FC’s reign of terror

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The Frontier Corps (FC) is often in the news for abducting and killing political dissidents in Balochistan but last week a family accused one of its sepoys of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy, an innocent soul without any political connections. Protest rallies were arranged in Turbat, Gwadar and Quetta against this shocking incident following which the sepoy was handed over to the Levies. While the culprit must pay for what he did, we must stress yet again that such acts of cruelty are not the fault of just one individual. It’s the system of impunity and freehand the FC enjoys as a whole that enables such individuals to consider the Baloch lesser humans and treat them in any way they wish.

A pattern is developing whereby FC sepoys and the intelligence agencies’ death squads commit a crime and the government arrests the individual to calm down the public’s anger only for a similar crime to happen again a few months later. Only last year an FC sepoy shot and killed Hayat Baloch in front of his parents, and goons of an agencies-backed death squad killed Maliknaz and injured her child, Bramsh, at their home. These are examples from just one city and happened only a few months apart.

Activists have for long been crying about the FC’s terror but now even people like Federal Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal, a staunch Army supporter, are expressing concern over this recent incident. She tweeted that the person responsible for sexually assaulting the child would be punished as per law. Now, if ‘punishing’ one individual had been enough to stop such cruelty from repeating itself then the sentencing of the killers of Hayat and Maliknaz would have been enough to make the FC sepoy think twice before assaulting the boy in Hoshap. It did not and the fear is that punishing this particular individual too would not help in putting an end to the FC’s reign of terror in Balochistan.

Balochistan has been run by Islamabad, more particularly Rawalpindi, as a colony with its indigenous Baloch people deprived of most fundamental rights for the better part of Pakistan’s history. It has either been ruled directly in the form of One Unit or by giving sweeping powers to the intelligence agencies that act without accountability. Members of parliament are installed through rigged elections and are not answerable to their people but directly to the military. Balochistan also does not get enough mainstream media coverage since it lacks political representation with rarely any real representative who can raise their voice on constitutional injustices and institutional bias.

Moreover, how can one hope there will be justice when the whole society, as well as law enforcement institutions such as the police, are hostage to the Army in Balochistan? Whenever victims go to the police to file a report against the armed forces they are refused and discouraged. This is because, from the judiciary to the law enforcement and civil society, everyone knows that the army is untouchable, particularly in Balochistan and going against it has real consequences.

Worse still, whenever the army is involved in a crime, the rest of the state machinery throws a lid on the issue and resorts to damage control and face-saving. This lack of accountability and colonial conduct is the underlying cause of all ills in Balochistan. If this situation remains unchanged and the agencies continue to enjoy a freehand, arresting and even sentencing individual sepoys will not serve as justice for a nation that sees its sons and daughters suffer State atrocities almost daily.