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March 1, 2012

Ethnic cleansing in Balochistan

By Saleem Ahmed  

Lately there has been so much in the news about bullet-ridden bodies of people found in ‘Balochistan’ and the right of the Baloch people.  There was a US Congressional hearing on Balochistan; subsequent to that hearing a bill has been tabled in the Congress asking the US government to support the right of self-determination of the Baloch.

There appears to be an international wave of sympathy for the ‘Baloch nationalists fighting for independence.’  It is about time someone would write down the facts so that the people would know what is going on in Pakistan’s ‘Balochistan.’  And I write ‘Balochistan’ in quotation marks because calling Pakistan’s largest province ‘Balochistan’ (land of the Baloch) is where most misunderstanding about the ‘Balochistan’ issue stems from.  A more appropriate name for the largest province of Pakistan would be SWFP (South West Frontier Province)—and that is what I would call it in this article, recognizing the fact that the Baloch people (hardly 45% of SWFP, if we stretch and count African-descent people of Makran as Baloch) are only one of the several ethnic groups living there.

Pakistan is a mismanaged third-world country.  Mismanaged third-world countries are intrinsically unjust.  Pakistan has been an equally bad experience for all ethnicities living in that country: Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki, Pashtun, Hazara, Baloch, Muhajir, and others.  If Baloch are unhappy with the government of Pakistan they should first find out who is happy with the government. 

Let’s look at the SWFP killings.  Did the world pay any attention to the killings of Punjabi and Muhajir settlers of SWFP throughout 2008, 2009, and 2010?  Is it just a coincidence that the killings of ‘settlers’ have greatly reduced after ‘Baloch nationalists’ have started disappearing and their dead bodies being found in wilderness days later.  No, it is not.  These so-called nationalists were/are the people behind the ethnic cleansing operation.  That old man on his death bed, Khair Bakhsh Marri, studied in Punjab, lived with Punjabis, but later in his life started spewing venom against the Punjabis.  That hateful dialog has been picked up by his son, Harbyar Marri, and other so-called ‘Baloch nationalists’ (including the fugitive Brahmdagh Bugti).  These people are a disgrace to the beautiful word Sarmachar.  These murderers have more blood on their hands than the worst serial killer.  These so-called ‘Sarmachars’ are responsible for the cold-blooded murder of around 30 teachers—all of them Punjabi or Muhajir-- in various colleges and universities of Balochistan.   What was the crime of those teachers? 

Their ethnicity did not fit well in the pipe dream of those people who wish to see Baloch hegemony in areas south of Quetta.  Let me write down a few examples of their ethnic cleansing campaign: On March 7, 2008, Principal Divisional Public College Khuzdar Ashiq Hussain was gunned down; on April 22, 2008, Professor Dr. Safdar Kiyani acting pro-vice chancellor of Balochistan University  was killed outside his residence; on March 30, 2009, Principal Degree College Surab Muhammad Alam Zehri was shot dead; on June 14, 2009, in Kalat, masked motorcyclists shot dead a school teacher Mr. Anwar Baig; on June 17, 2009, BRC Khuzdar Vice Principal Khalid Mehmood Butt was killed; on June 22, 2009, Commerce College principal Amanat Ali Baig was shot dead;  on July 23, 2009 Haji Mohammad Mohsin, the principal of a government high school in Quetta was murdered; on July 24, 2009 Prof Mohammad Sarwar of the Government Degree College, Quetta, was killed by armed men riding a motorcycle; on November 5, 2009, Chairman of Library Science Balochistan University, Professor Khursheed Ansari was killed; on April 27, 2010 Professor Nazima Talib was murdered outside Balochistan University; and the list goes on.  

In a just society, Mr. ABC, a local Balochistan Students Organization Leader would be arrested for the murder of Professor XYZ, and would be put on trial.  But Pakistan, like many developing countries, is not a just society—it is barely a notch above the animal world.  Out in the wild coyote kills rabbit, lion kills coyote.  Big deal!  Mr. BSO leader killed his Punjabi teacher for no reason other than the ethnicity of his teacher; someone picked up Mr. BSO leader and killed him extra judicially.  Justice done, third-world style. 

I am glad Brahmdagh Bugti has reached the right place, Geneva (close to Hague, where the International Criminal Court is).  Hope Brahamdagh Bugti  and Harbiyar Marri would be brought to justice for orchestrating ethnic cleansing in Balochistan.  These men, along with the old man Khair Bakhsh Marri, are responsible for inciting hatred against Punjabis and Muhajirs settled in Balochistan.  Just listen to their speeches and you would be convinced these people fit the very definition of demagogues whose inflammatory, hateful speech is resulting in violence against specific communities.  It is anyone’s guess why the Government of Pakistan is not presenting the facts to the international community and get Balochistan Republican Army and other thugs classified as terrorist groups actively involved in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. 

Now look at it in a different way. God forbid imagine a new land-locked country (bounded by Pashtun areas north of Quetta, Qalat in the west, Makran in the south, and Sindh in the east) called Balochistan coming into existence.  How secure shall other ethnic groups feel, living in Balochistan (the land of the Baloch)—the name of the proposed state suggests a second-class citizenry level for all non-Baloch. Also, can you imagine a concurrent wave of discrimination rising against the Baloch settlers in various parts of South Asia?  Remember that half of southern Punjab has Baloch blood and may have Baloch names (for example, Liaqat Baloch, Jamat e Islami’s General Secretary); half of western Sindh has Baloch blood and names (for example, Zardari, Pakistan’s current president).  There are Baloch settlers as far east as Utter Pradesh and Gujarat, India.  And the biggest Baloch city (with the highest population of people calling themselves ‘Baloch’) is Karachi, outside ‘Balochistan.’ After the perceived independence of Balochistan (land for the Baloch) should these settled Baloch communities face discrimination and be told by others to go back to where they belong?  A nightmarish prospect, indeed! 

The democratic government of Pakistan must act quickly to solve the ‘Balochistan issue.’  The first step in resolving the Balochistan issue would be to divide Balochistan into four provinces: Zhob (Pashtun area north of Quetta), Qalat (historically a separate region), Makran (100 mile wide belt along the coast), and Balochistan (the area in the middle). Through this division the Baloch problem would be reduced to its actual size: the current unrest is not in the Pashtun areas, it is limited to the area between Khuzdar and Quetta.  The proposed division is logical: why should the Pashtun areas be called Balochistan (land of Baloch), or the Makran belt be called Balochistan?  After dividing Balochistan into these new provinces attention should be paid to calm the people in real Balochistan (the proposed new province).  Besides dividing Balochistan for better administration, there is a need to make similar divisions in all other provinces. 

Saleem Ahmed lives in Salt Lake City.