“We want to tell you our fears…”

Published Feb 25, 2012 05:01am

Each passing day brings hope to see the faces of their loved ones and each night goes by in fervent prayers to ease the pain of their beloveds. – File photo
Each passing day brings hope to see the faces of their loved ones and each night goes by in fervent prayers to ease the pain of their beloveds. – File photo

Eleven missing persons were presented in front of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on February 13, 2012. Following the hearing, Roheela Bibi – mother of three ‘missing’ sons – died of a heart attack. Bibi’s death fueled reaction and questions have been raised about the plight of such people, whose relative became a part of the ‘missing persons list’, specifically women.

Balochistan, the province with the highest rate of ‘abductions,’ has become the hottest debate, with many an analyst speaking about the country’s largest province. The psychological degradation and alienation that a common Baloch experiences, however, remains unfathomable for many.

Nazish Brohi, an independent research professional, who frequently writes on the subject of human and women rights believes the problem is quite complex.

“It is a matrix, which is more complex than considered by a common man. The crimes against humanity carried out in the region cannot simply be attributed to one particular faction.”

“The intelligence agencies, separatist militants and general crime syndicates are all actors in the anarchy in the province,” Brohi tells Dawn.com.

Insurgencies and political upheavals are not new in the region. The current crisis in Balochistan, however, has motivated or rather instigated women to protest against the absurdity of the system. Countless women can be found outside Quetta Press Club, carrying placards and pictures of their missing relatives.

Allauddin Khilji, programme officer of Aurat Foundation Balochistan believes Baloch women feel suppressed and are discouraged from stepping out of their houses. “In the absence of appropriate measures to ensure law and order, women generally feel insecure and are subjected to live under precarious conditions.”

In an unsafe environment, Khilji says, women do not have any chance.

“The situation has deteriorated and the fear, which is extremely palpable, cannot be described in words,” he adds.

Excerpts from a letter by ‘Young Women of Balochistan’ A group of young women from Balochistan drafted a letter and posted it to various human rights groups located in different parts of Pakistan.

“We are young women from Balochistan, belonging to Quetta, Pishin, Mastung, Khuzdaar, Lasbella, Sibi, and Qila Saifullah. Each of us has horror stories; each of us has lived through nightmares. We want to tell you our fears,” reads the introductory paragraph of the letter.

The letter, which is a long narration of horrendous tales that continue to scar the lives of Baloch women, recounts incidents of crime against humanity tormenting these women every day. They feel baffled and do not really know whether to look for their men, or pray for their painless death or return.

The agony is not restricted to women related to the missing persons. Several others live in fear for the safety of their husbands, sons and brothers who remain ‘unharmed’ to date. An uncertain future and bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons haunt and deter them.

“We fear that our daily battles for dignity within our homes and communities will be lost; that our fight for equality and progress will vanish in our fight for survival as an ethnic group. We fear our own blindness,” the letter further states.

It tells stories of the courage of Baloch people, who refuse to submit to these injustices. The funerals of their loved ones dishearten them, but never kill their hopes of attending universities and schools and aim to become a part of a progressive society.

“We ask you to help us fight for our future – a future in which the FC and army does not rule over our lives and deaths,” the letter ends.

Revolutionary women Each uprising and insurgency is marked by a different movement. Motives and dynamics differ substantially.

“The insurgencies of 60s and 70s were very different primarily because the rationale behind them differed consequentially. Every conflict impacts women in significant ways however in the current conflict women have started joining the movement as opposed to in the past when they were there to only pick up the pieces,” says Brohi.

“Women are the binding force behind any household in Pakistani society. The mothers, wives and sisters of missing persons grieve and carryout everyday chores at the same time, including looking after the ‘leftover’ family members.”

While she believes the issue of missing persons has taken a severe toll on women everywhere, Brohi says the Baloch women, who have always been sidelined, are now emerging and publicly questioning the authorities.

“Injustices and an uncertain future have driven Baloch women to a point where they are finally breaking free from the chains,” she adds.

Khilji, of Aurat Foundation, believes it is not only the ‘missing persons’ factor which is motivating women to step out of their shells and protest against the regime.

“Women that we meet are tired of living in fear of being abducted or killed for working or acquiring education. LHVs and other working women very frequently come under attack which is why many women feel restricted and stay at home,” adds Khilji.

The ‘missing persons’ saga, along with other issues that have suppressed women in the province, have instigated women to become a part of this movement.

However, Ashfaq Mengal, another representative of Aurat Foundation, Balochistan contradicts Brohi and Khilji by claiming that women are not “as empowered as people from other provinces assume.”

Ironically, what the custodians of law and our so-called ‘protectors’ fail to realise is the fact that when a Baloch man is kidnapped, tortured and killed, he does not only go missing from the province or the state, he goes missing from the lives of his kinsfolk, including his mothers, sisters and daughters.

Perhaps, the state and government are unaffected by the absence of one individual. These missing people are, however, pivotal in the lives of these women, who have raised and lived with them, who literally count on them for survival and pray for their better futures and, in this case safe lives.

For the state, one life is as good as another but for Baloch women it is just not the same story. For them, each death and disappearance is a forced invitation to a ceaseless and futile struggle. Each passing day brings hope to see the faces of their loved ones and each night goes by in fervent prayers to ease the pain of their beloveds.

The author is a reporter at Dawn.com.

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Comments (23) (Closed)


shyam
Feb 24, 2012 09:16pm
Why no comments so far!
Saleh R
Feb 24, 2012 10:08pm
Our politicians are no good, whether they were "thrust" on the people via so-called elections or are the "separatists" for free Balochistan. We, the common people, continue to suffer at the hands of this totally SELFISH lot! A government (ministers, military, police) that is unable to protect its citizens should go home. PERIOD. One solution that comes to my mind: Just as the Supreme Court had sat in Karachi to address the issue of target killings, they should do the same in Balochistan and soon.
Saleh R
Feb 24, 2012 10:10pm
Our politicians are no good, whether they were "thrust" on the people via so-called elections or are the "separatists" for free Balochistan. We, the common people, continue to suffer at the hands of this totally SELFISH lot! A government (ministers, military, police) that is unable to protect its citizens should go home. PERIOD. Just as the Supreme Court had sat in Karachi to address the issue of target killings, they should do the same in Balochistan and soon.
kamaljit Singh
Feb 24, 2012 11:05pm
Because we Pakistanis hate to face the reality with our heads so high not to look at our feet, We see only the Indian for bad everything and Chinese for so sweet.
Human
Feb 24, 2012 11:33pm
Because only Hindu/Jews/Christians kill Muslims... Muslims don't kill Muslims.
Asde
Feb 25, 2012 02:01am
Can't dawn reporters write proper sentences? And simple NGO mouthpiece.
Concerned Citizen
Feb 25, 2012 03:35am
The 11 missing persons mentioned at the start were not from Balochistan but were involved in GHQ and ISI camp Hamza attacks, however the courts set them free due to lack of evidence; though in reality the judge must have been scared off by their comrades. A while back terrorists killed a lot of people in Karachi's Kabari market and their faces were seen by many witnesses but the court also let them go. No terrorist gets convicted due to judges and witnesses being bribed or scared off. While extra judicial detention is unjust there is no alternative currently. We need changes in laws to protect judges and witnesses so we can get more convictions to address the situation. The media does not present both sides of the picture and always tries to find fault with the security agencies. While the agencies are not innocent, they are not the only ones at fault and the whole system has problems.
Nadeem Khan
Feb 25, 2012 08:11am
Because this nation has seen sop much death and estruction during the last few years that it has become immune to this sort of story. Every region, every religon, every province has suffered death and destruction. I am not condoning another persons misery just stating that when you ahve enough suffering of your own, then you tend to become immune to someones elses suffering.
ch. sheraz
Feb 25, 2012 10:06am
self explanatory.............
shrikant
Feb 25, 2012 12:12pm
it is really painfully all world with u people.god will change do not fear
MunnaBhai00
Feb 25, 2012 12:32pm
Like 'The Australian' newspaper put it the other day " In some cases the Pakistani govt. acts as a franchise of Taliban." So true and equally shameful.
Saleh R
Feb 25, 2012 12:33pm
I sent a benign and relevant comment yesterday but the Dawn moderator 'censored' it ... so much for freedom of expression.
Mansoor Sajid
Feb 25, 2012 12:59pm
Balochistan issue is decades old. Lately one can notice a sudden rise in raising this issue attributing the underlying injustices to the Fedreral government as well as establishment. I want to ask a question from the tribes leader about thier contribution towards making their province a role-model. How many coleges and / or universities have been established by the leading tribes for the betterment of the people of Balochistan. The leaders of the tribes have been receiving grants from the Central government as well as donations from the neighbouring countries. They have been sending their childern overseas for higher education only to create another "Nawab". Is there any Bughti Collecge or Bughi University for girls. Laders of the tribes don't want people from their own tribes to get education in the fear that an educated person would challenge their authority. Having said tht I am not trying to defend the Fedral government or establishment, however, tribes leaders are equally to be blamed for the present situation.
gopal
Feb 25, 2012 02:38pm
These men were in custody of agencies. They were tortured. Three of them were murdered. In Baluchistan this has been going on for many decades. They butchered millions in Bangladesh. Yet, has any general been punished? Musharraf committed treason by overthrowing a constitutional govt after starting and loosing a war. Has any of the officers of who supported Musharraf been arrested or sent to jail? For 60 years, Pakistanis have grown up under a bigoted educational system where history has been falsified and other religions vilified. What we now have is a society where decency and morality have completely collapsed.
Beeberg Bugti
Feb 25, 2012 03:50pm
' “The intelligence agencies, separatist militants and general crime syndicates are all actors in the anarchy in the province,” Brohi tells Dawn.com.' very important point. militants from BLA, BRA, BLF, Lashkar-e-Balochistan etc as well as private militias of various Sardars across Balochistan have been involved in gross crimes for decades! many women have been targeted by BLF and BLA militants yet those crimes barely go beyond local newspapers. Shah Bibi, Fazila Baloch, Naz Gul etc are all victims of separatist thugs. But these militants then blame Army FC ISI for them.
CA Atul Shukla
Feb 25, 2012 05:16pm
Please open your eyes.
raika45
Feb 25, 2012 06:29pm
To HUMAN.Muslims do not kill muslims? That is a good one .I almost fell out of my chair laughing.Who do you think is killing whom in your country? The christians and the hindus? Who do you think is killing the people now in Iraq,Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Syria.
muhammad
Feb 26, 2012 04:36am
Why the situation in Balochistan came to this boiling point, where are our sp called democratic Govt and other law enforcing agencies. Why they are not sincerely set down and sort out the permanent solutions for their greivances or they simply ignoring and forcing their own agenda. As long as there is no GOD fearing fair solutions for the people of Balochistan, the unrest will stay there. I wish and pray hope we will fear from ALLAH and care about each other not to utilize our power.
PNW
Feb 26, 2012 09:56am
Raika45, don't tell me you are so naive. Of course its a joke.
Abdul Samad
Feb 26, 2012 12:02pm
Dear Writer you have highlighted good and considerable points. What is so disappointing is the disloyalty of our own chief minister, Muhammad Aslam Khan Raisaani who has been constantly involved in killing and destruction of homeland, “Balochistan”. The death and brutality against one another have been going on for a decade and the government every day comes up with bold promises to put a full stop to the ongoing violence, discrimination, violence and bloodshed. We have realized that Mr. Raisani has never been loyal neither kind to its people and country and the situation has gone worst from bad. We have also realized that by killing each others, we can’t stop the growing rate of specific religion, people or and culture, except hatred, but how pleasant it would have been to develop love and generosity for each other and hold each other with love instead of holding for killing and beheading. Claiming to be the best Muslim, but our action against each other is worst than a non-Muslim and this is the fact that we don’t have to ignore. We just accuse to be a good Muslim. It is the religion of peace, brotherhood, generosity and compassion, it is a holy religion. I belief, yet couldn’t prove to be a good human. Everyone has only developed the speed of hatred and bloodshed. We are lost in the desert bloodshed and our hearts become like a hard stone. We have lost the love of humanity, respect, justice and instead developed devices to kill each other. You don’t have to complain what you experience today, this is what me, you and others supported and developed. It is said that if one doesn’t have sympathy or feeling of love for the others, Allah will give him/her the best possible punishment that he/she will remember in the whole lifetime. I am sure that most of you hate this piece of writing to read, but what I should do, this is the ultimate truth that everyone of us are well-cognizant with. It is still not too late, we can stop it and we are supposed to stop it.
A Pakistani
Feb 26, 2012 04:00pm
It is so sad to read all of this. We need a revolution just like in Tunisia, Egypt etc. It is now in the hand of ordinary Pakistani to do something for the country and its people.
kamaljit Singh
Feb 27, 2012 12:41am
Sir Abdul: To me I see there is a hope for Pakistanis with people like you and Chief Justice of Pakistan. I pray Pakistan to flourish and prosper without aid from USA, China or Saudi Arabia. When the rulers wont go to Saudi King Palace to solve their internal problems and do not rush to Beijing and Washington for solving their .
Srini
Feb 27, 2012 05:27am
Joke of the millennium