Slain workers

Published October 17, 2023

IT was murder most foul, when six construction workers were gunned down in Balochistan’s Turbat city in the early hours of Saturday. What gives one pause is that they were murdered as they lay in slumber. According to the police, the killings were targeted. All victims belonged to different areas of southern Punjab, suggesting they had been chosen for their ethnic background. The incident brings to mind the deaths in 2015 of 20 labourers as they slept in their camp near Turbat. Those victims belonged to Sindh and Punjab and the attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Front. At the time of writing, no group had claimed Saturday’s shooting.

The incident once more puts the spotlight on Balochistan’s persistent security challenges. It also highlights the precarious position of those who, in search of livelihoods, become unsuspecting targets in larger power dynamics. How unfortunate that the province, which by now should have been well on its way to becoming the cornerstone of Pakistan’s development due to CPEC, remains mired in instability. For too long, Balochistan’s challenges — from ethnic tensions to separatist movements — have overshadowed the daily lives of its people. These workers, many of whom are non-Baloch, deserve protection, and most importantly, justice for the violence inflicted on them. The onus falls on the federal and provincial governments to ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly caught. And beyond the immediate security needs, it is crucial that the state engage with all stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the unrest in Balochistan. Economic projects alone will not suffice. An inclusive approach is required that addresses the genuine grievances of the Baloch people and integrates them into the national fabric. The lives of these slain workers must not go in vain. Let us ensure such tragedies are not repeated. Let us build a Balochistan where every labourer can sleep and work without fear.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2023

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