Monday, 8 March 2010

Eliminating Culture : The Blasts at Khuzdar University

By Sobdaar Khan Baloch

Two students of Khuzdar Engineering University were killed and near 35 others injured in the blasts on university premises here in Balochistan on Tuesday evening. According to media reports, the students were celebrating Balochi Cultural Day organized by Baloch Students Organization (BSO) Azaad when this unpleasant incident took place. The bodies and the injured were shifted to civil Hospital Khuzdar. Those killed were identified as Junaid Baloch and Sikandar Baloch. According to eyewitnesses, three hand grenades were at the gathering by unidentified attacker who managed to escape from the site.

BSO Azaad blamed the Pakistani intelligence agencies responsible for the attack and gave a shutter down call on 4th March. In an interview to a private tv channel, BSO Azaad Secretary General Mr. Zahid Baloch blamed the state armed forces responsible for the attack and named the university Vice chancellor as an “agent of the colonial forces”. The people reacted strongly towards the incident and blocked the Quetta-Karachi Highway, ransacked a state-run Utility Store and set a post office on fire. The students boycotted classes and took our rallies to mark protest against this incident. All the nationalist parties of Balochistan condemned this incident and termed it as a terrorist act against poor students.

It is sad to note that none of the Pakistani media channels bothered to cover this incident and didn’t report anything about such important news item. This again shows that the media in Pakistan is biased towards Baloch cause as most of the media channels are owned by non Baloch businessmen who do not see the issue profitable enough to be considered. The Pakistani media channels have always been reluctant to give proper coverage to incidents in Balochistan. Many people believe that they are following the instructions of state officials and avoid annoying them for any reason.

Following the incident, the Chief Minister of Balochistan announced compensation for the dead and free medical treatment for the injured. He further said that those responsible for this event will be brought to justice. But the families of the students have refused to accept any help from the provincial government and consider it as a collaborator of the state in furthering the colonization. Baloch Militant groups have rejected the inquiry orders by the government and have 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 Azaad rally took place few months back but the no arrests took place.

The whole province is paralyzed after the incident and it has led to numerous attacks on Pakistani security which are considered as colonial forces by the native Baloch population. A complete shutter down was observed all over the province and protesters set on fire an assembly hall, a government vehicle and telecoms cabinet. Police arrested many protesters and accused them of burning and causing damage to state infrastructure. It is interesting to note that the attacks show strong hatred against the state since all the places that were targeted represent the state such as the assembly hall or government vehicles. The protests all over the province deny the accusation of government that the nationalists have minor support and shows that people want to get rid of the state and support those fighting for the freedom of Balochistan.

Now the questions arises who attacked the cultural program and what was the motive behind this act? To answer this question, we must look at some of the facts that make the picture clear. This program was organized by BSO Azaad, a student organization that considers Pakistan state as an occupier and advocates the idea of independent Balochistan. Despite its peaceful protests and democratic nature, BSO Azaad has been threatened by the state security forces such as Frontier Core which has no respect for human rights and has been involved in killing and threatening the Baloch Population in general and the political workers in particular. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan held Frontier Core responsible for the attack on BSO Azaad rally few months back. So it is no surprise that people are still pointing towards Frontier Core for this incident.

Some of the local people have also been collaborating with FC and have full backing of the state against nationalist organizations such as the BLA. This group suffered losses at the hands of BLA in the past since BLA accused them of providing intelligence to the state about the nationalists groups. It is also believed by some people that this group under the supervision of Frontier Core might have carried out this attack on BSO Azaad. Although it is unclear that who was the culprit but one thing is very clear that those involved had the support of the law enforcement agencies such as the FC.

Another important question to be analyzed is why this gathering of students on cultural day was targeted? Historically culture represents identity and hence resistance against occupied forces. The Pakistani establishment feels threatened by any signs of Balochi culture since this denies their philosophy of “One Pakistani” nation and they try their best to eliminate the native Balochi culture and replace it with colonial lifestyle. For instance, Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) is the only university where students have come to in formal uniform dress code which is uncommon practice at university level in Pakistan.

The Khuzdar incident will go in history as a day of suppression of human rights by shrewd means adopted by the Pakistani establishment. Killing of innocent and peaceful students will increase the people who consider taking up arms as the means to achieve independence and hence strengthen the struggle against the Pakistani forces deployed in Balochistan.The incident will have long term impact on the on going struggle in Balochistan and make students as the champions of the Baloch cause.

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