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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

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’

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” — Martin Luther King.

The inhumanly brutal, criminal and reprehensible killing of five Chechens including a seven month pregnant woman by the trigger happy Frontier Corps (FC) and police at Kharotabad checkpost eventually stirred the collectively comatose conscience of the Balochistan government to form a tribunal to investigate these brutal murders. The victims died in a hail of bullets fired from close range, collectively sustaining 21 bullets. I wonder if investigating the fact that the wounded were callously left to die while the FC and police concocted lies is in its ambit.

The pangs of conscience here are always highly selective and expedient, so it is extremely unlikely that any tribunal to investigate the relentless and remorseless killing of the Baloch would ever be formed. It would ruffle too many feathers and rub the ‘sensitive agencies’ the wrong way. The Baloch anyway are considered ‘children of a lesser god’ and undeserving of such respect and rights and their sufferings seemingly do not affect anyone but them.

If you do not already know, let me inform you that in the recent killing spree, July 2010 to date, more than 160 Baloch activists have been killed. This however does not mean that previously compassion was the cornerstone of the policy towards the Baloch. From Monday to Wednesday, this week, six bodies were recovered, including the body of Abdul Hameed Baloch, an intrepid activist, picked up by the FC while travelling to Panjgur from Quetta on December 13, 2010.

Any Baloch expressing resentment at the denial of rights becomes a legitimate target for the Pakistani state. During the recent briefing session, when one of the spineless Baloch parliamentarians somehow found the nerve to suggest to the DG ISI that the problem of killings and human rights abuses in Balochistan be addressed, he was tersely silenced with the answer: “Public installations should not be attacked.” This supposed crime is considered enough of an excuse to justify the continued killing of any Baloch they decide to abduct. This is the sort of justice and attitude that has prompted the people of Balochistan to resist the Pakistani state and has seen a groundswell for an independent Balochistan.

Aijaz Mehar of BBC Urdu Service, in April, interviewed family members of missing Baloch persons and all unequivocally supported the independence of Balochistan. What else could be expected? None was impressed with the packages and promises that exist only on paper. A young lady, Sehrish Baloch, whose brother’s body had been recovered, said that packages have brought them nothing but dead bodies. Now no amount of spin can convince the Baloch otherwise.

Aijaz had also interviewed Major-General Ubaidullah, commandant of FC Balochistan, who alleged that the Baloch were being funded and trained by foreign powers. He denied involvement of FC ‘death squads’ in abducting and killing Baloch activists and alleged that people wearing FC personnel uniforms were doing this. He also claimed that the militants forced the media to blame the FC for these killings. This certainly is the height of absurdity. When reminded that the FC’s actions and attitudes are alienating the Baloch, he admitted that the FC is not a ‘democratic force’ and for it implementing the ‘writ of the state’ was more important than its reputation.

When pressed on Baloch abductions and killings, the FC head conceded that when the state and justice system become weak and break down, then some forces within society take up arms to mete out justice. When asked by Aijaz that did these vigilante extrajudicial killings not signify the complete failure of the state and agencies like the FC, he replied that the FC does not have the resources for investigation but the FC is not involved in these killings. Apparently, justifying the extrajudicial killings, he counter-posed that who should be mourned, the ten innocents killed or ten criminals? When asked if this would imply that other state agencies are involved, he replied he is not saying that. His responses were a bundle of contradictions.

(This interview and of the families, in Urdu, can be seen on this link: Access the FC head’s interview by clicking on “Koi death squad nahin” (There is no death squad) in the above link.

The Supreme Court (SC) was recently informed that the provincial government had distributed Rs 127 million among the families of victims of targeted killings during the last three years. To the best of my knowledge, no family of Baloch targeted by the agencies have demanded or received any funds. Moreover, these killings carried out by the state do not qualify for compensation. The SC was also informed about an under consideration proposal of giving Rs 60,000 from the Bait-ul-Maal to the missing persons’ heirs. The government has now put a price tag on the agony and angst of the families of missing persons and sufferings of the missing.

In mainstream media and civil society there is, with a few exceptions, complete silence on the killings of the Baloch, probably because most people are taken in by the logic that the DG ISI or the Commandant FC present as the justifications for these killings. 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’. The flames of injustice eventually burn all as is apparent from the flawed ‘strategic depth’ policy due to which ‘strategic assets’ committed atrocities in Afghanistan and for which now all suffer, thus indubitably proving the veracity of “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” All people have the moral responsibility of opposing crimes against humanity.

This silence at the atrocities against the Baloch and selective outrage at some transgressions reminded me of another Martin Luther King quote from Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution (March 31, 1968). He says: “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.” The ball now is in the court of all those of us who have so far chosen to remain silent.

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