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Baloch Hal Editorial: Remembering Qambar Chakar, who loved information technology and was killed in its quest

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Baloch parents must educate their children about two important facts as we mark the first “killed and dumped” anniversary of one of the most charismatic student leaders of our times: Who Qambar Chakar was and why he was killed. Although hundreds of brilliant young Balochs have been engulfed by the government’s ‘kill and dump operations’ in Balochistan, Qambar Chakar merits special tributes for his remarkable role in Baloch reawakening. Many say he was killed by the Pakistani intelligence agencies too young while we think they killed him too late as he had already left a visionary legacy.

For those unfamiliar with the twenty-four year old Baloch activist, let’s summarize his political and educational struggle in these words. Chakar, a member of a middle class Baloch family in Kech district, was a Master’s student at the Department of Economics at the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS). He was profoundly perturbed over the colonization of Balochistan’s primer educational institutions, particularly at the BUITMS where a discriminatory admission policy closed doors of education for native Balochs at the cost of outsiders under the pretext of ‘open-merit’. Chakar, who had himself successfully sought admission at the University on merit, revolted against the admission policy and called for reforms so that more Baloch students from remote and under-privileged areas could also be admitted there.

With two other student colleagues i.e. Qambar Malik Baloch and Khurshid Baloch, late Qambar Chakar sat on an unto death hunger strike camp in front of the Quetta Press Club in support of his demands. He argued ‘merit’ was a ploy to shut down the doors of higher education for Baloch students. If open merit was the only criterion to admit students at the BUITMS then the beneficiaries would exclusively be the urban rich kids who had attended grammarian schools and colleges. Hence, Baloch children from far-off districts would be outnumbered by the children of non-Baloch and non-Balochistani bureaucrats and army officers who came up with a more sophisticated educational background because of their social and economic strata. Mr. Chakar’s campaign was not opposed to the ‘merit’ per se. What he stood for was actually merit but at district level so that each of Balochistan’s thirty district could get representation at this important educational institution.

The government of Pakistan loathed Baloch student’s this uprising and used various tactics to countervail their movement. One way was to pit Pashtun student organizations against the Baloch by enticing them to issue statements in the newspapers on daily basis in support of the controversial admission policy. The entry policy then served the Pashtun interests because all Pashtun districts, such as Pishin, Lorali, Ziarat and Qila Abdullah are so close to Quetta that children from those districts could easily come to attend school in the morning and return home in the evening.

On the other hand, it took someone like Qambar Chakar three days’ hard journey on broken roads to reach from his native Kech district to Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. These harsh ground realities which enormously contributed to the Baloch backwardness primarily caused Qambar’s anguish. Secondly, the government also repeatedly endeavored to push the Baloch students in a state of inferiority complex by telling them they were not compatible with contemporary educational challenges and were shying away from facing the so-called open merit-based policy. The government, on the other hand, totally failed to ever explain why it had failed to provide the same level of education and facilities in schools in remote parts of Balochistan which were available in Quetta.

Qambar Chakar elegantly read a colonizer’s mindset and did not lose his confidence in the wake of the official propaganda unleashed in the local media. He stood for what he truly believed in for the greater interest of Balochistan’s future. As a part of his revolutionary campaign which was joined by hundreds of Baloch students, Qambar surrounded the Governor’s House until Governor Zulfiqar Ali Magsi was forced to come out to negotiate with the Baloch activist leader. The Governor offered him negotiations ‘inside the Governor’s House’, which Qambar utterly rejected saying that he would not hold secret negotiations with a government official.

"If you have to make a decision,” he told implicitly told Governor Magsi, “you have to make it in front of all the student.”

Understandably, the governor, who is also the chancellor of the BUITMS, did not concede to Qambar’s demands, nor did the latter surrender.

When the government failed to break the resolve of the young Baloch student through threats and ostentatious offers, they brazenly kidnapped Qambar on July 10, 2010 from the same educational institution where he was a student reportedly with the support of the institution’s Pashtun vice chancellor. The young activist was tortured, humiliated and implicated in a false case of possessing a hand grande. Charges against him were never substantiated in a court. He was detained so that he would bunk all his important exams and meet his academic demise. Security forces illegally detained Chakar for at least nine months until he was released on April 22, 2010. By then, he had emerged as a mature and popular student leader who once again stood for the educational rights of the Baloch people.

Extrajudicial confinement did not deter Qambar from his commitment to his people and their basic human rights. He immediately returned to the political battleground which eventually turned out to be a fatal gamble for him. Incensed over his steadfastness and defiance, the security establishment eventually decided to permanently get rid of Qambar. Thus, officials kidnapped him for the second time on November 26, 2010. He never returned. When the young firebrand was found on January 5th, 2010 on Pasni Road in Turbat, he had been tortured to martyrdom.

Like hundreds of other ‘killed and dumped’ Balochs, Qambar Chakar’s family still awaits justice. No investigation was ever conducted in his murder because those who were blamed for kidnapping and murdering him were all disappointingly the very ‘custodians of the law’.

Qambar Chakar was different from so many of his compatriots. He was frail but still a bold strategist and cogent orator. He very impressively communicated and coordinated with the media. He was too clear in what he stood for as he was simply not a blind-follower. He thought in issues-based rather than personality-based politics. As a senior leader of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) Qambar was a very promising young campaigner. When he lived, we predicted he’d one day become Balochistan’s most charismatic leader rising from the middle class. Now that is no more with us, we believe he has the most inspiring and motivational story of a young man who loved modern education and fought for his people’s rights, until his death. Only those who truly know the value of modern education for their people would go to the extent of sacrificing their lives. Qambar was indeed our martyr of the technological era. He lived and fought for Baloch rights in a 21st-centuary style.

Qambar Chakar will be truly missed by all of us who dream of a progressive, enlightened and empowered Balochistan. Rest in peace, young comrade!

Malik Siraj Akbar is a freelance journalist based in Washington DC and Editor-in-Chief of The Baloch Hal