March Issue 2012
While government officials make tall claims about improving the situation in Balochistan, target killings are increasingly becoming the norm and the situation has exacerbated to the extent that the province has become a source of international concern.
Earlier these incidents were limited to Balochistan, but now the violence has crept into Sindh as well. Recently, three targeted killings took place in Karachi: Haji Jan Muhammad Marri, the right hand man of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Faisal Mengal, a Baloch working for a German NGO, and Brahamdagh Bugti’s sister and niece were gunned down in and around Karachi.
Haji Jan Muhammad Marri was killed in the second week of February this year, just a few days after the open hearing on the violation of human rights by the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was picked up by unknown people and later his mutilated corpse was recovered from the Hub area of Balochistan near Karachi. Faisal Mengal was killed last December, while he was travelling from Karachi to Hyderabad. Incidentally, a large number of Baloch people, particularly those belonging to the Marri, Bugti and Mengal tribes have been picked up from Karachi, Hub and Khuzdar and later recovered from the Lasbela district. After the alleged operation in Dera Bugti, a large number of Bugti tribesmen migrated to the Hub industrial town near Karachi but they are unsafe there as well.
However, the most serious and tragic murder was that of Jhumer Domki, the wife of Sardar Bakhtyar Khan Domki, a member of the Balochistan Assembly. Jhumer, was the elder sister of Baloch Republican Party’s president, Nawabzada Brahamdagh Bugti, who sought political asylum in Switzerland last year. Earlier, he had taken refuge in Afghanistan after his grandfather Nawab Muhammad Akbar Khan Bugti was assassinated in a military action in 2006. But he left Afghanistan after a local journalist revealed that Pakistani spooks had approached him to eliminate Bugti. The Afghan journalist too fled from Afghanistan and has taken refuge in India.
Brahamdagh Bugti’s sister had gone to Karachi along with her 14-year-old daughter and a maid, to attend the wedding of her cousin to the son of Senator Agha Shahid Bugti. The vehicle in which they were travelling was targeted in the Gizri area of Karachi and, apart from Domki’s wife and daughter, the driver also died in the incident. According to investigation reports, the maid, who is the lone survivor and witness to the targeted killing, is certain that the killings were carried out to convey a message to Brahamdagh Bugti. Apart from the young maid, there was no other witness to the gory killings and investigators believe that the fact that the girl was spared suggests that it was a very selective target killing.
The maid reported that she saw three men emerge from the car, which had intercepted their vehicle, and first kill the driver. Then they separated the maid from the family members and killed Janna, who is Brahamdagh Bugti’s niece. Seeing her daughter get killed right before her eyes, Janna’s mother became hysterical and asked the attackers what they planned to do next. They replied that they were going to kill her — and did just that. The murders were committed with two AK-47 rifles fired at point-blank range. Later, the police recovered an empty magazine and several dozen spent bullet casings from the crime-scene. According to the investigators, it appeared that the attackers had been following their target and chose a deserted street for the killing. Although the make of the car used in the attack is not yet known, the investigators said that according to the maid it was a small black car.
The police officers in Karachi stated that the attack was a result of tribal enmity but this claim is vociferously rejected by the Domki family who hold the government and its agencies responsible. They argue that according to Baloch and Pashtun tribal traditions, women and children are not targeted for revenge in tribal disputes and if a woman goes to warring factions with an appeal for peace, her request is honoured.
In Balochistan there was a strong condemnation of the incident and all nationalist parties held the government responsible for the deaths. Two people were killed in Bakhtiarabad when security forces opened fire on demonstrators protesting against the target killings.
“Earlier they were killing our elders and young people but now even our women are not safe,” remarked Sardar Akhtar Mengal soon after this incident.
The Balochistan Assembly members, who were previously silent about the prevailing situation in Balochistan, are now speaking up after the Domki killings. The Balochistan Assembly not only strongly condemned the incident but also adopted a resolution demanding that Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani should visit Balochistan to inform the Baloch regarding the government’s efforts to arrest the culprits. This violence, which first reared its ugly head in Balochistan after General Pervez Musharraf’s military takeover, has created a wide gulf between different ethnic groups and if such target killings continue, salvaging the situation might become next to impossible.
This article was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Newsline as part of a larger cover story on Balochistan.