The Killing of a Man Who Stood For IDP Rights


By Malik Siraj Akbar

The killing of Baloch political activists, journalists and human rights champions in Balochistan by the  government-backed groups is no longer a secret. These killings take place so frequently that it has almost made it difficult to keep track of all those who get killed. On the top of it, their murders are never investigated.

The recent killing of Mir Rustam Marri, locally known as ‘sardar’ in his community, however, requires special attention. We have to stop for a while and see the distinctive nature of the work Mr. Marri was doing in his remote area bordering Sindh province. While the killing of every human being is tragic and impossible to endorse, Rustam Marri was not a mere political activist whose killing can so easily be overlooked.

Mr.  Marri was the biggest proponent of the rights of the Baloch internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were driven out of their homes in Kohlu and Dera Bugti by the Pervez Musharraf regime. When the Pakistan military carried out a full-fledged operation in the Baloch tribal areas to consolidate its grip on the natural gas resources of the region and eliminate the  popular Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, around two hundred thousand Marri and Bugti tribesmen were forced to flee their homes to an unknown destination.

The IDPs from Kohlu and Dera Bugti reached in the neighboring districts of Jaffarabad and Naseerabad. The Pakistani military still chased them to add to the IDPs’ miseries by denying access to the national and international media, human rights groups and humanitarian organizations to assist these victims of the conflict.

Rustam Marri was one brave man from that area who jeopardized his own life and began to work for the welfare of the Baloch IDPs. He was extremely active in secretly compiling database about the the Baloch IDPs and passing them to the national and international media. In fact he was every journalist and researcher’s “go-to man” about the Baloch IDPs.

Apparently the killing of Rustam Marri is connected to the same cycle of the government-backed killings of Baloch professionals who are being targeted  for resisting the injustice and discrimination of the federal government toward the natives of the resource-rich province.

Had Rustam lived elsewhere in the world, he would surely be bestowed the top awards of bravely and humanitarian services but here he fell a victim of the established trend of eliminating the best of Baloch professors, doctors, lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists.

We urge all those international humanitarian groups which managed to sneak into Balochistan’s IDP settlements with the secrete support and guidance of Rustam Marri to recognize the heroic services of this great champion of humanitarian assistance.

Had it not been people like Mr. Marri, journalists and humanitarian groups, who are already denied access to Balochistan’s so-called “sensitive areas”, would not even know the ABC of the Baloch IDPs. Dozens of journalists would testify that Mr. Marri hosted them at his home for many days only to facilitate them with their professional task of reporting about the Baloch IDPs.

This murder is a direct but a powerful warning to those who venture to assist the Baloch IDPs who have been languishing in different districts of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces for five years now. These IDPs still see no signs of resettlement in their native districts which have been trapped by dirty politics of exploitation and oppression led by Islamabad’s ruling elite.

By killing Mr. Marri, Islamabad has once again shown the middle finger to rest of the world  that it will continue to violate human rights and kill journalists and humanitarian workers with  absolute immunity. Islamabad brazenly refuses to open doors for the international relief organizations to assist the Baloch IDPs. Worse,  it is killing top Baloch relief workers.

If democracy is not dead, the government must offer immediate accountability (for an in Balohistan).

It was not long ago when two prominent champions of human rights, Naeem Sabir and Siddiq Eidho were killed in Khuzdar and Gwadar district respectively. Journalists have not been spared either. Mohammad Khan Sasoli, the president of the Khuzdar Press Club and Lala Hammed Hayatan of Gwadar Press Club, were brutally killed, with their murders never getting investigated. What happened to Professor Saba Dashtiyari, the Noam Chomski of Balochistan? He too was brutally killed.

The international community must move forward to dissuade Islamabad from killing people like Rustam Marri. When you kill one Rustum Marri, you minimize hopes for an IDP child. Silencing Mr. Marri is tantamount to punishing Baloch IDPs.

We have argued time and again that such nasty actions will not serve anyone’s interests. Islamabad is playing more foul by the day in Balochistan which is causing unrest not only among the political stakeholders but also apolitical human rights groups, journalists and relief workers.

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