Pakistan’s Selective Tear-Shedding On Brutalized Muslims – OpEd


The poignant lead of Dawn’s June 17 editorial calling on Muslims wrapping up Haj rituals and celebrating Eid ul Zuha as well as “all people of conscience” to “remember the brutalised inhabitants of Palestine in these times of festivity” is heartrending and compels one to introspect. 

The fact that anyone and everyone who matters in Pakistan has been expressing unconditional solidarity with the people of Gaza and newspapers have been continuously highlighting the piteous condition of Gaza’s unfortunate inhabitants upon whom a bloody war has been thrust is indeed praiseworthy. However, this impassioned display of concern and solidarity has one glaring drawback- it’s extremely selective and the stoic silence of Pakistani  leaders, media, the clergy and civil society members on the plight of brutalised Muslims living elsewhere is deafening!

There is no outrage against the patently blasphemous so-called ‘sinicisation’ of Islam in China and Beijing’s institutionalised religious persecution of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims. Apologists could cite lack of credible information for this omission. However, the truth is that despite being aware of the atrocities being committed on indigenous Muslims of Xinjiang, Islamabad [which tires to project itself as a messiah of downtrodden Muslims the world over], is so dependent on Beijing that it is scared to stand up for securing the religious rights of Uyghur Muslims.

Pakistan waxes eloquent on implicit adherence to Islamic principles and extols the virtues of the ummah, an Islamic concept that binds the whole community of Muslims worldwide together by ties of religion. So, it’s really shocking when not a tear is shed, nor a word of sympathy expressed for the brutalised people of Balochistan and Sindh who have been forced to protest against the enforced disappearance of their near and dear ones on a day when they should have been celebrating Eid. That Pakistani media chose to completely black-out this news is, to say the least, deplorable. 

Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to say that no one in Pakistan cares for the marginalised people of Balochistan and Sindh provinces. However, since highlighting their plight would invariably expose the gross wrongdoings and illegal actions of the perpetrators [which is the Pakistan army and its intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence or ISI], the media, organisations, groups and individuals tend to avoid running the risk of antagonising the ‘establishment’ by writing or speaking on the issue of enforced disappearances and thereby inviting its menacing wrath!

As they say, “discretion is the better part of valour”!

In Balochistan, the Eid day protest against enforced disappearances was held by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons [VBMP], a Quetta based non-governmental organisation formed in 2009 that represents family members of thousands of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. This NGO has been pressing for a political solution to end the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan rather than using brute military force, but hasn’t met with any success.

VBMP co-founder Mama Qadir Baloch in a touching video statement on the Eid day protest said, “For the past 15 years, the atrocities committed by the Army and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have led the Baloch [people] to boycott Eid celebrations. While Muslims across the world celebrate this occasion, the Baloch [people] mourn. [Emphasis added]. So, while the war ravaged Muslims in Gaza definitely deserve sympathy, don’t the Baloch people [who too are Muslims] too merit compassionate dealing?

Mama Qadir isn’t an opportunist. He is a well-grounded person whose words come straight from his heart since he knows exactly what families of those subjected to enforced disappearances go through since he has himself experienced this agony. His own son was forcibly abducted in broad daylight by intelligence operatives in February 2009, and remained missing for two years and nine months. Qadir also knows what a father feels when the bullet riddled dead body of his son bearing signs of severe torture is found dumped by the roadside. 

Similarly, in Sindh province too, Missing Persons Families, Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh, Sindh Sabha and national workers of Sindudesh Movement organised protests on Eid day against enforced disappearances orchestrated by the Pakistan army and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies. However, despite the fact that this was for the second consecutive year that such a protest was organised coinciding with Eid celebrations, this event too went mostly unreported.

Pakistan has been unable to arrest the despicable trend of enforced disappearances since these occur on explicit orders of the army which being law unto itself is answerable to no one. And a two star Pakistan army General’s candid public admission that We don’t want any person to go missing but where there is a war, you have to do a number of [undesirable] things. It is said that everything is fair in love and war. War occurs to be ruthless” [Emphasis added] provides irrefutable proof of Rawalpindi’s complicity in enforced disappearances.

So, while reading Pakistan army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] recent statement that Pakistan army Gen Syed Asim Munir “condemned India’s ongoing oppression and brutalities against Kashmiris,”one is tempted to  ask him to set his own house in order by putting an end to enforced disappearances rather than shedding crocodile tears on imaginary oppression of Kashmiris. 

As the wise have said, “charity begins at home!”

Tailpiece: Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] August 29, 2014 statement [Document ID ARHC-STM-167-2014] issued to mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances reads, The government [of Pakistan] as well as the judiciary has today fully realized the prevalence of enforced disappearances – being perpetrated by the military and the intelligence services; that these agencies of the government are abducting hundreds, if not thousands of people from different parts of the country make them disappear, in particular from Balochistan where it is done in staggering numbers.” [Emphasis added].

To remedy this sorry state of affairs AHRC had urged “both the parliament and the judiciary of Pakistan to take charge of the defence forces and make them answerable to the people of Pakistan.” Unfortunately, even though ten years have since elapsed, the menace of enforced disappearances in Pakistan persists, because with Rawalpindi manipulating both the parliament and judiciary expecting them “take charge of the defence forces,” and making Rawalpindi “answerable to the people of Pakistan” is nothing but a perverse joke!

May God give people of Pakistan the courage to accept things they cannot change!

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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