By B. Raman
Indian TV journos have generally been very kind to Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician of Pakistan. He has received more publicity from Indian TV journos than even from Pakistani journalists.
I have no personal objections to Indian TV journos having a soft corner for the glamorous Imran Khan. But, I do expect them to pay equal attention to those sections of Pakistani society, which have generally been well disposed towards India such as the Mohajirs of Karachi and the Balochs of Balochistan and their leaders. Their leaders are not as glamorous as Imran, but they are much more friendly to India than Imran.
How many times have you seen the Indian TV channels focussing on the tragedies being enacted in Karachi and Balochistan? How many times have you seen Indian TV journos focussing their spotlight on bleeding Balochistan? How many Mohajir and Baloch leaders have been interviewed by them?
While Indian TV journos have been enabling Imran to promote himself through the Indian TV, which is widely seen in Pakistan, as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, at least some Pakistani journalists, whose heart and mind are in the right place, have drawn attention to the state of affairs in Balochistan, where the situation is reminiscent of that in the then East Pakistan before the war of Independence for Bangladesh broke out in 1971.
Baloch nationalists kidnapped by the Pakistan Army, tortured to death and their bodies thrown out in remote places, 10 Baloch journalists kidnapped and killed this year and no coverage of these incidents in the Pakistani TV media. Nor on the Indian TV. Only some sections of the Pakistani print media such as the “Daily Times” of Lahore and the “News” have been drawing attention to the colossal human tragedy in Balochistan.
One can understand the Pakistani TV channels not paying adequate attention to this tragedy due to fear of adverse reaction from the Pakistani Army. What is preventing the Indian TV channels from covering this tragedy? Is publicity for Imran Khan more important than spotlight on the human tragedy in Balochistan?
To create an awareness of the situation in Balochistan, which has been practically blacked out by the Indian TV channels, I am reproducing below an editorial of the “Daily Times” and an article written by an Assistant Editor of the “News”:
EDITORIAL OF THE “DAILY TIMES”
Killings in Balochistan continue
When people all over Pakistan will be celebrating Eid-ul-Azha ( on November 7 ), the people of Balochistan will be mourning their loved ones. The responsibility for this lies with the Pakistan military, its intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps (FC). The entire nation should be ashamed of the brutalities unleashed by the military against its own people in Balochistan. Javed Naseer Rind, a young journalist, was abducted in September and his tortured, bullet-riddled body was found the other day in the province. More than a dozen Baloch, including women, were killed last week in less than 24 hours during a military campaign in Balochistan; the same week when the FC was placed under the provincial government of Balochistan. The fifth military operation of our history is underway against the people of Balochistan but it seems that the rest of Pakistan remains oblivious to it. The apathy of the government and the nation is something that has further alienated the Baloch from the Pakistani state. Thus a new wave of separatism has found resonance in Balochistan. The lessons from 1971 have not been learnt.
The PPP-led government in Islamabad seems helpless before the Pakistan Army and its skewed policies. Even then there is no reason that the government cannot put pressure on the army and make a logical case against its brutalities. Promising development and aid will not serve its purpose unless and until the military is called back from Balochistan and the people of the province are empowered in letter and spirit. The Baloch insurgency started only to ask for their just rights but in order to quash their nationalism, the military under General Pervez Musharraf started using force. Even after the ouster of General Musharraf, the same policies are being carried out. When democracy returned to the country in 2008 after nine years of military rule, it was hoped that the civilian government would do away with a military dictator’s wrong policies. Instead, we have been disappointed with the way the ‘kill and dump’ policy is being carried out with impunity in Balochistan. Thousands of Baloch are still missing while hundreds of them have been slaughtered like animals by the army. Is this the way to deal with a demand for just rights?
The need of the hour is to settle this conflict through a political settlement. Military means cannot crush the honourable Baloch people. The government must talk to the Baloch leadership, both in the mountains and those who are in self-exile, and bring an end to the insurgency on a just basis. All the missing persons should be brought back to their homes safely. The military operation must be stopped at once. The Balochistan government is toothless and cannot do much to stop what is going on. The federal government must come to the rescue. If things keep on going the way they are, the federation will be in trouble. The government should not take this matter lightly. The Baloch deserve better from a democratically elected government. Cruelty is not the answer to anything. Peaceful means and political negotiations are key to bringing peace and prosperity in Balochistan. *
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY SAJID HUSSAIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR OF THE “NEWS” (November 12,2011)
Even if we buy the government’s claim that the number of missing persons in Balochistan has declined, it is only because many of them have lately been found dead. Since June 2010, more than 230 bodies of the previously missing persons have been dumped at abandoned places in the largest but the least populated province. According to the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), 10 journalists have been killed so far this year.
The missing persons issue and the so-called kill-and-dump spree in the province are as disturbing as the fact that Balochistan’s problem is almost altogether missing from the mainstream discourse. Any mention of Balochistan appears in speeches of politicians and the ranting of anchorpersons only when they intend to be politically correct.
The political parties have yet to include the Balochistan problem in their main agenda. The Jamaat-e- Islami (JI) has shown more concern for an individual, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, than a whole province. At a time when people in Balochistan are talking of separation from Pakistan, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has concentrated its efforts on keeping the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a part of the government. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf has no time for Balochistan, or for any other thing, as it is out to save Pakistan. The MQM would desperately wait for another opportunity to flaunt its street power in defence of a Musharraf or a Zardari. Nawaz Sharif? Balochistan’s inconsequential electoral value does not guarantee premiership.
Ironically, our news-hungry media seems least impressed by Balochistan’s immense news value. Last month, Turbat city, the cultural hub of the province, remained shut for more than a week without a call for a strike from any of the political parties. Not important enough? OK. Only in Balochistan, the security forces take out rallies and sometimes, especially when their convoys meet roadside blasts, force the closure of shops. Of course, apart from these ‘human-interest stories’, Balochistan is home to more alarming news items, but who would want to become the 11th journalist to be killed this year? Is it not news itself that none of our mainstream newspapers and news channels has a full-fledged correspondent outside Quetta?
Unfortunately, only the security establishment has taken Balochistan seriously. In fact, too seriously. And that is where the real problem lies. In the absence of any check, as the rest of the country largely remains unmoved, the security forces have dealt single-handedly with the political unrest in the province. And that is the only way they deal with any issue. That is the army way. For a political solution, the political forces need to intervene and take the matter in their hands.
If they keep ignoring Balochistan, they may be missing it later.