By Sanaullah Baloch
Outside the Karachi Press Club, after years of protests in Quetta and other parts of the province, hundreds of families hailing from impoverished parts of Balochistan are protesting and holding pictures of their loved ones, who have gone missing due to `enforced disappearances`. The distressed families are plunged into a new state of horror, as more than 82 bullet-riddled and mutilated bodies of missing persons resurfaced in a short span of five months.
However, on the other side of the world there are scenes of joy and jubilation. The victim families of Argentina`s `dirty war` are greeted with delight outside the courtroom in Cordoba and in the offices of the Human Rights Secretariat in Buenos Aires where former junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity committed during military rule from 1976 to 1983. The court in the central city of Cordoba also handed down life sentences to retired Gen Luciano Benjamin Menendez and 28 other defendants.
Finally their long wait for justice came true. The verdict proceedings were viewed on television screens. The court accepted that Videla bore ultimate responsibility for devising a systematic plan “to eliminate opponents” of military rule. During the notorious dirty war the Argentine military regime killed as many as 30,000 people and brutalised thousands more.
The Argentine court verdict is an encouraging sign, as the culture of immunity and impunity is rapidly disappearing in the broader context.
Gen Augusto Pinochet, Chile`s former military ruler, was also indicted for human rights violations and charged for a number of crimes before his death in 2006. In 1990, Patricio Aylwin — Chile`s first democratically elected president following the dictatorship — created a commission for truth and national reconciliation. Compensation, pensions and scholarships were given to the families of victims of human rights violations recognized by that institution.
However in the case of Pakistan, marginalized ethnic groups and minorities are denied justice. Since they are not part of the well-crafted net of the civil-military bourgeois, they are often victims of discrimination and appalling human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and `targeted killings`.
The Baloch people are among the worst victims of state discrimination. They are denied basic services, revenue which they generate, development opportunities and most awful of all, they are not regarded as full citizens.
When Baloch people glance at their not-too-distant past, it becomes evident that in the years 1948, 1958, 1962, 1973-77 and 2002 to date, deep wounds were inflicted upon the body of Balochistan as a consequence of repeated military operations. In order to retain political and security control, Pakistan`s establishment crafted new colonial policies to suppress the Baloch people`s desire for development and progress.
Small but historically evolved Baloch institutions including administrative systems were abolished, trained and experienced officials were dismissed and the medium of instruction was changed. There were also systematic restrictions and a policy of institutional discrimination was imposed to rule Balochistan.
Furthermore, the Baloch progressive leadership was jailed for long periods of time and corrupt leaders were transplanted in society to misgovern the masses and facilitate and implement the neo-colonial system, based on corruption, containment and confinement.
The current state of underdevelopment, social disorder, economic hardship, political corruption and breakdown of the rule of law in the province is not something that we can simply blame on neighbouring countries or impoverished masses in Balochistan. Pakistan`s civilian and military elite bear all responsibility for this colossal breakdown.
Fancy guarantees in the constitution and the `unbiased` judiciary is helpless to rescue hundreds of people from targeted killings and systematic disappearances, which have created a collective sense of insecurity among all segments of Baloch society, leading to further alienation and isolation of Baloch people from the state system and even from the state itself.
Though justice was delayed in Chile and Argentina`s case, luckily they are satisfied with the recent verdicts.
However, Baloch families are not so lucky because there is not a single ethnic Baloch judge in Pakistan`s superior courts, there is no top military official who can protect their fellow Baloch from the wrath of the establishment and neither are they truly represented in the state system and institutions.
There is no disagreement that the state`s failure to understand Baloch grievances and maltreatment led to frustration and violence, which has engulfed the entire province. Moreover, the state`s brute response fuelled the crisis from `manageable` to unwieldy levels.
The state is not an individual entity. It represents institutions and institutions have various political and other means to address grievances of violent and angry citizens. If a state adopts an `eye for an eye` approach, then it is not regarded as a civilised state.
Disregarding Islamic, human, national and international obligations, with an unabated policy of systematic discrimination and repression since 1948, the Pakistani state violated all political and human rights and denied the minimal resources necessary to encourage the social and economic evolution of Baloch society. The injury caused to the Baloch rendered a qualitative decline in all human development indicators.
There is no alternative: no cruelty and barbarism will work to bring peace and calm to the province. In order to come up with solutions to such circumstances, one must carefully study the current reality. With such a level of violence and violations of rights, Baloch-Islamabad relations do not have a peaceful prospect. The injuries caused in the last six decades are incompatible with political stability and normalcy.
As long as these injuries are not addressed, it is at the most a fantasy to hope that it would be possible to have a safe and prosperous Balochistan.
The writer is a former parliamentarian.