Sameer Mehrab

Sarmad Sultan’s crime is telling the truth

Since yesterday Twitter has been stormed with tweets demanding the release of Sarmad Sultan. Most of the Pakistani civil rights activists are accusing the Pakistan army of abducting him. Sarmad has been very vocal to challenge the Pakistani establishment’s narrative about history, security and patriotism. He always came up with facts and figures to support his argument. From his tweets, one gets the impression that Sarmad is an honest and reasonable person. It cannot be confirmed that he had been abducted by the security agencies but from experience, it’s not surprising that people were accusing them of the abduction and most of them are tagging the official Twitter account of ISPR and demanding he should be released.

It is now a fact that the Pakistani security establishment is involved in abductions, torture and killing of ethnic minorities, political dissidents and those who like Sarmad challenge the fabricated history of Pakistan and its military’s trumpeted make-believe achievements and the current dominant narrative which revolves around rhetorics like how Baloch, politicians and progressive individuals from civil society are painted traitors or unpatriotic.

This narrative has been churned out and paddled by Army lackeys like religious extremist groups in print and electronic media. And in this story, the Army and its generals were portrayed as the vanguards of the country against all kinds of imagined external and internal threats. For its services, the military gets the bigger slack of everything; for instance, almost more than 80% of Pakistan’s budget goes to the security forces which has never won a conventional war in its history. They don’t stop on the budget, they get the best real estate, they also get to become the head of civilian corporations when retired. To maintain this status quo they practice all unconstitutional methods like harbouring religious extremist groups and drug lords in Balochistan and other provinces. They abduct, torture and kill anyone who demands or raises their voice against the gang of generals who are ruling Pakistan like a corporation for their interests, which can amount to billions of dollars and all sorts of perks and privileges with no accountability.

The Pakistan military started a kill and dump policy in Baloch and Pashtun areas to suppress demands for basic socio-economic and political rights. The rest of the country stayed silent including mainstream media except figures like Hamid Mir who paid dearly for inviting Baloch missing person’s relatives on his show. On the other hand, Sabeen Mahmood was not so lucky after opening up her platform “T2F” for Baloch activists and relatives of missing persons to talk about the missing in Balochistan. She was assassinated in the same evening. Now it is clear the Pakistan army will not refrain from using unconstitutional tactics to suppress dissident voices which challenge its narrative or fabrication of lies in the other parts of the country.

Sarmad seems to be the latest victim of this policy. I hope Sarmad will come back safe and sound to his family because I can relate to the pain and agony his family must be going through. For more than a decade I have lost many friends and family members. But I am sure about one thing that the already suffocatingly restricted domain of national narrative will shrink further and Pakistan will move towards homogeneity and no alternative opinion will be tolerated. This is what Pakistan army generals want, they will tolerate no one between them and their billion of rupees and perks which they apparently get for abducting, torturing and extrajudicially killing their own people, which consist of people like Sarmad who challenged their fabrications and lies with facts and figures and also raise their voice regarding military atrocities against the Baloch and Pashtuns and historically against the Bengalis. In Pakistan, the norm has always been to shoot the messenger.

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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.

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