From Balochistan to Bloodistan
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Nearly one hundred people, including policemen, unarmed civilians and media personnel, were killed in three massive bomb blasts in Quetta city on Thursday. The blasts embodied two major forms of violence that currently engulfs Balochistan, nationalistic and sectarian.The attacks once again specifically targeted some sections of our population that have already remained under similar assaults in the past. If innocent civilians (read Shias and Hazaras), policemen and journalists were frequent victims of violence in year 2012, they, unfortunately, could not skip the fresh blast that marks the inception of what seems to be a rocky 2013.
The United Baloch Army (U.B.A.) , a Baloch nationalist group, and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Sunni militant group, have respectively accepted responsibility for the first and the subsequent two blasts. One group justifies violence in the name of nationalism while the other cites religion as the motivation behind its operations. For the highly vulnerable Shia, Hazara community, according to the New York Times, it was the worst attack since the first assault on them took place in Quetta some 14 years ago. It was only ten days ago when 19 Shia pilgrims were killed in Mastung District after the LeJ attacked two buses on December 30, 2012.
The Balochistan government has announced three days of mourning to express solidarity with the victims of the blasts and announced compensation for the victims’s families. This is a mere joke with the people of the province considering the fact that not a single minister from the Balochistan government showed up on the site of the blasts nor did they arrive at the hospitals to witness the doomsday-like situation that struck the people of Quetta. The government is doing nothing to protect people’s lives as the entire provincial capital, and other parts of the province, are left in the mercy of terrorists who are out there to kill innocent citizens. What should be a greater responsibility and priority for a government than to protect human lives? Balochistan government’s absolute failure to curb lawlessness is not the real issue, what the people must revolt against is the indifference of Chief Minister Raisani and his cabinet toward whatever is happening in Balochistan on daily basis.
The LeJ, an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban, is almost in full control of Balochistan’s capital. Their brazen capabilities have expanded from stopping passenger buses and shooting Shia pilgrims to bombing sports clubs located in the basements. The LeJ, absolutely unapologetic about its barbaric actions, has come up with a very stern warning to the government following Thursday’s blasts. The organization says it had expected the Shias to leave Balochistan for good by the end of 2012 but everyone has not complied with its demand yet. Brave people who still refuse to leave their homes and move to safer locations despite repeated warnings are billed by the Lashkar as “greedy people who prefer their homes and businesses over their own lives.” The underground Sunni group has tightened its warning to the Balochistan government saying that it should stop torturing its detained activists some of whom are kept in the Anti-Terrorist Foroce (A.T.F.) lock-up in Quetta.
“We have reports that our activists are being tortured by the government officials during custody. Some of them are in pretty bad health. If our comrades are not relocated to Huda Jail (in Quetta), we will soon intensify attacks on the convoys of A.T.F., the police and the Frontier Corps,” said the LeJ in its statement on Thursday. The organization equates Shia religious belief with “shamelessness” and says it has too many suicide bombers who are willing to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah “because we prefer martyrdom over the life of shamelessness.”
Balochistan was once a peaceful place where all ethnic, sectarian and religious communities coexisted peacefully but we live in the worst times of our generation has ever seen. Human blood has never been so cheap. Our society has never been so badly divided on ethnic and religious lines. Peace loving people, the media and the civil society in Balochistan are all scared to speak up against these powerful armed groups that reign the province with an iron fist.
While the government should not waste time to immediately dismantle these networks of terror, we strongly urge the Baloch and Pashtun progressive political parties to play their role to exert pressure on the security establishment to end its nexus with Islamic extremist groups. There should be joint street protests by these political parties against religious extremism and terrorism. This is a collective cause that should be owned by everyone in Balochistan irrespective of one’s political belief, manifestos and strategies.
If possible, political parties should also keep their ideological differences aside and offer to work with the government to address the issue of religious extremism. If the LeJ becomes the de facto master of Balochistan, it will no longer be possible for moderate parties to go for elections later this year or the separatists to strive for an independent Balochistan. The LeJ threat is so powerful that it, if not eliminated now, will violently crush every other political movement in Balochistan.
Originally published in The Baloch Hal on January 10, 2012