Unabated Violence Against the Balochs in Karachi
Unidentified people shot dead Sardar Imam Baksh, a prominent political and social leader of the Baloch community in Karachi on Sunday night, July 22. Mr. Baloch was a veteran activist of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and until his brutal murder served in the Sindh Council of the party.
President Asif Ali Zardari has expressedshock and grief over the killing of Mr. Baloch and also ordered an inquiry into the killing. The killing of another key Baloch figure in Karachi is deeply disturbing and calls for serious deliberation over the current plight and the pending future of the Baloch people living in Karachi.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Balochs are among the indigenous people of Karachi who have lived there even centuries before the creation of Pakistan. Today, they face enormous challenges and their future in Karachi looks deeply bleak. Although Karachi has historically served as the birthplace of Baloch nationalism and culture, it is very unfortunate that Baloch nationalist politics failed to thrive in this important port city. The reasons for this failure are obvious: Neither the Pakistani Establishment nor the PPP wanted the Balochs to stand for their own rights under a home-made platform. As a result, the bulk of the Baloch vote in Karachi went to the Peopel’s Party. On its part, the PPP has totally disappointed the Baloch. It has utterly failed to protect the lives of the people living in Baloch communities. In addition, the infrastructure and the state of human development for the Balochs living in Karachi is absolutely unchanged and abysmal.
Because of the PPP’s failure to meet the Baloch expectations, we have recently seen rebellious gestures in Layari, the largest Baloch town with an estimated population of 600,000 people. The People’s Aman Committee (PAC) was formerly created by the PPP to serve as a counterweight of the Muthida Quomi Movement (MQM), a political party that excessively applies violence while representing the Urdu-speaking population of the city. But now the PAC feels betrayed as the PPP has done nothing to meet the Baloch people’s demand for improved living standards. What, nonetheless, is a positive sign is the growing realization among the Baloch people about the need for their political representation and equal rights in Karachi. The PAC now speaks for the Baloch rights which we deem as a very positive omen.
The PPP and MQM have collectively made life miserable for the Balochs. It is very important that the Baloch population in Karachi stands for its own rights not solely under the platform of PAC which has not fully gotten rid of the PPP’s influence. The Balochs living over there should form their own political party to make sure that their rights are protected. Currently, the MQM has made life so difficult for the Balochs that young men from there cannot go to the city’s commercial areas for employment opportunities and even colleges and universities. The Balochs fear they would be target killed either by the MQM or by the security forces. If MQM’s attitude toward the Baloch does not change, the situation will unfortunately lead to deeper economic marginalization of the Baloch and more ethnic confrontation.
Besides the political parties, the so-called “mainstream national media”, which is heavily dominated by Punjabi and Urdu-speakers, have enormously contributed to creating stereotypes and negative perceptions about the Balochs of Karachi. They media depicts the Balochs as gangsters, drug dealers and barbarians. This is indeed very contrary of the actual attitude of the majority of the people living in Baloch towns. Based on such false fabrications of Baloch image, the government has repeatedly justified police and Rangers operations in Baloch areas. According to independent sources, around 150 key Baloch political activists, students and innocent citizens have been target killed in the past four months in Karachi in what the government calls as operations against ‘gangsters’.
The international human rights groups must urge the governments Pakistan and Sindh to be more transparent in their operations and provide evidence of the victims’ involvement in terrorist activities. Extrajudicial killings must stop and all charges leveled against Baloch youths should be substantiated in courts. We believe such operations are simply intended to eliminate the politically educated Baloch youths so that the rest of them are compelled to give up talking about their rights.
The forced ghettoization of the Baloch population is not solely confined to men but, according toan article in Dawn, this trend has also created dire mobility issues for Baloch women. The article quoted a Baloch woman say, “I wear Balochi dress. My children say that I could be kidnapped and killed…,” she said. She claimed that some of her acquaintances were humiliated and had their heads and eyebrows shaved by men from the Urdu-speaking community.”
There is a little hope that President Zardari’s orders to arrest the murderers of Sardar Imam Baksh Baloch would be taken seriously. However, it is high time that the Sindh government plays its responsibility to protect the Balochs living in Karachi for centuries. We hope that the Baloch community will stop attaching too many expectations from the PPP and start cogitating about their future under a Baloch-led arrangement.
Originally published in The Baloch Hal on July 25, 2012