The first Baloch suicide bomber
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Haq Nawaz Baloch will go down in the history of Balochistan as the first Baloch suicide bomber. Based on the information provided by Ali Sher Haider, the official spokesman of the underground Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the suicide attack on Quetta’s Civil Hospital last Friday was carried out by the Baloch suicide bomber in order to continue the so-called battle against the sectarian Shia minority. The unprecedented suicide bomb blast inside the hospital killed at least eleven people, including two senior police officers and a television journalist.
After the passage of a week, the police in Quetta have even not succeeded to ascertain more details about the suicide bomber. No real culprit from the banned group has been arrested in the wake of this deadly strike. The blast was, however, taken as an excuse by the paramilitary forces to wage a grand search operation in the Baloch-dominated parts of Quetta which culminated in the killing of Baloch woman, Shahnaz Bibi, the mother of a political activist from the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal).
LeJ has warned to mastermind more such attacks against the Shias living in Quetta and elsewhere in the province. It has threatened a few top police officials to avoid taking action against the banned outfit’s activists. The Lashkar is irked over the delay in the release of one of its activists Naseer Kharani despite court orders of his acquittal.
Haq Nawaz’s action coincides with another recent ugly incident of acidifying the faces of two teenage sisters in Dalbandin district by activists of an unknown organization i.e. Baloch Gharathmand Tanzeem. This organization had previously threatened the womenfolk of the area not to get out of their homes or will be targeted for defying the threat. Otherwise, acid would be thrown on their faces as a punishment, the group threatened. With the local community not taking the threat very seriously, the organization waged its first attack weeks after the issuance of warnings by badly burning the faces of the two sisters with acid.
These two developments alarmingly remind us about the growing religious radicalization being injected in the Baloch society. The response of the Balochs is not dissimilar to that of rest of the Pakistan towards the wave of terrorism. “Experts” on the country’s private news channels still strive to convince us that the suicide bombers cannot be Muslims or Pakistanis. We are still told that the country does not face a threat of religious extremism. On a number of occasions, these experts and analysts have said that Israel, India or the United States is behind the religious extremism and suicide bomb blasts.
Only a first-class-degree-holder-psychologist can enlighten us why societies behave so strangely when they end up as the victim of terror perpetrated by their own children. Similarly, most Balochs remain in a state of denial that their kids could become suicide bombers or throw acid on the faces of other girls. The intelligence agencies, they say, are doing all this to malign the Baloch national struggle.
Baloch society has been the target of radical Islam since the day Mir Ghose Baksh Bizenjo, a prominent Baloch nationalist leader, said in 1947, “If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran… should also amalgamate with Pakistan.” This assertion came as an almost-a-heart-attack for those who were starkly unfamiliar with Baloch, Sindhi and Pakhtun nationalism on the eve of the formation of Pakistan. It was then they realized that Baloch nationalism was too recalcitrant to reconcile with the religion-driven “two-nation theory”. Since then, the Balochs have been struggling to retain their distinctive national identity while Islamabad has been enticing the them to give up their centuries-old Baloch identity by embracing the Islamic identity. This has been the benchmark to become a patriotic Pakistani in the last six decades.
The situation in Balochistan took a dramatic turn after the Soviet invasion on Afghanistan. With the Jihad being sponsored by the west, religious schools mushroomed in the province very rapidly. Hefty amounts of money were dispatched informally from Gulf countries to promote the religious schools.
It is funny when Islamabad complains that Baloch tribal chiefs do not allow development in the province. Only the gamblers can certify how fertile this land of vastly illiterate people is for exploitation and manipulation.
The fact of the matter is not a penny was invested by foreign donors to establish secular educational institutions in the Baloch province. On the contrary, some Arab countries invested handsomely for the promotion of the religious schools in the Baloch areas. The secular Sardars even did not oppose the construction of these religious schools in their areas for the reason that the government had even failed to play its due responsibility to impart education to everyone.
Today, one can see (and cannot see if you do not want to see) the horrifying edifice of radicalization the Arab funds have established in the Baloch areas. This lava has just begun to brew in the secular Baloch society by churning out sectarian killers, suicide bombers and hitmen who burn girls’ faces for walking outside their homes.
Political parties and different groups living in Balochistan should read between the lines that something very unpleasant is about to happen in the province in the future if the threat of sectarianism and religious radicalism is not checked on the right time. With too little expected to be done by the government, we urge the political parties, civil society groups and international donors to convene more inter-sect dialogue, cultural programs and sports events which bring the members of various sects closer to each other.
Sane Sunni and Shia scholars should start meeting and talking to each other more frequently. They have to check such priests who teach odium against the members of the rival sect. The media and non-governmental organizations should also play their role to thwart the plans of radicalization in a province which can come under American drone strike at any time on the basis of speculations that the spiritual leader of Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is hiding in Quetta.
It is encouraging that the National Party has responded very intelligently in response to the acid-throwing assault on the little sisters. The society must unite to discourage religious fundamentalism at all costs.
(The Baloch Hal is the first online English newspaper of Balochistan)