March 09, 2012
Admittedly, it would not be possible for anyone to have a fair idea about the situation in Balochistan without visiting the province. However, some recent visitors to Gwadar maintain that now even the Balochis desirous of peace in the region seemed reluctant to utter the word peace, fearing it could invoke wrath of the militants, who could dub them as ‘agents of the Punjabis.’ Now, even the NGOs executing projects in that area are afraid of using the appendix Pakistan in their nomenclature. In Gwadar, local partners of South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP – Pakistan) advised their colleagues visiting Makran’s coastal town from other parts of the country not to use the abbreviation ‘SAP Pakistan’ during deliberations because it could be construed as ‘Safe Pakistan’ or Punjab’s endeavour for peace. In such an eventuality, the militants warn three times but use the bullet to intimidate those who repeat the mistake for the fourth time.
In view of the prevailing situation, Gwadar based workers of SAP-Pakistan informed their colleagues visiting Gwadar from other areas that while implementing projects in the rural areas they would indicate the name of the sponsoring agency to be SAP Gwardar or SAP Quetta. In other words, they would not use the word Pakistan. They also informed that it would not be possible for the visitors from Lahore to undertake a visit to Turbant (Kech), reveals Shabnam Rashid, in an article in SAP-Pakistan’s Official Monthly Urdu Bulletin “Chanan” (February 2012). Some excerpts from Shabnam Rashid’s eye-opening account ‘Hum Sab Eik Hain To Yeh Samaji Nahamwari Qayoon’ are reproduced below.
The fishermen of Makran had all along been demanding the creation of a ministry for promotion of the fisheries and to solve the problems of the fishermen. But, nobody paid any heed to their persistent demand. For want of a dedicated body, the fisheries have received little attention over the years, adversely impacting the income and plight of the fishermen. Fishing trawlers from other regions visit Makran waters and using mechanical nets, they not only catch fish but also harm the sea vegetation and other creatures. This is resulting in the depletion of fishing stock and thereby further decrease in the income of fishermen. On the other hand, the introduction of mechanical nets has deprived the women of Makran of a good source of income, which they derived from preparing nets with silken thread. But, now those nets have been replaced with the Chinese mechanical nets.
Unable to buy their own boats, which cost something around Rs.1.0 million to Rs.2.5 million, the fishermen hire small boats for going to the sea in groups of three or four fishermen on a boat. In the past, their catch would fetch them around Rs.20,000 to Rs.30,000. However, due to depletion of the fish stock along the coastal areas, their income, per trip, has now reduced to around Rs.10,000 only. After paying charges for the boat, the balance amount is equally shared by all the fishermen in a boat. In brief, the net income of each household of the fishermen has drastically reduced. Furthermore, the area lacks in infrastructure facilities, in particular schools for girls, maternity homes, hospitals, transport and communication facilities, potable water, etc. Illiteracy is high among women, and they generally cast their votes, in elections, on the advice of the male members of their families. As the area lacks in health facilities, the patients have to be carried to Karachi for proper treatment. But, it is an uphill task because only the rich can afford treatment in the capital city of Sindh province. At the delivery time, the women face many difficulties. If complications arise, then their difficulties are compounded, resulting in the death of both the mother and child, some times.
Insufficient food intake creates many more problems for the Balochi women. In the education sector, those people, who are occupying senior-level administrative jobs, happen to be non-Baloch, complain teachers. In short, in Makran, the poor do not have access to potable water, education, health, and a permanent dependable source of income. Resultantly, the incidence of poverty continues to increase, leading to violence and instability in the region. The agencies keep a close and constant watch on the visitors to the area. In fact, one feels their presence everywhere, after landing at Gwadar Airport. They make enquiries not only from the visitors, but also from their local partners and the management of hotels where the visitors happen to stay.
Balochistan is rich in mineral resources. One fails to understand why has it been facing constant neglect? Why the rulers did not care to mitigate the sufferings of the Balochis? Why the rulers did not attach priority to addressing the injustices meted out to the Baloch or removing their deprivations? Is it not the right of the Baloch to have modern infrastructure and opportunities for progress and growth? Why inequality still prevails in that area? In Gwadar, the women say that when they see and learn that the women in some other parts of the country are celebrating an occasion, they feel happy. But, at the same time, a question arises in their minds that why the Baloch women, who have to collect the mutilated bodies daily, can’t celebrate occasions and enjoy? They say that when suppression and injustice exceeds limits, then the man feels impelled to pick up the gun. They lament that the media gives detailed coverage to the weddings and walima receptions of the players, but it opts to remain silent on the killings of the Baloch. Some 645 members of the Hazara community only have been killed so far, but no one has taken its notice. On the other hand, the FC personnel claim that they do not have any hand in the killings. If that is the case, then why don’t they come forward to defend the Baloch masses, the Baloch say.
A Baloch women, Huma Folada, who visited Lahore recently, says that when the civil society launched a movement for the re-instatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, it did succeed in its efforts. But, the question arises ‘when would the justice be restored here. On getting arrested, Hafiz Irfan, who is a member of a defunct organization, confessed in writing that he has killed many Balochis. He would kill more Balochs, Huma believes, if he was set free, but the Police and the Court insist that testimony by witnesses is mandatory for conviction. However, out of three witnesses, two were killed earlier and when the third witness was going to the court to record his statement, he was also gunned-down. Even the killer of the third witness has disappeared from the prison. The people of Balochistan enquire from the Chief Justice that judges have been restored, but when would justice be restored so that the people of Balochistan could live in an atmosphere marked by peace and human dignity.
One cannot deny the fact that the political and social bond between the State and the citizens has to be mutual. By ensuring the provision of basic human, social, political, civic, cultural and economic rights to the people, the State has to fulfill its prime and fundamental responsibilities. In return, it can expect the citizens, rather the citizens would themselves feel obliged to obey the State minions and abide by the rules and laws, in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution. Perhaps, the State minions have been negligent in discharging their duties in Balochistan and the pent-up feelings of bitterness of the Baloch people have now reached the boiling point. Who is going to douse the inferno? Be quick! The time is fast running out!