When a Director General of Pakistan army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations, himself tries to justify enforced disappearances in Balochistan and other parts of the country by smugly telling the media that “All is fair in love and war,” it would be ridiculous to expect civility from an army that follows such a skewed and unprofessional belief.
By mentioning this adage while answering a question on its ongoing operations against indigenous groups, who have been forced to pick up arms against the establishment due to institutionalised exploitation and intentional brutalisation aimed at breaking the will of a people, the DGIR made an inadvertent but extremely pertinent revelation, which in plain terms means that for the Pakistan army, there’s no difference between indigenous insurgencies and all-out war!
So, while the extreme cruelty exhibited by soldiers of the Pakistan army officered Frontier Corps [FC] recently in the Chagai district of Balochistan may horrify the uninitiated, but not those who are familiar with the brazen impunity that Pakistan army enjoys while operating in Balochistan. According to the official version of this incident, a driver was shot dead by Pakistani security forces in Balochistan’s Panch Raik area near the Pakistan-Afghan border, when he failed to stop despite being signaled to do so.
Though a seemingly plausible explanation, it isn’t convincing for the simple reason that in order to ensure that vehicles don’t ‘jump’ a security check-post along road and getaway, such posts are never setup isolation. Instead, a series of check posts with vehicle based ‘quick reaction teams’ for quick pursuit and inter communications with each other and is ensured so that they can efficiently perform their assigned task. So, what the officials have failed to explain is, why wasn’t the ‘errant’ driver chased and flagged down, or more logically, why wasn’t the next security check post along the road informed to block the route and arrest him?
Anyway, let’s for purely the sake of discussion, accept the official version of this incident. After news of this killing spread, locals and several drivers congregated to protest in the Nokkundi and Dalbandin areas of Chagai district. Officials allege that as the mob turned violent and set the main entrance of a government building ablaze, security forces were compelled to open fire due to which seven protesters sustained gunshot wounds.
Let’s once again just for the sake of carrying this argument forward, give security forces the benefit of doubt. However, what followed thereafter was something absolutely barbaric- security force personnel immobilised the vehicles of protesting drivers in Dalbandin by filling their radiators with sand and the hapless drivers were thus forced to make their way home to Nokkundi on foot.
Coming at a time when the protesting drivers were observing the month-long Ramadan fast in which no eatables or liquids can be consumed from dawn to dusk, these hapless drivers had no other option but to walk for hours under a blazing sun.
Expectedly, the consequences of this enforced walk were tragic, and social media was flooded with photos of at least three unlucky drivers who perished enroute due to exhaustion and dehydration caused by extreme heat and fatigue while walking from Dalbandin to Nokkundi [a distance of more than 160 km]. This depraved form of ‘collective punishment’ meted out to protesters by the Pakistani security forces is something that neither the civil administration nor Rawalpindi has any answers to.
Speaking at the National Assembly on Monday [April 18], Balochistan National Party-Mengal [BNP-M] member Hassan Baloch minced no words in highlighting the barbarity of FC which is directly controlled by the Pakistan army. He spoke about how “On April 16, a heart-wrenching incident happened at Chagai when the security forces opened fire on unarmed and oppressed Baloch people in which six persons were martyred and many others injured.” The BNP-M member noted with concern that “As usual, the past attitude has not been abandoned. Today again, the peaceful innocent Baloch protesters were fired upon resulting in more killings.”
Lamenting that “The cheapest thing available in the country right now is the blood of the Baloch people,” Hassan asked the very question that is close to every Pakistani’s heart- “Why have the security forces been given too much powers?” [Emphasis added], BNP-M staged a walkout from the National Assembly.
Taking a serious note of this barbaric act, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP] has in its press release mentioned that “… scores of drivers transporting goods across the border were reportedly deprived of their vehicles by security forces and left to fend for themselves in the desert. Many of them have still not been accounted for. The incident reflects a coldblooded disdain for basic humanity and the right to life.” [Emphasis added]. Balochistan’s Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo has announced that a JIT with members of various security agencies would investigate this incident.
However, by adding that if the investigation report was found to be unsatisfactory, then a judicial commission would re-examine this case, the Chief Minister of Balochistan has willy-nilly accepted the obvious- that the aim of JIT investigation is not to identify the culprits but just an eye wash to placate public anger. However, the option of a judicial commission to examine this incident isn’t enthusing either, because if one goes by past track record of judicial commissions in Balochistan, then prospects of victims getting justice are equally bleak.
Readers would recall that in 2014, a judicial commission investigating the discovery of mass graves in Totak area of Khuzdar district in Balochistan province gave a clean chit to the security forces and intelligence relying on the absurd reasoning which goes against the very grain of modern-day jurisprudence. It stated that “No one has recorded any statement against the armed forces and security agencies,” and then presumably applying the perverse ‘no witness, no case’ argument, conclusively determined that “No evidence of involvement of intelligence agencies has been found in connection with the mass graves.”
Investigations on the Chagai deaths will in all certainty absolve security forces of any wrongdoing, just like the 2014 judicial commission on Khuzdar mass graves did. However, despite the cacophony of lies and doublespeak that will put an abrupt end to this gruesome episode, it will never be able to suppress the enduring truth contained in Hasan Baloch’s candid assertion that “The cheapest thing available in the country right now is the blood of the Baloch people.”