August 19, 2005

How Balochs Celebrated the Independence Day -- With Bombs, Violence

By Nizamuddin Nizamani

QUETTA, August 21: This year Pakistan’s’ Independence Day on August 14 was celebrated and de-celebrated simultaneously by a divided Balochistan in and outside the country.

In Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar the day began with official artillery salutes, colorful flags and fireworks, patriotic songs and large expensive official and unofficial feasts and congregations. Flag ceremony and artillery fire was organized in Quetta too, but those who attended these gatherings had some disturbing news about the activities of the resistance groups who marked the day few hours back differently with militant and subversive activities that rocked almost all the important cities and towns including Quetta.

The people of Quetta had already received seven grim and demoralizing reports on that day, largely censored out by the Pakistani media:

1. Five heavy explosions in posh localities in Quetta including Satellite Town, Jinnah Town, Ayub Stadium, Askari Park and Sariab Road rocked the city.

2. Railway Station Mucch came under attack and the railway track was blown up, hindering the traffic for five hours until alternative route was arranged.

3. Airport building and Frontier Constabulary posts in Turbat were attacked with rocket fires. This fresh attack reportedly created panic in the administration as it was fifth consecutive subversive activity in one week.

4. About a dozen rockets were fired on government installations around Kohlu.

5. Gas pipe line in Sibi was blown up disrupting gas supply to Khujak area.

6. FC check posts in Mundh were attacked with heavy weapons. Few days back the house of Federal Minister Ms Zubaida Jalal came under rocket fire.

7. On August 17 high tension power transformer was blown up near Khuzdar.

Although the Mundh attack was reported by the national press conservatively, word spread through the internet that t the losses and causalities were far more than reported.

The Press also reported that a large cache of arms was seized on the way to Gwadar a few days back.

According to press reports, activists of BSO Alliance and BNM observed August 14 as a black day and organized protest with black bands on arms in many towns including Hub and Lasbela, the home towns of Chief Minister Jam Yousuf.

The echoes of the Baloch agitation reverberated on the international scene as well. Sindh TV in its August 15 and 16 bulletins reported that scholars and activists of Baloch Society of North America and Baloch Human Rights jointly with Sindhi activists organized demonstration to mark the Independence Day in front of Pakistani High Commission in Washington DC.

The speakers mostly PhD scholars alleged that the Establishment was violating the human rights of their nationalities back home. They condemned the Establishment policies against Balochs and Sindhis. They denounced that smaller nationalities have no incentive to celebrate but many reasons to protest on the day.

While most of the above activities were blacked out by the national press and electronic media it is worth considering that the recent wave of terror and violence occurred only a few days after Chief Minister Jam Yousuf’s declaration that the government had purged the militant and resistance groups and that their network had been wiped-out. It is another story that his own home in Kalat was attacked within a few days after the statement.

These subversive activities may also be the natural reaction or results of recent provocative statements by Jam Yousuf and his accomplices, wherein he sarcastically commented that those who struggled in the past were so desperate they could not afford even one meal a day.

It appears that the traditional center of militant activities is shifting from difficult mountainous and tribal areas of Kohlu, Barkhan, Marri and Bugti areas to comparatively peaceful plane lands of Sibbi, Much, Mundh, Kalat, Khuzdar and Turbat.

These areas are mostly outside the tribal areas controlled by the Sardars so the traditional culprits cannot be blamed. Instead most of these areas are under the control of parliamentarians in the present government.

Given the present scenario in Balochistan, it will be in the fitness of things that Establishment in Islamabad reconsiders its strategy towards Balochistan, find out real factors compelling people to resort to join such violence risking their own as well as others lives.

Traditional charges and accusations against the nationalists that they are working for foreign elements for money will not suffice as the last 58 years prove these charges are not holding.

Federal government must form a committee of credible persons including members of the Establishment, nationalist parties and observers from NWFP and Sindh with adequate powers to take decisions, that must start with the accountability of the present government in the province. The committee must listen to the grievances of the people with an emphatic ear, sort out the issues and make short and long term plans for Balochistan.

The worsening situation in Balochistan makes the proposed gas pipeline project with Iran and India highly impractical to implement. The nationalists have already expressed their reservations about this project. It is high time to come forward with tangible results so that our Independence day for 2006 is not marred with such wave of terror.

The writer is Trainer and Researcher in Ethno-political Conflict Management & Development Studies. Email: nizambaloch@yahoo.com

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