Where does Balochistan stand now?

The province has been hit by a double-whammy

For around two weeks until now, families of Baloch missing persons have been protesting outside the Governor’s house in the red zone asking for the formation of a judicial commission– which was formed by the provincial government– to probe the recent Ziarat incident where nine persons were killed by the state forces, who linked them with the separatist group Baloch Liberation Army, with the other demand of assurance from the Chief of Army Staff that there would be no such ‘fake encounters’ of the ‘missing persons’ in future.

On the other hand, the recent floods due to the heavy rainfalls have brought havoc in the most deprived province of Balochistan by adding more to the social and economic tensions of the people. Amid the given two problems, Balochistan stands in the midst of deprivation and gets least attention from both federal and proovincial government.

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Right after EidulAzha, a DHA colonel, Laeq Mirza was abducted and killed by a separatist organisation between Ziarat and Quetta, against which the armed forces launched an operation in the area. After a few days, ISPR claimed the killing of nine persons belonging to the banned outfit.

When the corpses were transferred to civil hospital Quetta, they were gradually identified as those of “missing persons” by their family members whose cases were registered with Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a non-profit organization working for the recovery of Baloch missing persons. VBMP claimed to have registered those cases with governmental officials and submitted them to the courts as well. Against the incident, the families protested and turned to the red zone outside the Governor’s House in Quetta from July 21 onwards. However, neither the government nor any member of the armed forces have met them yet to listen to what they have to say.

On one hand, where the families of Baloch missing persons have been vociferating before the government to be heard by sitting in heavy rains at Quetta for around two weeks without being visited by any governmental official, on the other hand, the recent floods have increased the tension of the residents of the region. People from across Balochistan, after finding the government light about the floods, are asking the nation to help them. While the families of missing persons are continuously chanting towards the Baloch masses to be their voice so that they may get timely justice. In-between, Balochistan’s masses have lost faith in all the parliamentary politicians and their parties who only think of their self-interests.

Their demands are not illegal nor are their concerns invalid about the safety of their loved ones. If the Balochistan Chief Minister feels their demands are valid– which he signaled with the formation of a judicial commission– why does not he visit the sit-in camp of the families and speak to them? In fact, the CM’s statement after the formation of the commission, too, was controversial. In a statement, he said: “People were on edge on the Ziarat incident due to which a misunderstanding was growing between the masses and the institutions. To remove the misunderstanding of the masses, the judicial commission was formed.”

With his statement, he has already convicted the Baloch families and is saying that the commission would only remove the misunderstanding of the masses while he has acquitted the latter party before the probe. Are the families– who are eyewitnesses of their loved ones’ arrests and disappearances– in a misunderstanding with the institutions? That’s so pathetic of a ‘public representative.’

The tensions for Balochistan do not end here. The recent floods have devastated a large portion of the region causing heavy casualties of life and property. According to the Balochistan Chief Secretary, 127 people have lost their lives owing to the recent floods due to the rains including seven members of the same family. He added that around 10,000 homes have totally got ruined across the region, including the destruction of around 565 km of roads and 197,930 acres of agricultural lands. It has also destroyed the date season in the Makran region.

The floods and losses were thoroughly neglected for so long until very recently when the masses took on the government for their responsibility for the flood victims and losses. The Balochistan Chief Minister, after his short visit and aerial review of the Lasbela region, went to Islamabad for things other than the recent issues of Balochistan, while the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif visited Balochistan and announced financial assistance to the families whose human life was lost including financial assistance to those whose houses were damaged.

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But things would have been different if the government took early actions to avoid the casualties and damage caused until now. For instance, when the floods had caused early losses, the government could take measures to keep the masses away from such areas as were likely to be affected by the floods. Sadly, it seemed that the government was never concerned about the floods in the region which enhanced the losses of precious lives of the people, including losses to their homes and other assets.

On one hand, where the families of Baloch missing persons have been vociferating before the government to be heard by sitting in heavy rains at Quetta for around two weeks without being visited by any governmental official, on the other hand, the recent floods have increased the tension of the residents of the region. People from across Balochistan, after finding the government light about the floods, are asking the nation to help them. While the families of missing persons are continuously chanting towards the Baloch masses to be their voice so that they may get timely justice. In-between, Balochistan’s masses have lost faith in all the parliamentary politicians and their parties who only think of their self-interests.

Ali Jan Maqsood
The writer is a freelance columnist

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