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Blood and Balochistan

Updated April 26, 2015
Gunmen killed 20 construction workers and injured three others in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat, in Balochistan’s Kech district on April 11.— AP/file
Gunmen killed 20 construction workers and injured three others in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat, in Balochistan’s Kech district on April 11.— AP/file

In grotesque times come grotesque thoughts. Why this elliptical wretchedness when Mama Qadeer is right there, shuffling around in plain sight?

It’s not like they don’t have the expertise: if there were no missing persons, there’d be no Mama Qadeer.

It is a monstrous thought. To think it is to pollute the mind, to somehow become closer to the men who sanction such acts, dispatching men on motorcycles to pull up alongside cars and pull the trigger.


Balochistan is a murky place where murky things happen for murky reasons. Sealed off from the rest of the country, few thought to ponder another massacre in Balochistan.


Because he’s alive and another is dead, you can hazard a guess. There is no hard rule; it is about management. And phases.

Once upon a time, Saba Dashtiyari was the problem. Then, Saba Dashtiyari was killed. Now, you struggle to recall his name. That was 2011. When kill-and-dump emerged and the net was widened.

What had begun as killing the killers had morphed into killing the supporters too. That’s why Dashtiyari was dead. Now, killing the supporters has extended to killing the supporters of the supporters. That’s why another is dead. And a new phase has opened.

The link will be made to a recently cancelled talk. A warning had been issued and it had not been heeded. But new phases, wider targets, are not triggered by a talk here or protest there.

Monstrousness considers itself above that. Theirs is a mission to serve and protect and their actions must have meaning and purpose. It is not hard to see what may have catalysed this new phase, this new monstrousness.

Also read: 20 labourers gunned down in Turbat

April 11. Turbat. From this newspaper: “Gunmen killed 20 construction workers and injured three others in a pre-dawn attack on a labourers’ camp near Turbat, in Balochistan’s Kech district.”

Inured to bad news from Balochistan, few paid attention. Yes, it was more dead. Yes, it seemed nasty. Yes, civilians from other provinces had been killed for being civilians from other provinces.

Also read: COAS vows to crush insurgency in Balochistan

But Balochistan is a murky place where murky things happen for murky reasons. Sealed off from the rest of the country, physically and psychologically, few thought to ponder another massacre in Balochistan.

Some did though. April 15. Quetta. From this newspaper: “‘The army chief warned foreign states, intelligence agencies against trying to destabilise Pakistan by supporting terrorists in Balochistan. We’ll defeat them comprehensively,’ military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa quoted the army chief as saying.”

From Twitter that day, same man quoting same person: “Will unearth Terrorists, abettors, sympathisers, financiers.

None will find place in country to hide. Will go to any length 4 writ of state.”

Turbat was not missed by some. Not by those with a mission to serve and protect and whose actions must have purpose and meaning.

Zoom out from Turbat and you have the other new problem: China. There was Xi being feted and his dream of a road to the sea being sold fervently. But economic hubs and trade corridors don’t happen in places where no one can go without inviting a bullet.

You can’t go to Balochistan without inviting a bullet. For Xi’s dream to come true folk have to be able to go to Balochistan without inviting a bullet. Security and the economy are entwined there.

It’s an old approach though: kill the dissent first, then pour some economic balm and hope that dissent doesn’t reappear too quickly. The Xi dream is the boys’ dream too.

The Xi dream means the security part will need to be done on a grander scale to match the economy bit. Those with a mission to serve and protect and whose actions must have purpose and meaning have all of that and more of that than ever.

There are two other things, one harder to explain than the other. The first is the failed policy: Balochistan has not been beaten into submission.

Once upon a time, years ago, it seemed obvious that in quelling the fifth insurgency, the conditions for a sixth insurgency were being sowed.

If that was obvious enough, also obvious: it was a price the boys were willing to pay. Fix today and deal with whatever comes tomorrow, tomorrow.

But as the Baloch arm was twisted further and the boot pressed harder on the Baloch neck all that seemed to happen was the arm came closer to being torn off and the neck being snapped. Balochistan has not been beaten into submission.

So, why continue? Before, it seemed nothing would change until 2014. With foreign troops billeted in the neighbour’s south, the political option was never going to given a chance.

It’s 2015 now and time for an update: the political option is never going to be given a chance in Balochistan. For some reason, the boys have decided that Balochistan is too important and too valuable to be entrusted to the civilians.

For that reason Balochistan will remain an open wound, never to heal.

The other bit is easier to explain. Who cares about a little place in Karachi where a handful of people gathered to talk about woolly ideas and that had the tiniest of footprints?

Your average madressah could pull a bigger crowd any day of the week than what was routinely served up there.

There is a difference though: social media. Social media does two things: it amplifies stuff locally and connects to the outside world. Neither amplification nor connectivity is deemed desirable. Not when it’s about pesky, undesirable ideas being purveyed.

Maybe that’s why Mama Qadeer is alive and another dead.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2015

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