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Yet another Baloch becomes a hashtag

Updated September 8, 2020 18:02 IST

Till a few days ago, it was hashtag #justiceforhayatbaloch which was trending in Pakistan. Hayat, a 25-year-old final year physiology student, was shot dead by Pakistan’s Frontier Corps (FC) right in front of his parents in Turbat, a city in southern Balochistan on August 13. With the Karachi University closed due to Covid-19 pandemic, the young man had come home and was helping his parents in their palm tree orchard when the FC convoy picked him, tied him with his mother’s headscarf, dragged him for a few hundred metres and then pumped more than half a dozen bullets into him.

A few months ago, it was #justiceforbramsh which had made the world take notice of the crimes against humanity being committed by the Pakistani government. Four-year-old Bramsh was seriously injured and her mother brutally murdered in front of her eyes by members of ‘death squads’ outsourced by the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies to kill, abduct, and terrorize people of Balochistan. The gory act also took place in Dannuk, Turbat.

Now, it is #justiceforshaheena which has set the social media ablaze. A fine arts graduate and chairperson of Balochi magazine Dazgwahar Labzanki Chagird, Shaheena Shaheen also hosted a morning show on PTV Bolan – the Pakistan Television Network’s regional service in Balochistan. A believer in gender equality who had campaigned for women’s empowerment in the province, Shaheen was murdered in Turbat Saturday.

As you read this, the Turbat police is working hard to turn the murder into a case of honor killing by filing a first information report (FIR) against Shaheen’s husband Mehrab Ghichki.

Hayat Baloch

The Imran Khan government has also sprung into action, not to investigate or nab the killers, of course, but to cover-up its massive failure. Condemning the murder, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Senator Shibli Faraz said Sunday said that the government “strongly believes in freedom of expression.”

Freedom of expression, that too in Pakistan? And, of all the places, in Balochistan? The minister’s gotta be kidding. Or maybe the government believes that, in spite of hundreds of murders, abductions, forced conversions and marriages in Balochistan every year, they can still fool the world. Yeah, even when the Balochs have been exposing dark truths of the deep state right in front of their embassies and missions worldwide–from New York to London and Geneva.

The world hasn’t forgotten how, standing in front of the Quetta Press Club this June, on the ‘Baloch Missing Persons Day’, an inconsolable Haseeba Qambrani was pleading for justice before the Pakistani authorities to search for her brothers who’ve been missing for months. She feared that Hizbullah and Hassan Qambrani would also meet the same fate as their another brother whose deformed body was found earlier by the family.

What about Zakir Majeed Baloch, a senior vice-chairman of Baloch Students Organization (BSO) in Mustang, who disappeared in 2009?

Or journalist Sajid Hussain, also from Nizrabad, Kech, in Turbat, who was murdered in faraway Sweden, earlier this year.

And, Rashid Hussain who has been missing since December 26, 2018?

People continue to disappear in Pakistan’s southwestern province at the hands of the country’s security services. The hashtags on social media change frequently but not the fortunes of Balochs. Shaheena Shaheen is the latest entry in the unending list.

As Karlos Zurutuza, a reporter who’s entry was banned by Islamabad after he extensively covered the human rights violations in the region, wrote in 2014: “The media tend to portray Balochistan as ‘troubled’, or ‘restive’, but it would be more accurate to say that there’s actually a war going on in this part of the world.”

Perhaps, calling it a systematic, state-sponsored genocide would rather be more apt.

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