January 15, 2010

Editorial: Killing of democrats in Khuzdar, Balochistan


In what appeared to be a provocative incident of firing on unarmed democratic activists, security forces killed two young students-cum-political activists in Khuzdar district on Friday. The victims, along with several others who received injuries in the arrogant demonstration of brute force by the security forces, were peacefully protesting against the targeted killing of Balochs in Karachi. It was in fact a democratic display of anger over flawed government policies which had failed to guard the lives and property of the Balochs living in Karachi. Every citizen as well as political party has the constitutional right to freely express their dissent and mobilize on issues of mutual interest.

Taking out peaceful protest rallies does not only add to the beauty of democracy in a society but it also self-evidently speaks about the level of political consciousness among the people of a place. Therefore, every citizen of the land has the right to dissent with the policies of the government and apply a legitimate form of expression whenever feeling dissatisfied with the rulers. With an entrenched culture of political struggle, resistance and agitation, Balochistan must always be given credit for upholding its marvelous democratic values despite the emergence of such circumstances when democrats’ patience was tested by the uniformed supporters of violence.

Friday’s unpleasant episode struck amid a peaceful display of anger. It is not common for a province like Balochistan, which is in the grip of a decade-old insurgency, to give ample space for peaceful protests. If there was one lesson that one ould learn from the Khuzdar protest rally of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) was that the Baloch movement had originally remained a nonviolent one. It grew militant and transformed into a full-fledged armed resistance only when all doors of peaceful democratic struggle were forcefully shut for them by the government of the time.

The students in Khuzdar were not doing something utterly contradictory to the rule of the land. They had peacefully raised their voice on an issue that has concerned everyone. The Balochistan Assembly has also spoken about the gruesome target killing of Balochs in Karachi, so have the chief ministers of both the provinces. The issue has been widely reported and analyzed in the local media as well. Thus, it is very hard to assess what was it that enticed the security forces to feel the need to resort to firing on democratic activists in Khuzdar?

There is nothing more depressing than callously murdering erudite members of a society for the ‘crime’ of rising voice for those who have already been brutally killed. The security forces did not know that they were killing the bright and enlightened people of the Baloch society who believed in democracy and peaceful public protest. Murdered students Saddam Hussain and Ali Dost were the friends of democracy. Their participation in the protest rally clearly indicated that they stood for human rights, tolerance and equality. They did not deserve such an undemocratic and uncivilized fate, honestly. No civilized societies kill their democrats so brutally; we do: very often.

In Balochistan’s context, one would not even enter the realm of debate as to who is responsible for carrying out the brutal killings of two young Baloch students. The Frontier Corps (FC), which was held responsible for the killings by the local chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Khuzdar, has as usual pleaded innocence. A nuisance that is often known as the FC is becoming a monster to deal with by the government of Balochistan and its people. Therefore, one does not have to weep over the immunity this rouge federal force enjoys in the country’s largest province for its acts of terror, all that Balochistan must mourn is the loss of two more young democrats.

The Baloch anger over the operations of the Frontier Corps is understandable. The same force, which is basically responsible to guard the frontiers of the province with Iran and Afghanistan, was held responsible for whisking away and subsequently killing three prominent Baloch leaders last year in Turbat. No top official from the FC was ever brought to justice in connection to the murder of three democrats in Turbat district. Same was done in by the FC in Mand last year when a young student was killed in indiscriminate firing.

It is reassuring that Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani has taken notice of the firing incident in Khuzdar and ordered a probe into the matter. It is earnestly hoped that that the CM would take strict notice of the matter and soon take some bold administrative measures to mitigate the public anger and ensure timely damage control.

The firing incident clearly seems to be intended to undermine the credibility of the PPP government headed by Nawab Raisani in Balochistan. The CM must immediately take notice of such conspiracies against his coalition government at a time when the provincial government is working on the implementation of the Balochistan package.

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