Acidifying two little sisters
By Malik Siraj Akbar
We had barely recovered from the state of shock that engulfed us when a prominent leader from Balochistan brazenly defended the burial of women alive as a part of Baloch code of honor, now we see the emergence of a self-proclaimed Baloch Ghaerathmand (honored) Group that is staunchly discouraging women’s participation in the affairs of the society. Throwing of acid on the faces of two orphan sisters from a very poor family in Dalbandin, at Chagai district of Balochistan, by a shadowy organization earlier this week is the most alien and outrageous act the Baloch society has ever experienced in centuries.
In the latest contemptible attack, unidentified persons riding a motorcycle acidified the faces of two sisters, Gul Jamal, 11, and Gul Babu, 13, in Qili Hashim area of Chagai district. Their faces were terribly burnt after the attack. For a moment, they remained in a dilemma: Local doctors suggested the immediate shifting of the two teenaged sisters to Quetta, the provincial capital, for immediate medical treatment while the girls, on their part, were too poor to afford the traveling and treatment expenses. At the end of the day, it was the members of the local community who made contributions to ensure the timely shifting of the girls to Quetta’s Bolan Medical Complex (BMC).
After a similar attack by Taliban in Chaman last year when two women were attacked with acid on their faces, it was the second incident of its kind in Balochistan to have ever taken place. What is striking is the fact that Baloch areas, widely adored for their secular and democratic credentials, have experienced a similar uncalled for attack on the women for the first time in the history. This particular attack did not occur unexpectedly. Local media reported a few weeks back that an unknown organization calling itself the Baloch Ghaerathmand Group had distributed pamphlets in the border town to warn the women not to get out of their homes. The threatening letter said women should better stay inside their homes in order to meet with the Baloch code of honor. In case they tried to get out of their homes while wearing ‘seductive clothes’ or went outside without being accompanied by a male member of the family, they would be severely reprimanded with acid thrown on their faces.
Initially, no one took the threat very seriously in the area for the following reasons. Firstly, threatening or harming women is a very alien practice in the Baloch society. An attack on women is considered as an act of cowardice and contradictory to the Baloch code of honor.
Secondly, the threat was issued by an unknown organization which has had no history of carrying out operations in Dalbandin or any other part of Balochistan in the past. There is no proof of this organization having links with the mainstream active armed groups such as the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB).
Thirdly, restrictions on women’s mobility are commonly known as a religious phenomenon rather than a nationalistic trend. None of the Baloch political parties or the armed groups has asserted such a passionate inclination towards Taliban-like version of Islam. Nationalists have historically been very tolerant, respectful and accommodative of women’s movement. Women’s movement outside their homes to visit relatives and neighbors, work at farms, fetch water and purchase kitchen items from the neighboring shops have been an intrinsic part and parcel of the Baloch culture for ages.
Police in the area have not succeeded in tracing the roots of the elements responsible for this callous attack on innocent Baloch girls. This incident has, however, alerted many supporters of the Baloch nationalist movement. Was this case really perpetrated by the Baloch resistance forces or was the Baloch card used simply to settle some personal/tribal scores? Worst still, has radical Islam taken the Baloch movement hostage in the bordering districts of Balochistan located close to Afghanistan? There are no clear answers to these questions at this point.
The National Party (NP), a Baloch nationalist political group, has denounced the assault on the Baloch girls in Dalbandin by staging a demonstration along with the local chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) which indicates the strong displeasure of the local people towards the misuse of the Baloch nationalist card to attack women.
It is, however, deplorable that the larger political groups in Balochistan, the provincial government in Quetta and the human rights groups have not risen to the occasion yet to voice support for these innocent girls.
If the attack on the girls is in fact the sanctioned policy of the Baloch nationalists from now on, it is surely a mockery of contributions made by outstanding Baloch women like Banok Karima Baloch, Banok Shakar Bibi, Dr. Hani Baloch and several other brave daughters of the land for the Baloch national struggle. The Baloch movement will take a step backward if it joins the Taliban-like camp and endorses attacks on women. All the Baloch leaders should sit and publicly disassociate themselves with such barbaric acts.
The Balochistan government should take strict notice of the incident and conduct a through probe into the matter. The government and philanthropists should provide financial assistance to the two sisters under treatment in Quetta. They are the first, perhaps not the last, victims of an insane religion-cum-pseudo-nationalism-driven behavior.
The Baloch Hal is the first online English newspaper of Balochistan