and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair — were victims. Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the person who ordered this carnage with the instructions “shoot first, ask questions later”, was the only person in the dock now as the other seven had charges dropped or dismissed. He pleaded guilty to the charge of ‘negligent dereliction of duty’ and will now go free.

The military judge Lieutenant-Colonel David Jones at Camp Pendleton, California, decided against his pay cut because he has three children to look after. Lieutenant-General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of the Marine Corps Forces Central Command, cannot increase the sentence but can reduce it. The American military first attempted to cover up the killings and a full inquiry was only launched after Tim McGirk, TIME magazine reporter, exposed them.

The judge has compassion for three American children but none for the Haditha Massacre’s 24 dead Iraqis and their relatives. Some justice! But then the US is exceptionally skilful at such things: they invaded Iraq and hanged Saddam and killed around a million Iraqis for imaginary WMDs but they give 23 standing ovations to the murderers of the Palestinian people. For justice to be done and to be seen to be done, the Haditha people should have had had the right to try these murderers.

All the misdeeds and misdemeanours of the army here have gone unchallenged and mostly misreported or under-reported. One cannot expect bumbling civilian prime ministers who regularly eat crow after blurting out against the army to hold them to account. The judiciary dilly-dallies on missing persons and kill and dump issues because it has never been people-friendly. Atrocities and injustices are possible because people have become too docile and too obedient and have abdicated their right to protest. Howard Zinn rightly said, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves...(and) the grand thieves are running the country. That is our problem.”

As long as the people continue to accept injustices and atrocities being perpetrated against them or others, the ‘grand thieves’ will remain in power everywhere and atrocities will not cease. The plea of ‘negligent dereliction of duty’ will always come in handy to the perpetrators if those judging them are of their ilk. Only when people will give up their docility and obsequiousness will justice be done and be seen to be done. And therein lies the solution to the injustices and atrocities anywhere in the world.

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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