The insecure Balochs of Karachi
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The Baloch population in Karachi has recently come under systematic target killing by the local police and some powerful political and interest groups. Karachi has an indigenous Baloch population of around three millions. The cycle of unchecked cases of fake police encounters, which is in fact mainly Baloch-specific, has sent shock waves across the Baloch community in the country’s largest city. The Balochs believe their top leaders and social activists are being eliminated under an organized plan in order to make their lives in Karachi miserable. With almost no action taken by the provincial government and no serious protest lodged by the Baloch nationalist political parties, the Balochs in Karachi are currently engulfed in a constant state of insecurity.
A classic example of Baloch vulnerability is the recent murder of anti-encroachment activist Nisar Baloch who had told the media a day before his killing in a press conference that some highly influential people in the City District Government of Karachi were out to kill him. The next day, on November 7, 2009, Mr. Baloch was gunned down by unidentified motorcyclists at the jurisdiction of Soldier Bazar Police Station.
Forty-six year old Nisar Baloch was a key detractor of illegal allotment of lands of Gutter Baghicha to some dominant elements in Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.
According to one website, “The land of Gutter Baghicha, a park, was declared to be an amenity plot in 1972. However, when the Muthida Qumoi Movement (MQM) took control of the city’s mayor-ship in the early 1990s, parts of the Gutter Baghicha were illegally allotted to officers of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). The local people of trans-Lyari resisted, and refused to allow the KMC to encroach upon the park. The Karachi NGO Alliance, (through which Mr. Nisar Baloch was running the people’s movement against the grabbing of this parkland) got a stay order from the Sindh High Court against construction in this park. However, the MQM, which has remained in power since 1989, (whether the ruling government was civilian or military,) did not respect the court’s order.”
A teacher by profession, Nisar Baloch struggled against the land-mafia in Karachi for which he was reprimanded with death. Up till now, the police have failed to arrest his murderers for the simple reasons that they belong to extremely powerful quarters.
While dust of Nisar Baloch’s murder had not settled down yet, three other Balochs have been target killed in Karachi in different cases of police encounter in various parts of the city. For example, Mohammad Arif, a resident of Singolane area, was killed by the police in a fake encounter. The police have not mentioned any plausible reasons for his murder. Likewise, another Baloch, Masood Ahmed, was also murdered in a similar way. In the latest case of target killing of Balochs by Karachi police, a citizen Mohammad Hussain, a resident of Lashkari village, has also been shot dead.
As this situation deteriorates, country’s superior judiciary must intervene and take suo moto action against these counterfeit police encounters. The police need to be policed for their inhuman actions against the civilians.
By and large, the Balochs living in Karachi complain about being treated as “third-class citizens” by the city’s police. They are subjected to victimization by the police once they get out of Liyari Town, where the majority of Karachi’s Baloch population lives. They are often stopped and unnecessarily harassed by the policemen as they are frequently presumed to have links with terrorists or the drug mafia. What could be the possible level of citizens’ safety if the police begin to operate mainly on the basis of assumptions?
It is very unfortunate that the government has done too little to address the Baloch grievances in Karachi despite the fact that the majority of the Balochs in Karachi have been voting for the (ruling) Pakistan People’s Party. Since guarding people’s lives is the utmost responsibility of the ministry of interior affairs, which is held by Rehman Malik and Zulfiqar Mirza, both of the PPPP, in the center and province respectively, it is earnestly hoped that brisk measures would be taken to check this organized campaign against the Balochs. This discrimination and maltreatment must stop at once as the Balochs have lived in the port city since time immemorial.
It is worth mentioning that the target killing of the Balochs in Karachi has remarkably contributed to a decline in PPP’s popularity graph among the Balochs. For example, not a significant number of Balochs from Liyari Town turned up to attend the PPP convention at the Mazar-e-Quaid on November 25th because the Balochs lodged their protest against the lack of action taken by the government to protect them inside Karachi. Though the convention was addressed by President Asif Ali Zardari, the low Baloch participation reminded the PPP about the Baloch disillusionment. If the PPP leadership does not take immediate notice of this alarming violence directed at the Balochs, the graph of its popularity will surely decline to a great extent.
At the same time, it is very regrettable that not all the Baloch nationalist parties have forged true unity in their ranks to express solidarity with their compatriots in Karachi. Only the Balochistan National Party (BNP) has taken the issue in the media. Dr. Jhanzaib Jamaldini, the acting president of the BNP, protested against the target killing of the Balochs in Karachi during a press conference at Karachi Press Club on 22 of November. However, all political parties, irrespective of ideological differences, must unite and raise the issue with the Sindh government and President Asif Ali Zardari as to why the Balochs are being subjected to brute terrorism inside their homes in Karachi.
The President of Pakistan, also a Baloch, should formulate an inquiry commission to probe the murder of Nisar Baloch and other Balochs who were recently killed. The murderers should be brought to justice no matter how deep-rooted they are. Truth should be debunked behind the fake encounters carried out by the police against the Balochs. People of this country should be given a chance to know who the forces are that are prompting the police to resort to such extra-judicial action against their own people rather than protecting the civilians.