Balochistan–caught between Army and deep crises

Balochistan

There is no peace in Balochistan, ever. The biggest and poorest province is trapped between a cruel and avaricious army and an equally callous federal government. For decades, people have been living in the shadow of deprivation and fear.

The region and its people has been facing a series of onslaughts for decades. The rebellions are silenced and people’s aspirations are crushed daily. Terrorist incidents and violence go unchecked; the evidence is buried and results are drawn without investigations. Local politicians and peaceful student bodies that do not remotely create trouble are named as foreign agents, anti-establishment, and so on. The government believes that breaking down their spirit will weaken them to a state of non-existence.

Bright university students of Balochistan are threatened and abducted in the middle of the day, taken to unknown places, and sometimes held captive for years together. And no amount of appeals and protests can get those students safely home.

Earlier this month a rally was organized in Lahore by the Baloch Students Council (Lahore) against the increase in forced disappearances of students and non-recovery of missing persons in Balochistan in recent days. State-sponsored institutions have locked in their loved ones without cause. The families of these people have weathered their shoes from one government office to another only to know the reason for such unlawful abductions. So this time the protesters are in no mood to receive sympathy. They want concrete justice for the atrocities they have faced for far too long.

A few people have been a target of enforced disappearance more than once. Murtaza Zehri of Khudzar district of Balochistan was first abducted in 2010, then in 2015, 2021, and now recently in May 2023. The armed forces, the “Counter-Terrorism Department” (CTD), and the secret agencies together have proven that the Baloch are not even safe in their own land. They are on a mission to paralyze the youth and keep them in a state of fear until they no longer care about living.

Whenever there is news of a murder arrives or a body shows up in the middle of nowhere, the unfortunate families of those whose children have disappeared, all arrive at the scene. Each one of them praying that it is not their son. In the first week of May, a dead body was recovered in Pasni, Gwadar, and identified as Ibrahim, the manager of Rehman Fish Company. Since the spreading influence of the Chinese at the Gwadar port, now and then there is news of locals getting murdered under suspicious circumstances.

Chinese access to the port has closed down local businesses. Gwadar natives were promised jobs in CPEC, clean water facilities, education, etc. but they are yet to see that favor answered. So when someone does build the courage to stand up for Gwadar’s rights, they are conveniently eliminated.

On 22nd March another body, after a series of such murders, was found under a bridge in Mastung. To date, no one has identified it for fear of being reprimanded or worse, punished by the police for knowing or being a close aide of an activist.


As if all this wasn’t enough Pak Army started a military operation in various areas of Balochistan such as Khuzdar, Bolan, Buzgar, Hanjeer, and Garnawah. Since March, they have set up temporary camps to watch everyone like a hawk. Now, more than ever, it has become difficult for people to speak up because their agents gather information to diffuse any uprisings against the government through violence. It’s common to hear helicopters moving about through the day, firing, and explosions without reason.

There are spine-chilling cases of some families who moved cities to start a new life after being the target of heinous crimes committed by the military. In March two persons, Muhammad Ibrahim and Nizam were detained at a check post in Harnai. According to sources, they were residents of Quetta but originally hailing from Sanjawal, Bolan district. Nizam’s brother Ramzan went missing during a military operation in Sanjawal in 2014 and later his body was found. Finally, the family migrated to Quetta to start afresh but fate followed them to the capital city of Balochistan where one might imagine better treatment of people.

There are at least a dozen reported cases of enforced disappearances of the Baloch daily in the local newspapers. The means of communication with the outside world are heavily censored. National dailies are hypersensitive touching upon Balochistan. Recent news about a mouse roaming about in a sweet shop in Lahore went viral and Pak media was on fire, but dead bodies on the roadside in Balochistan do not even make it to the final page of the paper. Does no one see the perennial problem?

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