The never investigated killing of three Baloch leaders
By Malik Siraj Akbar
While brutally shooting three top Baloch nationalist leaders last month at an unknown location near Turbat district, the murderers must have been comforted that no genuine investigation would ever follow to trail their roots. The eyewitnesses who saw Balochistan National Movement chairman Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, vice president Lala Munir Ahmed Baloch and Baloch Republican Party deputy secretary general Sher Mohammad Baloch being forcefully whisked away from the legal chamber of their lawyer, K. Ali Baloch, recognized the ‘kidnappers’ at first sight who had nipped out to the venue in vehicles carrying official number plates.
Balochistan began to see the killing of key democratic Baloch leaders, to cite the fresh phase only, in August 2006 when late Nawab Akbar Bugti, a former chief minister and the governor of the province, was assassinated. Shocking though, the murder of 79-year old Baloch leader in fact gained overwhelming media and public attention due to the mendacious official version that elaborated how the reclusive Baloch leader had indeed perished: The Nawab died in a devastating cave-collapse in which everything was annihilated except for the unscratched sunglasses, intact wristwatch and the radiant golden ring of the defiant leader which were abruptly captured by maneuvering TV cameras as Samad Lasi, the Dera Bugti DCO, exhibited the objects.
It was history-outshining-history when a former chief minister as well as the governor of the country’s largest province was given an unparalleled farewell: Coffin locked with two padlocks, family members barred from viewing the dead man and the body handed over to the slain man’s uncouth detractors so that they could cause maximum slur to the Baloch tribal chief. A heavy contingence of the army men stood insolently to double-check that the disgraceful show went smoothly, uninterrupted.
Columnist, Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, now ridiculously informs us that the Nawab had in fact brandished a missile against himself and committed suicide. (Daily Jang, May 7, 2009). Therefore, we must stop blaming the (Musharraf) government for killing Nawab Bugti. Thus, no investigation required. No one to blame. No one to punish. Chapter closed. Cheers.
Ex-Balochistan Assembly member Balach Marri was the second Baloch leader to be killed in mysterious circumstances. Speculations, however, once again suggest that it was the state that eliminated the Baloch leader. The killing of the charismatic champion of Baloch national rights sparked an extraordinary wave of protests and condemnations. Causes of his death were expectedly never investigated. Hence, the Baloch lost faith in a proactive judicial system that actively took suo moto notice of the filthy streets and soaring milk prices elsewhere in the country but failed to debunk the mystery of a Baloch leader who wanted his people to be the master of their resources.
In the wake of these experiences, now only the fools could pin sincere hopes that the Turbat carnage would be objectively probed and the culprits, suspected to be the government’s men, brought to justice. The Baloch leaders, such as the National Party’s Senator Hasil Khan Bizanjo, publicly implicated the chiefs of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) on several news channels as millions dumbfounded viewers heard these grave allegations followed by a consensus Baloch demand for an impartial and empowered investigation against the two rough secrete services.
President Zardari ruled out the possibility of the state agencies’ involvement in the killing of three Baloch leaders. By then, one felt a strange sense of déjà vu: Former President Musharraf had also publicly declined to investigate a military officer, Captain Emmad, whom the Bugti tribesmen in early 2005 had held responsible for raping a lady doctor in Sui.
Federal Minister for Interior Affairs Rehman Malik seems to have delightedly volunteered to add fuel to the fire in Balochistan. Indifferent towards the killings of the Baloch leaders, Malik, on the contrary, lashed out at the Balochs, accusing them of conspiring against the federation of Pakistan by seeking assistance from Afghanistan and India. Likewise his predecessors, Malik too claimed to have substantial, yet unsubstantiated, evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan.
As things stand today, the Balochs and the government have distinctly parted ways to investigate case of slain Baloch leaders. While the former demands the formation of a powerful Supreme Court tribunal to investigate the matter without sparing the notorious intelligence agencies, the latter, on the other hand, is already grappling with two unwelcome and rejected inquiry committees. Two official committees have been instituted in Balochistan, one headed by Justice Nadir Khan Durrani of the Balochistan High Court and the other by Balochistan Police Chief Asif Nawaz, are reportedly floundering to make headway as the local Balochs in the concerned area are unwilling to trust the committees that have already been rejected by the Baloch leaders.
In fact, no probe initiated by the government can succeed until it is acceptable to the Baloch nationalists, the parties and the family members of the murdered Baloch leaders.
On its part, the State is increasingly becoming a controversial force in the eyes of the disillusioned Baloch youths – this time, let’s not forget, it was the blood of middle class educated Baloch political leaders that oozed in Turbat. If the cost of keeping the integrity of the federation intact is the gallant task of bringing the ISI and the MI to the witness stand, no time should be squandered to willingly pay the price. Otherwise, the irked Baloch youths would justifiably look at the State itself as an agent of torture, murder and suppression that not only kills the dissenting leaders and proves its involvement by bizarre explanations but also flares up the situation with the help of Rehman Maliks and Saleem Nawazs (Inspector General of the Frontier Corps in Balochistan).