We are living in a strange world. A pandemic ravages through communities across the globe. We witnessed a repeat of police brutality against African-Americans in the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police which sparked protests throughout the USA and around the world.
This sounds gruesome enough, but on May 26 I received news from Balochistan that a four-year-old child Bramsh was shot and injured and her mother, Maliknaz, killed for resisting robbers at their home in the middle of the night. Family members caught one of the robbers who admitted they work for one Sameer Sabzal who leads a local death squad of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence.
Not surprisingly, Sameer Sabzal is also linked with Balochistan’s finance minister Zahoor Buleedi, an MPA from Kech and a leader of the ruling Balochistan Awami Party. It is alleged by political circles in Balochistan that BAP is the Pakistan army’s brainchild. These death squads, MPAs and the military are not only allies in abductions and extrajudicial killings but are also partners in a multi-million drug business.
Balochistan has been a semi-tribal society with traditions, social norms and ethics. Even though women faced many difficulties in the Baloch society due to conservative social norms, they were seldom killed and that too in front of their kids at their homes by armed robbers. We must wonder how we ended up in a situation where sections of our society consider it normal.
This whole phenomenon of death squads was introduced after Baloch political classes demanded freedom. The military responded with abductions and extrajudicial killings. As the Baloch struggle gathered momentum, the army, which literally controls everything in Balochistan, began to outsource its kill and dump operation to local thugs and drug mafia. Resultantly, these infamous drug traffickers are not only running private militias to materialise Pakistan’s oppressive policies, but most of them have also become politicians overnight and are members of parliament.
So, no surprise that these drug traffickers and petty gangsters are powerful forces who roam free with the backing of the army. They rob, plunder, abduct and kill with complete impunity. This seems to be chaotic on the surface, but there is an order in this chaos. These petty criminals like Sameer Sabzil, politicians like Zahoor Bulaidi, political parties like BAP, and drug traffickers like Akbar Askani who miraculously become politicians overnight and win elections with the help from the intelligence agencies. It’s all a game, a ploy to control Balochistan through dirty means and all these men are nothing but pawns at the hands of the ISI and the MI.
These were attempts to secure the drug trafficking business, quell a rightful demand for freedom and at the same time re-engineer the Baloch social code of ethics and norms. Where previously it was impossible to think for a Baloch to imagine a woman and child can be shot at in the serenity of their home, it has become the new normal these days. No one is safe from these thugs. The agencies want to generate a sense of insecurity within the Baloch society where no one should question the deeds of Islamabad and its military. These tactics were first employed by the British colonizers in Balochistan. This is the dark legacy of Robert Sandeman’s tribal pacification and keeping cronies in Sardars and Meers who served his colonial interests.
The successors of the same Sardars who were proud of their colonial title have joined hands with Pakistan to protect their interests rather than those of the Baloch people.
The Pakistani army’s policymakers will never abandon the colonial legacy of the British Raj. Once they inherited the post-colonial order from their masters, they never saw the Baloch people’s rights as legitimate because, like their British masters, they did not seek the consent of the people who were seen as subjects to be subjugated and controlled through different means. Thus, the tactics of terror and coercion reign supreme either directly through soldiers or indirectly through drug traffickers and politician-cum-thugs. Why seek consent when you can have a submission, right?
Looking into events around the world especially protests in Balochistan and the US, I have begun to realize human societies no matter free or oppressed develop a sense of justice with time and there will always be people who will sacrifice their wellbeing to strive for what is right. Black Americans have risen once again and are fighting against historical and systematic racism. Police brutality is just an institutional outlet of the dominant group’s mindset towards peoples of color in general and African-Americans in particular.
Baloch people are also protesting for Bramsh and her dead mother, and are asking for justice. The US and Balochistan are thousands of miles apart in distance, yet they have become unified in a way for in both places protestors are fighting against state brutality, systematic oppression and violence. This proves that force and coercion cannot stop people from demanding justice. And this is a clear message for the Pakistani military that by the death squads and their extrajudicial kill and dump policies, the real voices in Balochistan cannot be suppressed forever.
The drug lords, the hired goons and the politicians imposed through rigged elections will never be accepted as true representatives of the people. This will only aggravate the sense of injustice already rooted in the minds and hearts of the Baloch due to the colonial attitudes and practices in Balochistan. Time has come for Pakistan to abandon this vicious cycle of subjugation through colonial tactics. The Baloch people have historically been independent people, and Rawalpindi needs to know that they could never silence us for good through these proxies.
Sameer Mehrab is a writer and co-founder of Balochistan Times. He often depicts Balochistan's socio-political dilemmas in his fiction and poetry. He is based in Canada.