Why not to condemn the Ziarat attack | Pakistan Today

Why not to condemn the Ziarat attack

Balochistan is more important than a building

There is something off when amongst two incidents of terrorism in Balochistan; one in which a building was destroyed, the other in which 25 people, including 15 girl students, were killed, the most grief expressed is for the building. The attack on medical students and a hospital are mentioned only as an afterthought.

The building was a 19th century colonial resort in Ziarat that Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah chose to live at as he recovered from what would be a fatal tuberculosis infection. The other attack was a suicide bombing of a bus carrying female medical students of the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, followed by a hostage situation and holdout at the Bolan Medical College.

The first attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army, a militia run by Baloch nationalist, attributed to the self-exiled Harbiyar Marri. The second attack was claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia militia once considered close to the establishment. When the federal leadership, Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed spoke on the issue, they issued “warning to young Baloch who pick up arms” and condemned the Ziarat attack, without mentioning the LeJ at all. The two subsequently flew to Ziarat, missing the funeral of the Quetta attack victims and failing to visit the site.

The visit caught the ire of the Pakthunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), a nationalist party that is not known for desiring separation from Pakistan, whose general secretary suggested that the “ministers should have instead attended the funeral of the victims of Saturday’s attacks in Quetta claimed by the banned sectarian extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi”.

What makes a so-called national symbol more important than real citizens who die at the hands of a sectarian group? Commenting on the PkMAP leader’s words, a report in a national English daily began with the words: “While the entire nation is in a state of shock over the destruction of Jinnah’s Residency in Ziarat, a key coalition partner in the Balochistan government calls it a ‘symbol of slavery.’” The logic implied is that the PKMaP leadership and its position on the Ziarat Residency falls outside what the “entire nation” is supposed to believe.

The PkMAP General Secretary Akram Shah had continued to make a fairly clear remark: “The wooden house at Ziarat was a symbol of slavery as it was built for the colonial British officer Sir Robert Groves Sandeman who ruled Balochistan until his death in 1892. The house always reminded the Baloch and Pashtuns of the long period when they were the slaves of British Empire in Indian subcontinent. For us, it’s no more than the house of the then agent to the Governor General [of India], Sir Sandeman.” Should the PkMAP general secretary’s words be taken with a pinch of salt or should they be taken seriously?

In order to do so, we need to look at the history of the Ziarat Regency. Originally built in 1892, the Ziarat Residency became home to the British Governor-General’s Agent to Balochistan Sir Robert Groves Sandeman. Sandeman, whom no one chooses to remember was responsible for the British colonial policy of dealing with Balochistan. Based on dividing Balochistan into the Khan of Kalat’s territory and the tribal territories, Balochistan was denied the status of a full province. A treaty was negotiated with the Khan of Kalat which laid down the relationship of Balochistan to the centre.

The policy was maintained almost de facto by the Pakistani state after partition. Maintaining the divide between ‘civilised’ citizens and ‘uncivilised’ citizens, Balochistan continued to be ruled by an agent of the Pakistan government until it was finally declared a province in 1970. It must be recalled that Baloch nationalist history recalls that 1948, the year Jinnah passed his last days at the residency, was also the year in which Jinnah reportedly ordered an army operation to “force Balochistan to cede to Pakistan”.

If it be remembered, the Ziarat Residency was not even a declared heritage site before 1975. It was only when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had dismissed the National Awami Party (NAP) government in Balochistan and the Pakistan Army launched another military operation against the third Baloch insurgency that the Pakistani State remembered the Ziarat Regency and re-titled it the Quaid-e-Azam Residency. By declaring the Ziarat Residency a “national heritage site”, the state “marked” the territory with its identity, and put a claim on a two-month period in the history of the Residency.

What the Ziarat Residency signified to the many different peoples that inhabit Pakistan remained contested. This is why the Residency was bombed. The bombing itself did not have a tangible target. The message delivered by the BLA was ‘symbolic’. In the press release that followed, the BLA called upon “their Pashtun brothers to build a monument in tribute to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Abdul Samad Achakzai”. It also said that the bombing was representative of their position on the “talks” proposed under the National Party Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik.

Much of the romance around the Ziarat Residency reeks of continuing colonial attitudes. Articles and news features in tribute to the building have spoken of how “it was a hill station surrounded by juniper trees”. The “fresh air” and “greenery” are said to be its main charms. But somehow the fact that it was the seat at which Balochistan’s first coloniser, the British, exercised their power was ignored.

Another article cites, “For those living in other provinces, the residency was nothing short of an emblem of Balochistan itself. This was not just confined to a sentimental association with the country’s founder, but the residency’s image also adorns Rs100 notes, making it part of everyday life in Pakistan.” Is this description not the problem in itself?

The fact that our relationship to Balochistan be mediated through a building instead of a real and equal relationship with the Baloch people is the problem. Should the government’s response to the attack not have been to insist upon creating a functional and equal relationship with the Baloch people, instead of insisting that the Ziarat Residency will be rebuilt within three months?

‘Heritage’ is always a contested issue. Historian Benedict Anderson’s old adage that “nations are imagined communities” requires repetition. Because national heritage is something that the state tries to impose on people, some (significant) groups continue to contest it. This contestation is fairly obvious in Pakistan. Statements by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership insisting that the “PkMAP general secretary had offended the millions of patriotic Baloch” are quite meaningless. The so-called trust of the Baloch in the Pakistani state can be determined from the low turnout in the 2013 General Elections. The percentage of votes cast in six Baloch districts remained below 15 percent. That the PkMAP actually won the NA seat from Ziarat and still felt it necessary not to condemn the Ziarat Residency attack requires contemplation in this context.

Moreover, if the same sentiments of ‘national heritage’ are to be consistently employed, then much more tears need to be shed regarding the over 2,000-year-old Hinglaj Temples, threatened not by Baloch nationalists, but the Hingol Dam being constructed by the Pakistan government against local opposition which calls on it to “preserve heritage and ecology”. Heritage formation is selective and exclusive: the state handpicks “heritage symbols” which affirm the nationalist historical narrative. The question is: where and how do we form our opinion about an event from?

Personally, I do not see much tactical or symbolic purpose gained from the BLA attack on the Ziarat Residency. But the question is whether I mourn the loss of the building more than I mourn the situation in Balochistan?

That Jinnah stayed at a certain location does not make it sacred. If so there are a few apartments in London and Bombay that the Pakistani state needs to declare ‘national heritage’ too. This is not the point. Rather it is that the discourse around the two attacks shows the skewed vision with which we look at events. The Quetta attack shows once again that Balochistan is burning, but it is only the burning of the Ziarat Regency that most of the media and national politicians chose to care about, even trying to suggest that both attacks were by the BLA, despite the LeJ admission.

The bombing of the residency at Ziarat is not the biggest issue in Balochistan. One must speak about missing persons, the ‘kill-and-dump’ and elections held under military occupation before one begins to speak about a destroyed building. Living people must take precedence over buildings. If not Balochistan will continue to burn as we spend all our energies trying to reconstruct the Ziarat Regency “exactly as it was before”.

The writer is the general secretary (Lahore) of the Awami Workers Party. He is a journalist and a researcher. Contact: [email protected]



54 Comments

  1. Haq said:

    It clears all air that for Pakistani Punjabi Sunnis, and their violent associates- ISI, LeT, LeJ, the value of life of a Baloch, Sindhi, Pathan is zero.
    Why no terror attack in Punjab while whole Pakistan is burning ??????

    • tayyaba rana said:

      lahore had experienced worst attacks during musharaf & zardari regime. i thnk u were sleeping at that time. ask ur balochi, sindhi and pathan leaders why they r sleeping & merrymaking & doing corruption instead of saving their people. law and order is provincial subject. it is not the reponsibility of punjabis to save u. stop spreading hatred. u never mourn our death i knw 4m ur comment. cum 2 punjab & see hw people r sad & mournful on the death of our brethern any where in pakistan. Actually u people r biased this is the reason of ur suffering.

      • Haq said:

        Give me the total number of attacks that has happened in Punjab alone and Punjabis killed, and than attacks that happened in rest of Pakistan and number of people killed … I bet you the ratio is 1:10.. You blame us for killing ourselves ?????
        It is fed Govt who has given tactical approval to USA to use drones against non-Punjabi Pakistanis. US agent Raymond had killed only 2 Punjabis see how much hue and cry you made but thousands killed in drone attacks and just some protests ???
        Who in this world does not know that who is kidnapping Baloch opinion makers-educationists, doctors, intellectuals and other young people, torture them and throw their mutilated bodies on roadside ?

  2. Haroon Khan said:

    i dont see why ppl are even comparing the two events….A) the building was a symbol, a national heritage, something that was a memory of the beloved founder of this nation therefore an outrage is necessary and justified otherwise any one can come and destroy anything without even caring….Preservation is necessary….B) the other disaster should be taken up at a different and higher level in order to try and stop the same from happening again….Anyone that complaints as to why this is more and that is less should stop wasting their time and instead actually try and do something against the disasters that are killing this nation….

    • sijal said:

      yeah i totally agree,i dont why there is always a comparison as to what was more important and the whole debate shifts from the actual incidents to which incident was talked about by media more. Both acts need to be condemned and that's it

  3. Gul Shair said:

    every one twist words and like to be appreciated. thats it… nothing gonna happened…

  4. Samira Hayat said:

    Thats the thing with our nation, when something tragic happens, they start comparing it to a previous tragedy to justify that this tragedy is not THAT BAD, not worth fighting for. I can’t see why both acts are not condemnable in their brutality ? and why we have to choose only one option to condemn?

    • The writer said:

      Cute, but based upon its own logical fallacy. Commonsense versus stupidity is the most problematic binary you could choose to frame this in. I would rather not give you a basic philosophy lesson here.
      Appreciate that you wrote a response article. Too much of what you say is conjecture. To the extent that a 'historical building' should be let remain, I would agree with that as a principle. The problem is that in certain contexts, the buildings loose importance in the face of something more important.
      We must point to what is more important, instead of continuing to mourn the less important thing. Perhaps you feel the Ziarat Residency was more important. That is your right. My task was to take the debate out of the narrow frame of Pakistani nationalism. You appear to be trying to do the same, so kudos amigo.

  5. Mahmood said:

    You are right Mr Haq, as in article PMLN didn't mention LeJ. The fact is we all are burning, some in terrorist attacks and some in others………..

  6. Pakistani said:

    This writer is the typical US sponsored offspring who would not miss an oppertunity to further 'their' objectives. It is that US generation which does not know who to send Father's Day Card.

    • Bravo said:

      Pakistani I agree with you and it also depicts that this writer is paid to make an atmosphere of war between Sunni n Shia… Allah knows better

      • m ali khan said:

        "Allah knows better" is the most convenient excuse used by self-styled 'true Muslims' too lazy to do critical research and queries on their own and accept the established lies / ignorance at play.

      • اسد ملک said:

        If Allah knows better then why you open your dirty mouth Bravo.

    • aliarqam said:

      Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Today the man behind exposing NSA spying network Prism is a revered person and a hero, no matter he is villian for the US, learn to respect difference of opinion my friend

    • Sher Afgan said:

      This author preaches the right word. As a child of Balochistan, I proclaim he is right! Bacha Khan > Jinnah!

  7. Virendra Kaul said:

    The author has raised some valid questions. What is important, people of Balochistan or the summer colonial resort?

  8. YLH said:

    Amazing. This is one of the nonsensical articles on the topic yet. Kind of like Taliban's reaction to world condemnation of destruction of Buddha Statues.

    • The writer said:

      Jinnah lovers joining the party? Those blind enough to absolve Jinnah for defending Ilam Din in court and still claiming that Jinnah was 'secular' cannot have a rational opinion on this article. Chao.

    • mary said:

      it sure makes sense than all of your non sensical articles put together.

  9. aliarqam said:

    Sipah-e-Jinnah lamented the attack and cursed the Baloch on the day while sipah sahaba avenged by killing students, doctors and Police wallas, Girls were mostly Baloch. Today a Baloch poet Qazi Mubarak was attacked who survives assasination attempt, the pakistani nationalist hawks will cry against the baloch now

  10. Sahara said:

    Great article. why was the government so swift to condemn the Ziarat Residency bombing, and pass over what happened at the Bolan Medical Complex without any reference to the LeJ, who had claimed responsibility for the attack? Why did they consider flying in to Ziarat more importance than attending the funerals of those who died on the very same day? These are some questions that this article's critics have not been able to answer, albeit making the most lucid comments about Father's Day cards (?!?)

  11. Ashraf said:

    few facts
    British divided Balochistan in British Balochistan (Quetta n other Pashtun areas +Kohlu ,Ders Bughti ) and Kalat state.It was dissolved into during one unit and subsequently made a province in Yayha Khan era.Samad Khan Achakzai was in NAP too but he left NAP and formed Pashtunkhwa MAP on the issue of Pashtuns areas of former british Balochistan and demanded for pashtunistan with a popular slogan wanting bolan to chitral pashtuns.

  12. Haroon Khan via Face said:

    i dont see why ppl are even comparing the two events….A) the building was a symbol, a national heritage, something that was a memory of the beloved founder of this nation therefore an outrage is necessary and justified otherwise any one can come and destroy anything without even caring….Preservation is necessary….B) the other disaster should be taken up at a different and higher level in order to try and stop the same from happening again….Anyone that complaints as to why this is more and that is less should stop wasting their time and instead actually try and do something against the disasters that are killing this nation….

  13. tayyaba rana said:

    wrong, its in pakistan & its important. i agree that ministers shud attend the funeral that wz more important. for colonial heritage point plz bomb kareeaz also, bomb the railways also cos they r also colonial heritage. yes the residency is sacred due to jinnah for us. bloachistan has prblms due to mistakes of successive rulers & sardars bt this mindset is also a hurdle in national unity.

  14. Samira Hayat via Fac said:

    Thats the thing with our nation, when something tragic happens, they start comparing it to a previous tragedy to justify that this tragedy is not THAT BAD, not worth fighting for. I can't see why both acts are not condemnable in their brutality ? and why we have to choose only one option to condemn?

  15. I Wish said:

    I am not clear about who is expressing more grief about the Ziarat building than the death of so many innocent young women. Both acts are wrong. Obviously the death of innocents is more vile, specially when it is designed to prevent education the women of Pakistan, the future mothers. These idiots don't understand that if the mother is educated, the whole family will become educated. Educating women is the most rapid way to educate the country. These so-called defenders of Islam don't even understand that the first command in the Quran is "Iqra, ie read!", which understood by all authentic scholars of Islam as a command for all mankind, not just the Prophet (S).

  16. I Wish said:

    Part 2: The destruction of the Ziarat building is significant in so far as it is strike against the idea of Pakistan, since Jinnah lived there. All people who love Pakistan should be upset at the destruction of this historic site for that reason. All civilized countries value their historic monuments, and preserve them for future generations. If Pakistani's don't value their own historic symbols, that means that they don't believe in Pakistan any more, and that is the mesage that was sent with this act. The perpetrators don't believe in the idea of Pakistan any more. Any intelligent and concerned Pakistani would want action gainst these criminals, and at the same time advocate serious steps to address the legitimate grievances of people so they don't turn to violence to express their discontent.

  17. Baloch said:

    Factful article, What so ever you say about BLA, but BLA has been accepted in Baloch Nation as their National Army. Should accept the reality.

  18. Ali Kakar said:

    I as a Pashtun of kakar tribe living in Ziarat do NOT condemn the bombing of Ziarat residency.It was a symbol of Robert Sandeman to us and Jinnah too doesn't evoke any positive feelings in us Pashtuns of Ziarat. Good riddance.Long live Pashtunkhwa watan!

  19. Shamyl Bin Mazhar said:

    Well mr Hashim bin Rashid i think you right this So called Article sitting under AC with a cup of coffee in your luxuries room ………OR should i even call u Pakistani for such article??

    • The writer said:

      And of course, you believe that the only condition for being called 'Pakistani' is to accept everything that the State throws down your gullet, even if somethings are undigestable and others poisonous?
      P.S. The AC-ed rooms I have are inferior to the AC-ed lounges your beloved Pakistani generals have, in their game of pretending to fight for the 'nation'.
      Much love. – See more at: http://www.pakistantoday.mbt.pk/2013/06/20/commen

    • اسد ملک said:

      and you son of Arab spreading love everywhere, your name should be Hashim bin destruction, Shamyl bin Atom etc.

      • Shamyl Bin Mazhar said:

        The bombing of the residency at Ziarat is not the biggest issue ???? now tell who is someone bin atom …how he wrote such thing

        • Anon said:

          .
          It is a big issue …
          The Baluchis' are telling you that they hate hyenas' …
          And they hate Jinnahs' too …
          For very good reasons they don't give a flying f u ck to Pakistan …
          .

          • Shamyl said:

            Well I know the situation in balochistan…and i am not even concern about what balochi people think of quadiazam or anyother …it’s about US we are educated and we don’t have to think what they are thinking we have to unsupport bad …if balochi people don’t give respect to our national heros and don’t believe in Pakistan, then what is the difference between them and you saying that the bombing of the residency at Ziarat is not the biggest issue..
            It means you and them on the same page what is the difference tell me ??

  20. The writer said:

    And of course, you believe that the only condition for being called 'Pakistani' is to accept everything that the State throws down your gullet, even if somethings are undigestable and others poisonous?
    P.S. The AC-ed rooms I have are inferior to the AC-ed lounges your beloved Pakistani generals have, in their game of pretending to fight for the 'nation'.
    Much love.

    • Shamyl Bin Mazhar said:

      No this is not the case you took it wrong I am in shock of our statement ""The bombing of the residency at Ziarat is not the biggest issue ???""

    • Shamyl Bin Mazhar said:

      No this is not the case you took it wrong I am in shock of your statement ""The bombing of the residency at Ziarat is not the biggest issue ???""

      • The writer said:

        Because it is not. I do explain why. Do you know what is going on in Balochistan?

  21. Tejpal said:

    Pakistani Punjabis control the majority of Pakistani state and are very brute Sunnis. Nawaz Shariff pays “peace money” to Hafiz Saeed. He has given Hafiz Rs. 65 millions only a few days ago for “especial” services, not to be identified. Punjabis are the militias in Pakistan who create terrorists and jihad all over including inside Pakistan and Balochistan. Pervez Musharraf was the chief thug.

  22. اسد ملک said:

    میں آج تک نہ سمجھ سکا کہ ایک ٹی بی کے مریض کو کیوں کر ایسی ٹھںڈی علاقہ میں جہاں ابھی تک مواصلات کے نظام نہیں کیسے آخری نشانی ہوئی اور وہ ٹی وی اینکرپرسن جن کے اس واقعہ میں جیے باپ فوت ہوگیا ہو اسی باپ کے بیٹوں نواسے نواسیوں کو بھول گئے جو گلستان جوہر میں کرائے کے مکان میں بدتریں حالات میں زندگی گزارنے پرمجبور ہیں۔
    بلوچ تو روز مر رہا ہے اُسے کسی وزیر مشیر کی ہمدردی نہیں چایئے مگر سوچنے کی بات ہے کہ جس رات بلوچوں اور پحتنوں کی غلامی کی نشانی کو بی ایل اے نے نشانہ بنایا اُسی صیح انٹیلیجینس کی سرگرم جہادی تنطیم نے بلوچ بچیوں کی بس میں بم رکھ دیا پر ہسپتال میں بھی حملہ کر کے ثابت کیا کہ وہ کس قدر طاقتور ہیں اورایک بلڈنگ
    کا بدلہ کس طرح معصوم بچیوں سے سے کس طرح بربریت سے لے سکتے ہیں ۔اس واقعہ سے پہلے جب بھی سیکورٹی ایجنسییوں پر بلوچ حملہ کرتے تھے تو بدلہ میں ایجنسوں کے قید میں پڑے نوجوانوں کی لاشیں سڑکوں پر اسی طرح کی تنظمیں کے نام پر قبول کر کے پینک دیتے تھے ۔بلوچ کو تو پتا تھا کہ رات کے واقعہ کا ردعمل صبح تک آنے والے ہیں۔
    ۔

  23. Noor said:

    we are in fact a nation who has stopped the respect for life as well as for national heritage and historical monuments…we have become senseless and emotionless…

  24. S.Ali said:

    They were not medical students rather Masters and Mphil Students Of Sardar Bahdur Khan women University.

  25. Mohammad Akram said:

    Killings of any person or persons is a crime and no forgiveness Its very sad what happened in Quetta and do condemn my heart goes with the deceased families Quetta is equally important for Pakistan as is the home of Father of the Nation Destroying the home will not benefit anyone and those who did that foolish act will pay the heavy price sooner or later

  26. yasir said:

    Nonsense has no end so the so called ghairat mand baloch should migrate from Quetta first, as it was built by their British masters.

  27. seo in utah said:

    Zoroastrianism developed an eschatological concept of a Last Judgment called Frashokereti where the dead will be raised and the righteous wade though a river of milk while the wicked will be burned in a river of molten metal.

  28. gigaom.com said:

    Outstanding Blog! I would like in order to say thanks to with the endeavours you have made written this specific post.

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