the unfolding political situation in Balochistan
News Analysis By Malik Siraj Akbar
Violent and inexorable reactions seen all over Balochistan on the extra-judicial killing of three prominent Baloch nationalist leaders are being compared to what was seen in the country’s troubled province soon after the murder of late Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006. While the Pervez Musharraf regime continued to brazenly suppress the popular uprising by applying more violent means and killing another celebrated Baloch leader, Nawabzada Balach Marri, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is now confronted with the gigantic task of skillfully grappling the renewed conflagration that has taken Balochistan from all directions.
Many features of the fresh killings and subsequent reactions, however, distinguish the current disturbances from what was recorded after the killings of Nawab Bugti and Balach Marri. Since the mutilated dead bodies of Balochistan National Movement (BNM) central chairman Waja Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, BNM vice president Lala Munir Baloch and Baloch Republican Party (BRP) deputy secretary general Sher Mohammad Baloch were recovered from a deserted place in Turbat district, Balochistan’s Baloch, Pashtoon, Hazara populations, lawyers, transporters and traders have together and vociferously lodged an unprecedented strong protest. The reason, as mentioned by the local people, is that the killings were extremely brutal as each victim received hundreds of bullets on their faces with clear marks of inhuman torture.
Known for its numerous martyrs, the Baloch history has seen the first ever contributions of the middle class educated Baloch leaders to the anti-Islamabad national liberation movement. While majority of Baloch martyrs have been often looked down upon by cynical historians for their alleged struggle meant to guard their own tribal interests and grab maximum political, administrative and economic control of the province, the recently killed Baloch leaders, on the contrary, belong to Mekran, the most enlightened region in Balochistan where the Sardari system was abolished centuries ago. Hence, many political pundits in Quetta are utterly flabbergasted to see such an overwhelming outpouring against the killing of this type of leaders who had had no tribal roots, so-called private armies, private jails, capability to ‘blackmail’ the federal government and spunk to hinder the state-backed development agenda.
In the past Mekran was frequently pilloried by Marri, Bugti and Mengal tribes for its apathy towards the armed struggle. By killing three popular Baloch leaders, the state agencies, which are solely held responsible for the event even by the eyewitness accounts and family members of the slain leaders, have themselves pushed Mekran to formally subscribe to the club of martyrs. The Baloch insurgency is now probably going to break the tribal cocoon and make inroads among the middle class educated Balochs.
The widow of late Ghulam Mohammad Baloch and the younger brother of Lala Munir Baloch have reportedly asked the sympathizers not to mourn the killings but to take them as an opportunity to further the cause of Balochistan’s right to self-determination. The three killed leaders, who held Masters degrees in various subjects, were known as popular public figures in their respective areas and deeply revered even in their lifetime. Their tragic death and brutal murder has further added to their popularity.
The killings seem to have helped the Baloch political parties to sink all of their internal political and tribal vendettas in order to rise to the occasion. For instance, it was utterly unexpected to see federal minister for postal affairs and the president of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), Senator Israrullah Zehri, whose party has five ministries in the Balochistan Government, to publicly beg all the Baloch leaders to unite against their ‘common enemy.”
“I would request all the Baloch political parties to unite for God’s sake,” he said, “if we do not unite, the enemy is out to kill us one after the other. Firstly, Nawab Bugti was killed, then Nawabzada Balach Marri and now three more leaders have been ruthlessly assassinated.” Zehri went on to the extent of apologizing to all the Baloch tribal elders and political leaders for the past mistakes, including supporting the Pervez Musharraf regime that killed Nawab Bugti and carried out a military operation in the province. “I want them [the nationalist Baloch leaders] to forgive us and we have forgiven them.”
Similarly, Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo of the National Party (NP) has endangered his own life by publicly holding the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) responsible for the kidnapping and killing of the Baloch leaders despite the fact that two of the slain leaders –Ghulam Mohammad and Lala Munir – had developed differences with Bizenjo’s National Party in 2002 and parted ways due to differences in their political strategies for the Baloch rights.
A senior Quetta-based political analyst told this blogger that the Turbat episode had self-evidently warned the moderate and pro-Islamabad leaders such as Zehri and Bizenjo to review their approach towards the Center and its intelligence agencies. “These leaders have been left in limbo. They cannot defend Islamabad’s policies anymore. If they keep insisting for repaying state oppression with reconciliation, their own Baloch population would dislodge them from the society. It is this reason that these pro-establishment politicians have emerged as the first ones in Balochistan to protest the killings,” he pointed out.
The way forward entails daunting challenges. Everyone in Balochistan is raising fingers at the state secret services for their direct involvement in the murders. The sole eyewitness, Kachkol Baloch, a former leader of the opposition in the Balochistan Assembly, now fears for his own life. His National Party has officially complained in the media that the agencies are now out to kill Kachkol or pressurize him to mince words regarding his eyewitness account.
Meanwhile the families of the other missing nationalist leaders – Balochistan Republican Party (BRP) central information Secretary Jalil Rekhi, BRP central committee member Chakar Qambrani and Baloch Students’ Organization (BSO) Shahzaib Baloch – have been appalled by the killings. They are scared that now the intelligence agencies would also kill these missing leaders who have been kept into incommunicado for months.
While the officially formulated judicial tribunal headed by the Balochistan High Court judge Justice Nadir Durrani is starting its fact-finding mission today (Tuesday), the Baloch nationalists have already spurned the tribunal by expressing lack of trust in the tribunal. The Baloch Republican Party (BRP), whose deputy secretary general Sher Mohammad Baloch was among the killed leaders, insists that the United Nations (UN), which has for the first time condemned the killings in Balochistan, should probe the matter while Kachkol Ali Baloch, the eyewitness, says he would suffice with a Supreme Court tribunal comprising of non-PCO judges. This dilemma has already made the existing judicial tribunal ineffective and irrelevant.
Instead of forming a hasty tribunal, President Asif Ali Zardari, political observers recommend, should personally intervene in the matter and constitute a judicial commission acceptable to all Baloch political parties. A commission devoid of Baloch trust is going to add to the Baloch suspicions rather than soothing the disgruntled Baloch.