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Balochistan: Between Dr. Malik and a Hard Place.

Image: Protesters demand the right to education in Balochistan.  

Dr. Malik Baloch, Chief Minister of Balochistan, in a recent talk with Dawn media group claimed that the security situation in Balochistan had improved and that there has been a drastic reduction in human rights abuses against the Baloch. As evidence for his claim he pointed out that in his term their has been a reduction in the number of bullet-riddled bodies of ‘Baloch missing persons’ found. This is dubious evidence and it is worth taking a moment to evaluate his tenure.

In 2013, the Balochistan Tribal and Home Department revealed that 592 bullet-riddled bodies had been recovered from Balochistan in the last three years. However, Baloch activists claim this number to have been deflated for political and technical reasons and do not see it as a fair reflection of the human rights violations being carried out in Balochistan. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, an advocacy group formed by the families of those who are missing, claim that up to 18, 000 Baloch are missing. Many of them, picked up by state agencies. The bodies that are found dumped across Balochistan show marks of extreme torture and they fear that most of the Baloch missing persons are tortured before being ‘killed and dumped’. The 18, 000 missing persons, they say, gives a better indication of the situation on the ground.

Dr. Malik took oath as Chief Minister of Balochistan in May 2013 . Since then over 400 political activists have ‘gone missing’ and over 270 plus mutilated dead bodies have been dumped in various parts of the Balochistan. These figures clearly show the extent of the governments failure to stop human rights abuses in Balochistan.

Yet, the government of Dr. Malik – against the facts – continues to purport its success. The hypocrisy of it all was illustrated by concomitant events in January 2014. At a press conference Malik claimed that ‘kill and dump’ had stopped in Balochistan. The next day multiple mass graves were discovered in Tutak area of Khuzdar. According to the reports approximately 70 dead bodies of Baloch were dumped. The exact number of dead bodies is still not known as the army cordoned off the area and barred entry to journalists and the also the locals.

One can excuse Dr. Malik failure if he admits, as had his predecessor, that he is powerless when it comes to control over the army and the bureaucracy and that he, in fact, lacks in effect the powers granted to him by the constitution. That given this he has accepted the role of a spokesperson and Public Relations Officer for the establishment in the guise of a Chief Minister.

His government has not only failed to curb human rights abuses but they have also failed in simpler tasks. For example, his government declared an ‘education emergency’, which was designed to be a comprehensive investment in education services. Again, the fine talker has not walked the walk. Let us examine Kech district, from where Dr. Malik won his seat. In this district public schools have been shutdown due to threats from “Tanzeem-ul-Islam-Al-Furqan”, a right-wing terrorist organisation similar to the Taliban. This militant group has beaten private school owners, a school bus has been burnt and the female staff was harassed and intimidated. At present, after months of harassment by these militants most public schools are shut as are private English language centers. According to Tanzeem-ul-Islam-Al-Furqan “girl’s education is against Sharia and western conspiracy against Islam and Muslims”. The question arises why can’t the Chief Minister of Balochistan guarantee safety for education workers and students in his own district? Does he have any power at all? Or, as I have suggested, are we are better of viewing him as a public relations officer then a chief minister?

While our Minister enjoys the benefits of office, the Baloch suffer. Let us think for a moment of Baloch mothers, sisters, and children of the missing persons who sit in protest camps in Quetta and Karachi with photos of their sons waiting for them with gloomy expectation. The camp run by the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons has reached 1737 days.

Today in Balochistan, Baloch activists are being killed on the virtue of their identity and ideologies. The killing of Baloch political activists doesn’t make any news in national and international media. Given the situation, I don’t see any possibility of prevention of ongoing Baloch genocide.

Dr. Malik and his public relations exercise have had failed to convince the people of Balochistan. Reality tells them another story. It tells them that they are in a apartheid colonial system. Without effective citizenry rights. In effect, what the Baloch people are now fully conscious of this reality. They are conscious they and they alone can be picked up, tortured, killed and their bodies to be dumped in mass graves or a dirty road. They are aware that whatever the Chief Minister says this reality is not going to be challanged or altered by the present provincial government. The Baloch, leaving aside Dr. Malik propaganda, have to take the lessons of reality seriously and to choose if this privileged citizenship – where they be tortured, killed and dumped – is something they are content with?   

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