|The missing Baloch
Daily: Daily Times
The good news for Pakistan is that Pakistanis are waking up to the injustices meted out to
the Baloch. The media, somehow, has also sprung into action to discuss the Balochistan
issue. The case of 11 missing persons taken up by the Supreme Court has sent a ray of
hope for the recovery of the missing Baloch.
Conversely, the bad news for Pakistan is that the world is also waking up to the human
rights violations happening in Balochistan – whether committed by state or non-state
actors. The US Congress is resounding with the word Balochistan in various contexts and
consequently flinging all types of anxieties at Islamabad. The US Congress Committee on
Foreign Affairs raised the Balochistan issue and lately a resolution has been presented in
the US House of Representatives to that effect.
If not odium, civilians’ distrust of the military is the trait found common between the memo
(that jolted Pakistan’s national security) and the resolution (that shook Pakistan’s national
integrity). Fear is the central theme in both cases: Pakistani civilians are fearful of the
Pakistan Army and its allied intelligence agencies. For instance, whatever the IG FC
Balochistan demands, can the Chief Minister of Balochistan refuse is the touchstone on
which it can be determined who is in the driving seat in Balochistan, though the former is
theoretically subordinate to the latter. Why do the citizens of Pakistan tend to knock at the
US door for their safety and survival is the next best question?
If a Baloch is picked up by the intelligence agencies (including the intelligence wing of the
FC Balochistan) and does not turn up for years, what should his relatives do? What should
they do when they find mutilated dead body of the abductee? What should they do when
the law does not come to their help? What should they do when they protest in front of
Quetta and Karachi press clubs but no one listens to them or even sit with them – for fear
of going ‘missing’ resultantly? Should they keep mum just because their fate is intertwined
with the destiny of Pakistan?
Pakistan is a federation, federation, federation – say it loud 10 times. Pakistan is not a
unitary state where the Centre can enforce its will on the constituting units through any
means including the military. Pakistan is not a Mughal Empire where citizens can be made
subjects. Pakistan is not a homogeneous nation-state where ethnic identities lose value.
Pakistan is not passing through the medieval ages when the voice of dissent could be
muffled. Pakistan’s citizens are not marooned on a desert island where from no one can
According to one school of thought, the sequence of events indicates that Pakistan is
imploding under its own weight (of mistakes of the past from which Pakistanis are not ready
to learn); however, according to another school of thought, the events signify that Pakistan
is coming of age. The second school of thought also opine that Pakistan is entering an era
where the state is not just levying taxes of this or that type, the state is also supposed to be
answerable to its citizens for explaining to their satisfaction what safeguards it has mounted
to affirm their rights. How come the salaried class – whether the bureaucracy or the military
– can decide the fate of citizens? How can the military or the intelligence agencies appraise
the fidelity of a citizen to the country – without undertaking due legal process?
The post-2001 era is marked with violence taking (once again) root in society. Violence has
surfaced in four major forms: suicide bombings, missing persons (and their fate), mob
justice, and persecution of the minorities. The quad of conflict is functional and undermining
the foundation of the country. In fact, both the citizens and the security forces’ personnel
are engaged in brutal acts to meet their (assigned or self-proclaimed) objectives. In all
these atrocious acts, one factor is common and that is self-righteousness: I am a better
judge of the situation and it is enjoined upon me to dispense justice in my classification.
Owing to raging violence, it is not astonishing if the society has become tolerant of brutality.
The missing persons issue is essentially a post-2001 phenomenon in Pakistan.
Perceivably, the war on terror has given enough excuse to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies
to extend their sway beyond the constitutionally defined boundaries. In fact, the war has
rendered irrelevant the human rights clauses enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. The US
spy agencies showed the way how to hoodwink the law, construct the Guantanamo Bay
detention camp, undertake rendition flights, and make satellite prisons such as the one at
the Bagram Air-base, Afghanistan. Certainly, Pakistanis are quick to learn and excellent
followers too. The skill to violate human rights – with impunity – has trickled down.
Expectedly, in Pakistan, mini-Guantanamo Bays, rendition networks and satellite prisons (or
dungeons) must exist.
The PML-N was the first political party to issue a call for an All Parties Conference (APC) on
Balochistan in January this year but it failed to give a specific date. If the PML-N had
convened the APC following its announcement, the US Congress would have been left with
little justification for raising the issue of Balochistan. The pre-requisite for appeasing the
Baloch is to set the missing Baloch free – immediately – unharmed.
In Balochistan, the nationalist parties boycotted the general elections of 2008. That is how
the Balochistan Assembly is short of being declared truly representative. Making the
Election Commission independent through the 20th Constitutional Amendment is a good
omen and entails far-reaching effects. In the next general elections, the Baloch nationalist
parties will be able to take part and make the Balochistan Assembly as representative as
The judiciary is reclaiming its ground and acting as an agent of change, and citizens are
standing by the judiciary. The media needs to shed its inhibitions, whatever these are, and
pave the way for the recovery of the missing Baloch.
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