Killing Settlers Will Kill the Baloch Movement
Two highly respected defenders of human rights hailing from our planet’s most credible human rights watchdogs, the Amnesty International and Human Rights watch, spoke at length about Pakistani state’s brutalities against the Baloch people during their testimonies at the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. They drew the attention of the highly powerful committee about the disgraceful trend of killing innocent non-Baloch civilians, also known as settlers, allegedly by Baloch armed groups.
For some years now, the Baloch leadership has either deliberately avoided frank discussion on the topic or simply exempted itself from its responsibilities by calling this phenomenon as n “Pakistani-propaganda”. This is not a honest explanation. It is very serious matter which, if not addressed immediately, will badly scandalize the entire Baloch struggle. With more achievements, come more responsibilities. The Baloch movement has not reached at the doorsteps of the US Congress but it has now already gotten into the world’s most powerful parliament’s committee for discussion. Therefore, the Baloch leladership has to take responsibility and make sure this negative trend stops without further excuses.
Because of some individuals’ irresponsible and apolitical actions, the entire movement will eventually have to pay a very serious price. For Islamabad, it is very easy to label the Balochs as brutal and violent given the strict and absolute control it has over the national media. But organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Amnesty International can’t be lying because they have done more good work for the suffering Balochs in the past few years than what the entire Balochistan has done for its people.
It was disconcerting to see both the representatives talk about the ‘two sides of violence’. We have always supported Baloch nationalists’ right to fight for their political demands. They have very valid grievances which are acknowledged by all. But if these target killings of ethnic minorities do not stop, these human rights groups will perhaps go to the extent of asking the US government to declare the Baloch as terrorists. After all, these groups have exhibited tremendous courage and neutrality by even asking the US government to review its assistance to Pakistan if the latter does not end violence against the Baloch civilians. The killing of a settler is as painful and condemnable as that of a Baloch youth.
It may sound very cliched but leaders of Baloch armed groups must read the causes of the failure of the Tamil movement in Sri Lanka and why their end was not widely mourned even by those who were once their ardent supporters.
What does Sardar Attaullah Mengal actually mean when says that the Baloch youths have gone “out of our control”? Is this a compliment or a complaint? If it is a compliment then it is an overdose of flattery which may sink the entire ship of a nationalist movement which is being seen and cheered by many other oppressed nations of the world. The leaders, whosoever they are, must lead their youth instead of being swept by emotional young activists. If some mistakes have been made by the Baloch, they should be rectified. Yet, if this is not by mistake and is the organizational policy then perhaps the world will stop taking an interest in Balochistan’s issues. Even human rights groups will cease to support Baloch aspirations when they begin to treat the Balochs as oppressors rather than oppressed. We have heard time and again from some adamant Baloch leaders saying in their private conversations that Pakistani intelligence agencies, not the nationalists, are involved in the targeted killing of the settlers in Balochistan or, in other cases,the real estate mafia is also involved because of economic interests. That might be true, as was once proved in Mastung district when two assassins-to-be were caught by the local population who wanted to target kill a government school teacher there. When their pockets were searched, the local people found the service cards of a Pakistani intelligence agency.
Having said that, what do we make of a situation when Baloch armed groups themselves accept responsibility while ringing up different media outlets such as in the case of the killing of Balochistan University assistant professor Nazima Talib or the kidnapping for a former Quetta chief of the UNHCR, John Solecki?
The targeted killing of innocent civilians has included three segments of the population. First, non-Baloch (Punjabi or Urdu speaking) settlers; second, government school teachers, principals and university professors and finally fellow Balochs accused of “spying” for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The armed groups have played the role of judge, jury and executioner without being answerable to anyone.
Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch rightly argued that “There is no comparison between the abuses perpetrated by the State and other actors” but Mr. Kumar of the Amnesty International also validly commented, “it is the time the Baloch population examined themselves that since you have been abused yourself, you should know the value of human rights. You should stand up and stop abuses against anyone— it could be anyone.”
If the Baloch leadership wants to benefit from the new friendship of human rights groups and US Congressmen then it must adhere to certain international standards, norms and values. All key Baloch leaders should play their role to guarantee the lives of non-Balochs inside Balochistan. Since Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler are both dead, the nationalists should not dream of an independent Balochistan where terror and tyranny would remain the hallmark of the founding fathers.
It is very critical understand what the recent Congressional hearing means for the Baloch. By killing unarmed settlers who are not related to the Baloch conflict with the Central government, the Balochs are significantly undermining their own case. Besides that, they are also disappointing and embarrassing all these seasoned defenders of human rights and veteran US lawmakers. Different countries, including Pakistan, literally pay millions of dollars to their lobbyists in Washington DC to protect their image and justify all their wrong deeds under one or the other pretext. On the other hand, here we luckily have these busy members of the Congress who take out time from their heavy schedules and speak for the Baloch rights. Do the Balochs even realize what the price of supporting them against Islamabad might be for the US? Of course, it will only provoke Pakistan and urge it to equip Taliban to kill more US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.So, it is not the best thing to disappoint these friends of Balochistan to react against the brutalities of the Pakistani government against the Baloch.
The best way to discuss political weakness is internal debate among leaders; not declaring human rights activists as ‘agents’ of certain governments on Facebook and Twitter. The reason for us to publish these ideas is to from a public opinion in the Baloch society that Balochs will lose more and gain nothing by targeting settlers. It is not too late for the Baloch to overcome their flaws but to say that the world is only watching Islamabad and not observing the Baloch is not true either. A Balochi proverb says, you can’t steal a camel and still crawl beneath the mountain. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)