A black hole for media in Balochistan


Malik Siraj Akbar

Malik Siraj Akbar, editor-in-Chief The Baloch Hal

Karlos Zurutuza has a wonderful article in Al-Jazeera English about  the lack of media coverage of Balochistan. Karlos is probably the only journalist who has reported from Eastern [Iranian], Western [Pakistani] and North [Afghan] Balochistan. In August 2001, Karlos had interviewed me for Spanish newspaper GARA.

His Al-Jazeera article also quotes me.

Here are the portions that deal with my analysis of the media blackout of Balochistan and the recent mass graves found in Khuzdar.

Malik Siraj Akbar is a Baloch writer and the editor of the first online newspaper in English on Balochistan’s issues. It’s been banned in Pakistan since 2010. Many of his editorials touch on the dire situation of local reporters, and highlight the hurdles Balochistan faces in being discussed by foreign media.

“The Western media covers the whole Aghanistan-Pakistan region with a special focus on the ‘war on terror’, Islamic fundamentalism and issues of religious terrorism. There is scant realisation that the Baloch nationalist movement is absolutely different from the Taliban movement. In fact, the Baloch movement is the antithesis of the Taliban and Islamic movements,” said Akbar, who today lives in exile in the US.

Akbar added that the Western media often sees the Baloch movement as a “byproduct” of the war in Afghanistan, or treats it as a domestic Pakistani issue.

But since the recent discovery of mass graves in his native province, he is among the many journalists calling on the UN to send a fact-finding mission to investigate. The Asian Human Rights Commission reported that more than 100 bodies have been recovered from the graves.

Pakistani officials, however, deny these claims, arguing that the total number of bodies is only 15. Nevertheless, last Friday, Abdul Qadir Baloch, the minister for states and frontier regions, announced that the government would launch an inquiry into the mass graves.

“It’s outrageous: The mainstream national media has systematically snubbed the story. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have not issued statements,” complained Akbar.

“There is widespread anger among us, the Baloch, and those who believe in human rights, over such brutal acts – as well as over the silence of the Pakistani government authorities and the media. Unfortunately, all this comes as no surprise for us.”

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