The state simply sees the Baloch aspirations and their demand for rights as an obstacle to their strategic and economic plans
The Supreme Court (SC) hearings on the missing persons in Balochistan are ending inconclusively without having done anything for the majority of the missing or reducing the agony of their relatives. Moreover, it seems that these hearings may become a reason for further aggravating the already bad conditions for the Baloch because the Chief Justice’s statement ‘there is a constitutional breakdown in Balochistan’ has serious implications. It implies that a constitutional breakdown requires special and emergency measures. Already one Baig Raj, president of Punjab Forum, in a national daily demanded that the government give it serious consideration and suggested that the situation in Balochistan be normalised by initiating a massive military operation after imposing governor’s rule. The Baloch are wondering if all these hearings were for laying the groundwork for justifying just this eventuality.
These hearings have been marked by the stubborn adamancy of the Frontier Corps (FC) in rejecting what the SC terms incontrovertible evidence against it. During the last hearing, the SC ordered it to produce the missing persons, but in a written statement, the FC submitted that it had conducted “internal inquiries” and found the group of missing people “was not held in the custody of FC”, adding that in many cases, insurgents dressed in FC uniforms committed “high profile acts of terrorism and heinous crimes…thus bringing (a) bad name to this federal organisation”. Period. End of story. They do not have the missing persons; moreover, imposters dressed in FC uniforms do evil to give the ‘saintly’ FC a bad name. Surprisingly, it also sought police powers to conduct a door-to-door search for the missing as if their vast arbitrary powers were not enough. Resorting to denial helps them because here no authority has the authority to verify and disprove their bogus denials.
Ironically, the FC’s claim that insurgents don their uniforms to kidnap people belies their other claim that insurgents have no influence in Balochistan, amply showing how inefficient the FC and police actually are. These unbelievable childish fairy tales are an insult to human intelligence. Simply put, the army and the FC want to persist with the policy of repression and brutality to subdue the Baloch. It seems that all these claims and disregard of law are aimed at prompting the SC to come up with a verdict about the need to right the situation created by the constitutional breakdown. It needs to be emphasised that as far as the Baloch are concerned, they are being ruled by emergency powers that the army and FC enjoy. The ‘constitutional breakdown’ verdict may just formalise the emergency powers but these will neither bring back the missing persons nor end the frequent sectarian attacks.
Mr I A Rehman, the respected human rights activist, in his article of July 19, 2012, ‘The UN and the missing’ had written that, “The report that a team of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will visit Pakistan in September must have raised hopes in many a heart in Balochistan.” He hoped that this working group’s request to visit to assess the problem already delayed for 20 months will not be delayed further and be allowed an unhindered visit to “ensure that exchanges with the UN team are based on truth, openness and a desire to solve matters instead of taking shelter under an umbrella of denial and obfuscation.” He was also of the view that, “Any reluctance to deal fairly with the UN team will also further alienate the people of Balochistan, especially the Baloch population.”
It seems Mr Rehman is in for disappointment because the ‘establishment’, read army, is unwilling to allow any independent investigation regarding the missing persons because that seems to be the cornerstone and backbone of their counter-insurgency policy. The July 2011 Human Rights Watch report, “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”, was rubbished by the army as was the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report “Blinkered Slide into Chaos”; both these reports had blamed the army, FC and intelligence agencies for the disappearances.
The Baloch are not holding their breath in expectation of the decision from the SC on July 31, and nor have expectations from the UN body on missing persons. They have given up on any justice being delivered to them by anyone and therefore and they are doing their best to deter force with force, knowing that submission would only entail more sufferings for the Baloch in general. The state simply sees the Baloch aspirations and their demand for rights as an obstacle to their strategic and economic plans and would continue to deal with them on that basis.
Rights and justice here boil down to how much force does the party, group, institution or individual have. Stalin’s interpreter, Valentin Berezhkov in his memoirs narrates in 1944 that Churchill while convincing Stalin to allow the spiritual values of Catholic Poland to prevail so that the Pope may not be antagonised was stumped by the blunt, “How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?” Rights and justice need the backing of divisions and on the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, there is not even a single platoon standing behind the SC, though for its decision to correct what it says is a constitutional breakdown, it may have all the armed might of the ‘Land of the Pure’ standing behind it. The issue of missing persons in Balochistan touches the rawest of nerves of the establishment, which is uncompromising because it perceives the Baloch struggle as a clear and present danger and believes that with the use of unrestrained force it may dent Baloch aspirations to the extent that they may be forced to give up. That however does not seem to be happening anytime soon because the Baloch have now invested so much blood and so many lives into their struggle that there is no backing off for them.
Sheikh Saadi narrates a story in Gulistan of a self-respecting person severely wounded while battling the Mongols being told that a miserly and ill-tempered person of a nearby village had medicine that may cure him. He replied that the miser probably would not part with it and even if he does, no certainty that it would cure him, so it is better to die with dignity. The self-respecting Baloch are not waiting for the medicine from the misers and courageously putting up a fight for their rights.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at [email protected]