When I was in Turbat I was further told that more than 14,000 individuals have gone missing, from different areas of Balochistan and an additional 500 tortured, bullet-ridden bodies have been discovered from different areas of Balochistan.
Balochistan has become a hotbed of insurgency, sectarian killings, kidnapping for ransom and tribal feuds, which require vigilant reporting and communication to the world.
The first news I heard when I reached Balochistan was that there had been a bomb blast on FC convey on Sariab Road which killed five officials and injuring four others.
In Quetta, I was informed that 11 people were abducted in Gwadar and Turbat in three days. Journalists told me that the province has become the most dangerous place for journalists.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, resident chief of an English daily, considered Balochistan one of the most insecure places in the country for journalists, saying that various groups and militant organisations want to practically take over the media.
“They want to dictate us and say the pen should be yours, but worlds ours and they use various derogatory words for their opponents which, they insist, should be published without change which is not possible for journalists since they have to take into consideration the ethical code of journalism,” Zulfiqar said, adding that law and order in Khuzdar was unwelcoming for journalists where two sons of the Khuzdar Press Club president were killed, he said.
He also informed us about the closure of the Khuzdar Press Club. He said it was all due to insecurity where existence of government could not be felt. He said 40 people have been killed in Khuzdar during last month.
When asked if the Supreme Court’s interim order multiplied the issues of journalists, he said that being a citizen of Pakistan, journalists were bound to respect court orders and added that journalists too are responsible for certain mistakes. “However, I would definitely say that al Qaeda is a banned organisation and their statements were aired by BBC, CNN and other international organisations and even today any reporter comes to know about Mullah Umar, they will definitely want to interview him but will
air his comments cautiously and our friends are also doing their jobs but in a careful way where sometimes they give space in two or four lines to banned outfits statements despite court orders in place.”
Zulfiqar said the government had not compensated the families of journalists who lost their lives in the line of their duties neither their families had been paid any social security.
Syed Ali Shah, bureau chief of a private TV channel, commenting on the issues of the journalists in Balochistan said, “The hazards have grown for the mediamen in Balochistan in proportion to the rapid growth of media as the journalists with little or no experience can not better evaluate the risks within the profession.”
Essa Tareen, bureau chief of an international TV channel in Balochistan and the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) president, said that journalists in Balochistan faced dual issues, which included economic issues at the first place and life threats. Tareen seemed unhappy with the remunerations paid to the journalists in Balochistan by local newspaper owners, saying that the owners of newspapers pleaded that their organizations depended on the advertisements, which were insufficient to meet their expanses.
Noor Elahi Bugti, a senior journalist who also survived a bomb blast, said that Balochistan journalists had faced more dangers than that of ones working in FATA as journalists here faced threats from both insurgents and banned outfits.
“They do not understand our role and position and every person thinks his statement to be important but they do not understand our journalistic compulsions,” Bugti said.
Bari Baloch, a correspondent of an English daily, said that the journalists in Balochistan did not have basic and safety training.
When I reached in Turbat, the second largest city of Balochistan having a population of almost 350,000, I was informed about more scary details.
Asad Baloch, information secretary of Turbat Press Club told Daily Times that roughly 80 youths belonging to different political organisations from Mekran division were abducted in two years and killed ruthlessly while two journalists were ambushed in target killing in one year.
When asked reason behind the abduction and killings, he said their political activities in different political organisations seeking secession from Pakistan made them unpopular in the eyes of establishment. Most of the people from Turbat believe that security agencies were picking the political activists for their alleged involvement in heinous crimes.
When I was in Turbat I was further told that more than 14,000 individuals have gone missing, from different areas of Balochistan and an additional 500 tortured, bullet-ridden bodies have been discovered from different areas of Balochistan. The Voice For Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) vice chairman claimed that security agencies were behind atrocities and bullet-riddled bodies.
I continue to travel to the most restive part of Balochistan – Mekran division – in order to meet with key Baloch politicians and government officials. Mekran Additional DC Javed Anwar Shahwani said that due to the ongoing violence in the province people from both sides have been disappeared or have been killed in a large number.
In Gwadar, I was informed that because of the current wave of violence more than 10,000 settlers have left the town while 40 people from both sides reportedly were ambushed in target killings in two months, I was further informed that most often there would be rocket attacks on the navy camp and cost guard from Balochistan Liberation front (BLF), that’s headed by Doctor Allah Nazar Baloch.
No proper roads, no bridges, no industry and no development work were seen from Lasbela to Jiwani.
The helpless people of District Panjgur, Turbat, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Washuk, Karan, Awaran and Mastung were searching for dry wood to light their burners while the youth of costal town were wandering here and there aimlessly in search of jobs.
The national anthem was not recited in schools of 11 districts of Balochistan while the national flag was not hoisted at any governmental institutions of Mekran division. I was informed that Pakistan studies was not being taught in colleges and schools while governmental offices like PTCL, NADRA, National Bank of Pakistan and DC office couldn’t be operated without the protection of security forces in Mekran division and Khuzdar.
Key Baloch politicians and journalists from Mekran division told Daily Times that the situation in Balochistan could have never been so painful if the people of Balochistan were treated on the basis of justice and equality and given the same rights as given to the people of other provinces.