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Saggaan ra kushaada-and, ‘o’ sing ra basta

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Half-hearted denials and condemnations are not going to appease the tormented and agonised families who lose their dear ones nor hoodwink the people who struggle for their rights

Dissembling, deceiving and denying are the coveted tools of statecraft for those who essentially fear people and their rights. These tools have been the cornerstone of the state policy in Balochistan with which the state tries to convince the world that it is the Baloch people who are to blame.

Talking to the press recently, Lieutenant-General Javed Zia denied that the missing Baloch were kidnapped and killed by the army, the FC or the ISI. He said some people, who for monetary gains burnt the Pakistani flag or carried out subversive activities, were hit by ‘patriotic elements’. Well, well if the gentleman knows that these Baloch were hit by ‘patriotic elements’ then he surely must know who these ‘patriotic elements’ are. If they deny knowledge of these ‘patriotic elements’, how on earth do they know that these atrocities-committing elements are ‘patriotic’? Not a single soul among the obsequiously compliant media bothered to ask this touchy question.

One wonders how is it that those who consider “killings of missing persons as abhorrent acts” and rule the roost for all practical purposes in Balochistan fail to see the weapons and activities of these ‘patriotic elements’? Certainly these ‘patriotic elements’ are not characters from Harry Potter movies wearing invisibility cloaks; how come they always successfully carry out the abductions and killings in spite of numerous checkposts that dot Balochistan?

This indeed is an extraordinary situation because ordinary Baloch suffer ordeals of numerous restrictive checkposts but somehow the ‘patriotic elements’ evade detection. It so happens that the ‘flag burners’ and ‘subversives’ neither adorn fortified palaces and mansions nor ride the bulletproof Mercedes and BMWs like the ‘patriotic’ politicians and Generals. They either trudge on foot for everyday chores or use public transport for travel and become easy targets for the armed to teeth ‘patriotic elements’ who pick them up and then leave their inhumanly unrecognisable tortured bodies on some highway; quite often with a note identifying them and warning other ‘flag burners’ to expect a similar fate.

Perhaps Sheikh Saadi’s ‘Hikayat’ may explain this extraordinary situation. A poet hoping for a reward went to a robber baron lair with a eulogy. The uncouth robber baron had him thrashed and sent on his way naked. Winter it was and this cowering unfortunate soul hoped to slink away unseen. When suddenly a pack of dogs descended on him and as he tried to pick up stones to fend the dogs off, he found them frozen hard into the ground. Exasperated he said, “Een Che haramzada mardumaanand, saggaan ra kushaada-and, ‘o’ sing ra basta” (how wantonly evil these folk are, they have tied the stones and unleashed the dogs). This is exactly how things are in Balochistan: the people are disempowered and crushed while the chosen ‘patriotic elements’ and the establishment are unleashed.

The latest recovered body on July 23rd was that of Saleem Dad, a poet, intellectual and teacher of Turbat who was kidnapped on July 12th. A fortnight back, inhumanly tortured bodies of Maqsood Qalandrani, Murtaza Sarpraha and Nasir Badani were found in separate sacks in Jabal-e-Noor area. This already long list keeps getting lengthier. Prestigious Human Rights Watch in its 132-page report, ‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan’, has documented and condemned these atrocities belying the government’s claim that disappearances are no more than nationalist propaganda.

The crux of the matter is, who has given these ‘patriotic elements’ the license to kill; for without consent and coordination of army these killings simply cannot be carried out. Half-hearted denials and condemnations are not going to appease the tormented and agonised families who lose their dear ones nor hoodwink the people who struggle for their rights. Poet Saleem Dad’s death came in the wake of the General’s statement, so people fully understand how much concern exists for the Baloch in the corridors of power.

In Balochistan the hardliners and ‘flag burners’ have always borne the brunt of excesses but now in a radical departure the ‘patriotic elements’ or the ‘unleashed ones’ have targeted moderate elements; in mid-July they assassinated Jumma Khan Raisani along with three persons. The Baloch people have a very good idea who the establishment has unleashed on them. Some of the killings for the army are performed by traitorous Baloch for the sake of money. The kidnappings and killings are concentrated in some areas where these mercenaries carry out their master’s biddings. It is these hirelings who sell their souls for money and not the brave souls who risk their lives to resist the atrocities and arbitrariness of the Pakistani state.

The mainstream media avoids Balochistan like a plague but Daily Times, since the change of guard, has consistently highlighted the Baloch issue and its July 23rd editorial, ‘Balochistan and the army’s ‘concerns’’, is an excellent example. It says, “....Despite several military operations in Balochistan over the past decades, the state of Pakistan has not been able to achieve what it wanted: to make the Baloch subservient to the establishment’s highhandedness. The Baloch are a proud people with an iron will. They do not succumb lightly to oppression. After a forceful accession, the Pakistani establishment has tried to oppress the Baloch for over six decades now. The demands of the Baloch are legitimate...Military might cannot and will not ‘tame’ the Baloch if that is what the military establishment has in mind. The only solution is political...Instead of pretending to be a silent Buddha, Major General Obaidullah Khan should have been ashamed of what the FC is doing under his command in Balochistan. How many more deaths would it take for the army and the FC to own up to their mistakes? Showing ‘concern’ is not enough. What is needed is an end of the oppressive military regime in the province. The Baloch genocide must stop. The army cost us half our country back in 1971. It must retreat now before history is tragically repeated.”

Robert Fisk, the great journalist, observes, “Once people lose their fear; they cannot be re-inoculated with fear.” The Baloch have lost fear of the brutal atrocities that the Pakistani state has frequently unleashed since March 27, 1948; their ‘iron will’ remains unbroken and their persistent struggle amply proves it but it seems the ‘establishment’ refuses to learn.

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