Monday, 15 March 2010

Baloch freedom movement refuses to die

by Irfan Saeed

Despite repeated claims by the provincial government that peace has been restored in the province, the sense of insecurity gripping the Baloch people is strengthening with each passing day. A few days ago, Baloch nationalist parties decided to celebrate March 2 as the Baloch Heritage Day and it was decided that on this day all Baloch people would wear their traditional dress to show their loyalty to their cause. In this regard, the students of Khuzdar Engineering University arranged a ceremony during which three bombs went off simultaneously on the varsity premises, killing two students and injuring nine others. The killing of peaceful students will only serve to force the Baloch people to take up arms for freedom.

Condemning the incident, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani ordered an immediate inquiry. He said some anti-state elements were attempting to destabilise the province adding that those behind the incident would soon be bought to justice. The CM also ordered the Health Department officials to ensure proper medical treatment of the injured students. He also announced Rs 500,000 each for the relatives of the students killed in the blast and ordered that the injured students be shifted to Karachi. He also ordered the commissioner and DIG Khuzdar Division to probe the incident and present a report to the provincial government.

The families of the killed students have refused to accept any help from the provincial government and consider it a collaborator of the state in furthering the colonization. Baloch militant groups have rejected the inquiry ordered by the government and vowed to avenge the blood of the martyrs. “We don’t need the money and sympathies of the state,” said Baloch Republican Army spokesman Mir Shehak Baloch. It is also important to note that a similar attack on BSO Azad rally had taken place a few months ago but the culprits are yet to be arrested.

BSO Azaad Secretary General Zahid Baloch blamed the armed forces for the attack and termed the university’s vice chancellor as an “agent of the colonial forces”. A complete shutter-down and wheel-jam strike was observed in different towns of Balochistan in protest against the incident. In Khuzdar, the protest was marked by widespread violence, as infuriated protestors ransacked banks and utility stores besides torching a post office. The strike call was given by Baloch Students Organisation (BSO-Azad), which was also supported by other nationalist parties and student organisations. BSO-Azad has also announced a three-day shutter-down strike against the Khuzdar incident across the province.

The unruly activists of BSO-Azad and other organisations blocked Quetta-Karachi Highway by burning tyres and erecting barricades. A rally was also taken out during which the protesters chanted slogans against the administration and perpetrators of the incident. They also ransacked three banks and three utility stores and set a post office on fire. All educational institutions in the city remained closed while the exams of Engineering University and Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Quetta, were also postponed in view of the deteriorating law and order situation. All the nationalist parties of Balochistan condemned this incident and termed it a terrorist act against the poor students.

The local administration took strict security measures across the district. The police backed by the Frontier Corps (FC) were deployed in different areas, while mobile squads of law-enforcement agencies continued patrolling in various sensitive areas to avert any untoward incident. The condemnation of the incident was voiced in the March 4 Balochistan Assembly session by all political parties which demanded a judicial probe into the incident.

Khuzdar University incident not only brought the dull political activities back to life, but also became a source to speed up the resistance movement. The Baloch separatists targeted the security forces, intelligence agencies officials and settlers in various areas of Balochistan including Quetta, Khuzdar, Mastung and Hub. The responsibility for various incidents was accepted by Balochistan Liberation Front, Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch United Liberation Front and Lashkar Balochistan Organisation. These organisations claimed that they were targeting the security forces and settlers as a backlash of the Khuzdar University incident. But interestingly, the responsibility for the Khuzdar University blast was not accepted by any non-Baloch organisation but by ‘Baloch Armed Defense Army’. The little known organisation called up Khuzdar Press Club and accepted the responsibility. The spokesman for the organization, Jang Yar, said that all factions of Baloch Student Organizations, activists of Baloch Republican Party and Baloch National Front would be targeted. He said India was using the Baloch people for its interest by giving them the false hope of freedom. The spokesman also warned journalists against covering events of BSO, BNP and BRP and said they would also be targeted.

Declaring the Baloch Armed Defense Army a production of intelligence agencies, Liberation Front Spokesman Ghuram Baloch said that the state institutions wanting to destroy the Baloch National Liberation Movement had created this so-called organisation. A couple of days ago an attempt was made to blow up a Frontier Corps vehicle. As a result, two officials were killed and two injured. Lashkar-e-Balochistan owned up the attack. Accepting the responsibility over phone from an undisclosed location, Lashkar Balochistan Spokesman Long Khan said that they would continue their attacks on security forces unless operation against Baloch people was stopped. Expressing their concern about this situation, Baloch political circles said that if this situation continues then it would lead to a civil war. Some of the circles believe that the obtaining unhealthy situation was due to the democratic government’s delay in moving forward the reconciliation process and now things seem to be getting out of the control of the government.

On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP] has termed the rising incidents of target killing a failure of the government. A 36-page report says that the incidents in Balochistan prove that the common man is fed up with the state institutions and there is dire need for taking confidence building measures in Balochistan for which the army should be withdrawn from the province.

According to the report, the Pashtoons complain that they always get the short end of the stick, as over 260 people of Hazara community have been killed and 1,000 injured since 2003 but not a single criminal has been punished. The HRCP has recommended that the government bring all political parties into the main stream of politics and make it sure that the people of Balochistan have full control of their province. The report suggests that a commission should be set up to trace the missing persons. It further suggests that the Baloch youngsters should be given employment, the funding of the provincial govt should be increased and army should be withdrawn from the land of Baloch sardars.

The Baloch nationalists have however rejected the HRCP report saying that it was biased and prepared at the behest of state institutions. Political experts say that under such circumstances the confidence building in the province cannot be restored.

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