Execution-Style Killings in Bolan
The killing of 13 unarmed Punjabi laborers in Bolan District by Baloch nationalists is deeply shocking. According to official authorities, the attackers, attired in fake official uniforms, had established a phony security check point where they stopped a Punjab-bound passenger bus. The unarmed passengers were forcefully taken out of the bus and brutally slain after checking their identity cards. Most of the victims were young laborers from the Punjab province who were going home to celebrate Eid with their families in the Punjab.
It is a great shame that the Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.), which claims to be fighting for the rights of the oppressed Baloch people, carried out this inhuman act. As good Muslims have nothing to do with suicide bombings, responsible and conscious Balochs also have nothing to do with this act against humanity. No matter how faulty Islamabad’s policies toward the Baloch are, there cannot be any justification for such callous attacks on innocent civilians. Such incidents, as noted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,will “erode whatever sympathy the people have for their [Baloch] cause inside the country or outside.”
One wonders how mass murdering unarmed civilians helps achieve nationalists’ political goals. Their could only be one motive behind perpetrating such crimes: gain public attention. After the general elections in May this year and the appointment of a Baloch “nationalist” as the chief minister, the armed groups seem to believe that Islamabad is endeavoring to weaken their movement. Over the past many years, the armed underground organizations have had only one tactic to gain attention: violence. They have attacked official installations, for which they have had public support. However, attacks on poor laborers only embarrass everyone who supports the Baloch rights. It is wrong on the part of the armed groups to carry out such reprehensible acts in the name of Baloch. Balochistan is a tribal society with its own centuries-old code of conduct and the Baloch code does not allow attacks on non-locals or unarmed people. With such assaults, the armed groups want to send a message that the Baloch chief minister, Dr. Malik, is not in control of the province.
Killing innocent people is not a smart way to settle scores against one’s political rivals. If a movement does not stand for equal rights for all, it has no moral ground to speak on the behalf of the oppressed people.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Baloch nationalist movement has lost its direction. It stands at a dangerous crossroad. Until a few years ago, a nationalist could not think in his wildest dream that he would bring down a bunch of passengers from a bus and kill them simply based on their ethnicity. Only the Taliban and their local affiliates from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are known for such barbaric attacks.
Someone among the Baloch leadership should step forward and stop these senseless operations. There is an urgent need to pause and rethink the aims and objectives of the Baloch nationalist demands. Who will do it?
Because there is a serious problem here. There is nothing such as “Baloch leadership” left. Even “Baloch nationalist” is not a monolithic term. There are dozens of different armed and political groups and political parties that identify themselves as “Baloch nationalists”. Not all of them operate under one leader nor do they always or ever cooperate with each other. Some of these nationalists, for example Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch and the Baloch Liberation Army, are each other’s worst enemies although both of them identify themselves as “Baloch nationalists”. They both claim to be the true spokesmen of the Baloch people but they have two absolutely different interpretations of what it means to be a nationalist.
The nationalists operate from so many platforms that it is nearly impossible to hold someone responsible for the actions of the others or urge one group to review the other group’s actions. It is hard for the government to negotiate with all these factions of Baloch nationalists, nor will they all agree to sit on one table. Because they do not like the government and, at the same time, they do not like each other. If the government or the military applies force, this will benefit the hardliners among the nationalists.They want the government to carry out an operation against them because it perpetuates their movement, generates sympathies for them and also helps in diverting attention from their own attacks on civilians, such as the one in Bolan.
The government must utilize all political and administrative options to protect the lives of the people in Balochistan. If the provincial government fails to curb violence during the initial months, it will have to face a very troubling five-year term.