Tuesday, 21 September 2010

“We are your boss!”

Photo of Dr. Abid Shah, disappeared by Pakistani security agents

Dr. Abid Shah
by Khalid Hayat Jamaldini
That is what a Pakistani paramilitary soldier told us when he, together with members of his platoon, raided our house to seize the flag of the Baloch Republican Party. Their action was not only rude, it shocked us. The party is a registered democratic party fighting for the rights of the Balochs under the leadership of Nawabzada Baramdagh Bugti, grandson of martyr Nawab Akbar Bugti. My late father was the party's vice president.
In any part of the world and in any culture it is considered inappropriate, if not illegal, to trespass on another person's property. The one who does can be considered a criminal. But in my world, it is quite the opposite. Here in this small village in Balochistan, the homeowner is forced to say nothing; otherwise he will be shot dead.
The raid happened at midnight on the 8th Ramadhan. The noises of vehicles and people's voices woke me up. At first, I thought someone in the neighborhood was feeling sick or had met with an accident. I tried to go back to sleep, but in vain. Shortly I heard my family members calling to say torch lights were being shined into the house. I was stunned and quickly joined my family in the sitting room, their faces pale with fear. I wanted to go outside to see what was going on, but my younger brother stopped me.
I felt the anger in his voice. He said that paramilitary forces had scaled the wall that surrounds our house and warned us to stay inside or they would open fire. They had come after the party flag. Like my brother, I was angered by their insulting behavior, but I had to control my temper for the sake of my family. After half an hour they left and we were sleepless for the rest of the night.
In the morning, rumors spread through the village that many of our men were kidnapped by the forces. We started to receive calls from family and friends, while many visited to find out about the incident and to clarify what had happened They shared their sympathies and solidarity with us. They were very upset as the paramilitary action was totally against Balochi tradition and culture.
A few days later, we raised the party flag again, and in just two days the forces returned--this time they came during the day. When they arrived I decided to confront them. The flag had been flying there for many years and no one had had a problem with it. I decided to talk to their senior officer. When I stepped outside, I saw that the platoon had blocked the road. All personnel were equipped with heavy weapons and their guns directed at our house. Their officer was standing in front of them, sporting a commando suit and dark goggles.
I walked towards him and said in a loud voice, "What is the problem with you guys and do you have any search warrant for doing this?" He did not say a word, but showed me a sign that I should stay away. When I "disobeyed his orders," within seconds, his men circled me and pointed their weapons at my body. They did this while another group pulled down the iron flag pole, stepped on the flag with their big boots, threw it all into their vehicle and rode away. What they had done to our flag humiliated me and I felt paralyzed, as if I had been handcuffed.
The Pakistani law enforcement agencies continue to torture the Balochs in various ways. They insult us when we are alive; they torture us until we are dead and then throw our corpses in public places with the words "PAKISTAN ZINDABAD" written over our bodies. Their actions leave us speechless and only increase the desire to seek revenge.
Yet, what strength do the oppressed and victimized people have?
I will not blame the Pakistani government for their actions because they are already of the mindset that we are the enemies of Pakistan and believe they must repress our voices when we demand the rights of the Balochs. They call us "Indian agents," yet they themselves accept billions of dollars from foreign countries for the recent flood disaster in Pakistan. In any case, we do not expect sympathy from the enemy.
But amazingly, the institutions in Pakistan who should be concerned and supportive--the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (an NGO) to the judiciary, the police and the media are "deaf, dumb and blind." They do not want to see, hear or speak about what is happening in Balochistan.
The electronic media only reports that the Pakistani government has provided a development package for Balochistan, but it does not highlight the hunger strike actions of mothers and sisters of the missing Balochs.
It does not report about the dead bodies of the missing persons who have been tortured and discarded in public places.
It did not report why Dr. Abid Shah and his friend have been kidnapped or investigate who might have abducted them. It did not report that for a week the people of Pangur were on strike to show their solidarity with the families of these missing persons. It did not bother to find out why advocate Zaman Marri was kidnapped and tortured to death.
A number of Baloch youths have been tortured to death in the month of August alone, but none of these institutions have played an active role in publicizing or investigating these crimes. All of them avoid the subject, happy with their paychecks at the end of every month.
A Baloch of any profession--a shepherd, shopkeeper, doctor, lawyer, or even those who are jobless or illiterate--no one is safe in this region from the hands of Pakistani forces. The Baloch are unsafe in their own land and those who are in the assemblies are also to blame for this. They play Pakistan's tune. They shut their eyes to what is happening to their countrymen and women. They have forgotten their culture and traditions. They have forgotten the meaning of honor and respect. For this reason, forces will continue to raid our houses and call themselves "Our bosses!"
The Baloch are clearly threatened. We used to be unsafe when outside our homes, now we are not safe even in our own homes. There will probably come a day, not too far away, when they will enter our drawing rooms and murder us in front of our families. And they will get away with this because there is no one willing to question them.
Also by Khalid Jamaldini: When will the Balochs stop being victims of the Pakistani paramilitary forces?posted at Asian Human Rights Commission | Sep 3, 2010

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